Comments on 2 Corinthians

(ch. 8-13)

William Kelly

2 Corinthians 8

The apostle was now free, so far as the state of the Corinthian saints was concerned, to introduce the great duty of remembering the poor. Even the most honoured servants of the Lord were forward in this work, and not least Paul himself. This he would lay on the heart of the Corinthians. As he sought not his own things, he could plead for others; and he would draw out the affections of his children at Corinth toward saints suffering from poverty in Judea, whither he was going.

Yet we may notice how the character of the man comes out. He did not like the task of appealing to others for pecuniary help even though for others. The directness of his language in the first epistle is therefore in the strongest contrast with his circumlocution in the second. The need was deeply on his own heart; and he has no more doubt of the generous feelings of the Corinthians than of their ability, so far as circumstances were concerned, to respond; but the delicacy with which he deals with all is most marked and instructive. Personal influence has no place; faith and love are called out actively; the cheering example of saints where such devotedness could have been least expected opens the way; and Christ is brought in, carrying it home with irresistible power for those that knew Him.

"Now we make known to you, brethren, the grace of God that is given in [or, among] the assemblies of Macedonia; that in much trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches* of their liberality; because according to power [I bear witness] and beyond* power [they gave] of their. own accord, beseeching of us with much entreaty† the grace and the fellowship of the ministering unto the saints; and this not as we hoped, but their own selves they gave first to the Lord and to us by the will of God; so that we exhorted Titus, that, even as he before began, so he would also complete as to you this grace also; but as ye abound in everything, faith and word and knowledge and all diligence and love from you‡ to us, that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but through "the diligence of others proving the genuineness of your love also." (Vers. 1‑8.)

* Text. Rec., with most, reads to;n pl.,  but Åp.m. B C P etc., to; pl.  as in verse 3, uJpevr instead of parav. Krebs seems not to have been aware of this last fact.

† The addition of devxasqai hJma'" in Text. Rec. is supported by some cursives and versions, against the great mass of good authority

‡ Lachmann actually adopts the strange reading of the Vatican MS. supported by other witnesses, ejx hJmwn ejn uJmi'n. Internal evidence would be decisive against this if the external evidence were not as strong as it is.

 || D E read dia; th;n etc., that is, on account of. Elzevir differs from Stephens in falsely reading hJmetevra" "our," with a few cursives, instead of uJm. "your."

How blessedly the grace of God" changes everything it takes up And what can it not reach in its comprehensive embrace? Where is the demand too hard for it to entertain? Or the evil too deep for it to fathom? What sin is beyond forgiveness? Whose misery or of what sort can it not turn into an occasion for the all‑overcoming goodness of God? See here how that which is among men but "filthy lucre," an especial object of the covetousness which is idolatry, becomes the means of exercising faith in love, to the glory of God and the exceeding blessing of His children, while it draws out the wisdom of the Holy Ghost through the apostle, who did not deem it beneath the fullest consideration in all its details.

First, the mighty influence of example is brought to bear on the saints in Corinth. (Ver. l.) Nor is this surprising; for are they not one family with its common interests, yea, one body with its fellowship undivided and immediate? Granted that the wants are in carnal things; granted, that it is no question of pleading rights or claims. But a relationship in the Spirit is no less real and far more momentous than one in the flesh; and, if there be suffering, love feels accordingly. In the next place God took care that the first to respond should be saints not in the wealthy city of Corinth, but in the long desolated and impoverished district of Macedonia, that the work might be of God's grace, and in no way a matter of worldly circumstances. Even in writing to the Corinthians the apostle had reminded them, as all experience shows, that the confessors of Christ are for the most part from the poor and obscure and foolish: and we know that in the Macedonian assemblies at this time the saints were no exception to the generally distressed condition of the country. On the contrary, we are expressly told here of their poverty down into the depths. They gave no gifts of superfluity; it was faith working by love, whilst they were proving themselves a great trial of affliction. The circumstances of Macedonia might have seemed eminently unfavourable; the reality of their liberality was the more evidently from a divine source; for in the face of tribulation their joy abounded, and their deep poverty, instead of appealing for aid to others, abounded unto the riches of their open‑hearted generosity. (Ver. 2.) It was unselfish devotedness, loving others better than themselves; and as God gave them the grace that so wrought, so the apostle names it in love to the saints in Corinth, and, indeed we may say, to us all, that our hearts too should go forth in no less love. For love is as energetic and fruitful, as it is holy and free; and God would have not a grain of the good seed lost.

Nor does love calculate what it can spare nor what it can effect. (Ver. 3.) The heart animated by love thinks not of its own trials or deep poverty, but of those it hears to be suffering in any special degree, and acts at once. At least the apostle testifies of the Macedonian saints, that according to means, and beyond means, they gave of their own accord. No earthly incentives were here; no pressure of agents, no rivalry of donations, no moving appeals among multitudes, no circulated lists to shame or to stimulate, no personal or party aims of any kind. It is the grace of God given from first to last; and as God treasures it, so His servant testifies of it so much the more because those in whom it wrought thought nothing of it in the love that felt only the need of its objects.

But this is not all: the Macedonian saints, far from being solicited.. were themselves the suitors of Paul and his companions, and with much entreaty begged of them the grace and the fellowship of the ministering unto the saints, that is, to be allowed a share in the grace or favour of thus caring for the suffering saints of Judea.

   It will be noticed that the Authorised Version, fol­lowing the common Greek text, contains the words, "that we would receive" (devxasqai hJma'"), which again involves the insertion of "take upon its" in verse 4. But as the former is not warranted by the best authorities, so the latter is needless and indeed worse; for both additions enfeeble and falsify the sense, which is, that the Macedonian saints might have the grace and fellowship of the service which was to be done the poor saints, not the mere idea that the apostle would receive their collection and undertake its distribution.*

* Even so difficulty has been felt because of the absence of the finite verb expressed; but it seems plain enough, as Bengel long ago suggested, that e[dwkan, which follows in verse 5, is understood in the earliest clause, and this removes all appearance of what has been styled "a sentence entirely shattered in passing through the apostle's mind." But it is no less plain that Bengel was mistaken in supposing that cavrin and koin. depend on e[dwkan, for they are unequivocally objects of deovmenoi, which also takes a genitive of the person. "Hoc verbum totam periochae structuram sustinet, tali sensu: Non modo gratiani, communionem, sive dovma, munus illud dederunt, sed plane se ipsos dederunt. Ita Chrysost. Homil. xvi. in 2 Cor. coll. maxime Homil. xvii., ubi repetit uJpe;r duvnamin e[dwkan. Cum eodem verbo e[dwkan cohaerent nominativi illi, aujqaivretoi, deovmenoi, et ab eodem peudent accusativi, cavrin koinwnivan, eJautouv", sensu facili et suavi." Gnomon in loco. ed. Stuttg. 1866.

But the apostle goes farther in his fine sketch of Macedonian devotedness; for it was not only spontaneous, but beyond all expectation of himself, accustomed as he was to live in the walk of faith every day. "And this not as we hoped, but their own selves they gave first to the Lord and to us by the will of God." Is not this the reflection, yea reproduction, as far as it goes, of Christ's love in giving Himself? Doubtless directly and necessarily there is a perfection in Christ's offering which is altogether unique. He gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour; it was all this and more to God and for us, as nothing else could be. But these humble and loving saints, the grace of God in whom is commended to the Corinthians, did not merely go beyond their means, but beyond the apostle's hope, who did not wish to be burdened with the wants of others those who were themselves in the depth of poverty. And no wonder that they thus exceeded, seeing that, as he adds, "their own selves they gave first to the Lord, and to us by the will of God." Had they not caught a vivid impression of the Saviour's love, where God always had the first place, whatever His infinite compassion for man? When love for the saints follows in their case, it is qualified by that which was the constant motive of Christ, "by the will of God." It is not only consistency with His will, though this of course was true, but His will was the spring of the self‑sacrifice.

This acted on the heart of the apostle up to the point of beseeching Titus to carry out what he had formerly begun among the Corinthians when he delivered the first epistle. (Ver. 6.) Paul's love for them was holily jealous that their love should not slacken and that an early promise should not wither in the bud. And Titus was the meet instrument, as he before began, so also now to complete as to* the Corinthians this grace also.

* I see no need whatever of giving eij" uJma'" so wide a rendering as Mr. Green's "on reaching you," or even "among you" as is oftener done. it is not for ejn uJmi'n but more exact as it stands. No more is there any real ground for translating ajllav in verse 7 "therefore," as in A.V. "But" introduces anew appeal.

"But, as ye abound in everything, faith and word and knowledge and all diligence and love from you to us, that ye abound in this grace also." The apostle exhorts the Corinthians too, as he had Titus. They had their part now, and as God had enriched with everything else, were they to fail in this grace? Nay, He looks that they should abound in it also. (Ver. 7.) Yet he is careful that it should not be by injunction but of grace. "I speak not by command, but through the diligence of others proving the genuineness of your love also." (Ver. 8.) What a blending of tenderness, delicacy, and of faithfulness withal!

We have seen how powerfully the thought of the Lord acted on the saints of Macedonia, who in spite of their deep poverty had so exceeded the apostle's expectation. Now he brings His grace to bear on those of Achaia whom he had ground to believe awakened to feel accordingly.

"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes he being rich became poor, in order that ye by his poverty might become rich. And I give an opinion in this, for this is profitable for you who began before not only the doing, but also to be willing a year ago. But now also complete the doing, that even as the readiness of the willing [was there], so also the completing [may be] out of what ye have. For if the readiness be there, [one is] accepted according to what he may have, not according to what he hath not. For [it is] not that others [should have] ease and you distress, but on equality: at the present time your abundance for their lack, that their abundance also should be for your lack, so that there should be equality; as it is written, He that [gathered] much had nothing over, and he that [gathered] little had no lack." (Vers. 9‑15.)

The parenthesis of verse 9 is eminently instructive, not only for that which would act powerfully on the Corinthians as on all saints who appreciate the grace of our Lord, but as a sample of the way the Spirit of God turns what was in Christ to every exigency of the individual or of the church. Nor does any other motive act with equal power in holiness. And it could not be otherwise; for who or what can compare with Christ? To His grace, though it be really immeasurable, two measures are applied, the infinite glory of His person in itself, and the depth of humiliation to which He submitted for us. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes he being rich became poor, in order that ye by his poverty might be made rich." Wealth consists in fulness of means and resources, and poverty in their utter lack. As a divine person our Lord had no need for Himself, and all things at command for others absolutely. He was rich indeed, yet for our sakes became poor, not in the letter only but in spirit to the uttermost. See the picture summed up in Philippians 2, and expanded or detailed in all the Gospels, the perfect pattern of One who hung in dependence on His Father and never used a single thing for Himself throughout His career. He waited on and lived on account of the Father; it was His meat to do His will and finish His work. He had no motive but the one of pleasing His Father, whatever the cost. The fast of forty days in the wilderness was doubtless a special scene of trial which ushered in His public ministry; but it was His ordinary life to count on the care of God while doing His work without an anxiety on the one hand, and on the other without independent resources. But His poverty went down into depths unfathomable in the cross when giving His life for the sheep. I do not speak merely of His garments parted among them and of their casting lots upon His vesture, image though it was of extreme and helpless destitution. Deeper elements were there than man's eye saw, when all forsook Him and fled. God forsook Him too — His God. What remained then? Nothing but the unsparing judgment of our sins. Was He not the "poor man" then as none other was, never morally so high, yet never so abject, and this not circumstantially alone but in all the unspeakable abandonment of that hour? As He said prophetically in Psalm 22, "I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men and despised of the people . . . . . I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death."

But He was heard from the horns of the unicorns, and in resurrection declares His Father's name unto His brethren, in the midst of the congregation praising Him. What tongue of men or of angels can adequately tell the change? None but His own when He passed from the abyss of woe where was no standing to the everlasting and immutable ground of divine righteousness where the once guilty objects of grace are set in Him without spot or stain or charge before God, who delights to show them His estimate of Christ's redemption, and gives the Holy Spirit to seal them unto the day which will declare it. Yet is this but part of the riches of grace wherewith Christ now enriches us who believe. And the blessing of Jehovah is not only for us an exhaustless treasure, but it will go forth with wide‑embracing fulness when Messiah's praise shall be "in the great congregation." Then all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto Jehovah; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him. For as surely as the Father will surround the Son with His children in His house in heaven, the kingdom is Jehovah's, and He is the Governor among the nations, and the earth is to be blessed in that day no less than the heavens be filled with the rich harvest gathered into the granary on high, when for the dispensation of the fulness of times He will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. Truly we by His poverty have been enriched, though not we alone but every soul who ever has been, and ever shall be, blessed. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship; all they that go down to the dust shall bow before Him; and none can keep alive his own soul. Such is the grace, the known grace, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and these the ways of our God, not now only but in the ages to come for His own glory and to His praise, whose humiliation and redemption have wrought such wonders, as yet only seen by faith, soon to be displayed before every eye. How sweet to associate it with the gracious consideration of the poor saints and the supply of their need at Jerusalem! How worthy of God thus to bring Christ into that which otherwise had been but an exercise of benevolence and compassion!

The apostle adds his judgment of its profit for the Corinthian saints themselves (ver. 10), who began before not only the doing, but also the willing a year ago. He could therefore with the more delicate propriety urge the completing of their purpose out of what they had. Grace repudiates constraint, but values, encourages, and directs readiness of mind: without this, what is the worth of giving? Is the gift acceptable? or the giver? But if the readiness be there, one is accepted according to what one has, not according to what one has not. Sentiment disappears; reality takes its place. Truth accompanies grace; and equity follows. For it is not that others should have ease and the Corinthians pressure, but on equality; and, as the application is made, "at the present time your abundance for their lack, that their abundance area should be for your lack." This is fortified by God's way and word as to the gathering of the manna of old; when God adjusted the supply to the demand with a wisdom and power which precluded superfluity no less than deficiency. He that gave the manna from heaven measured it exactly, whatever the differing measures in man's hands. And we have to do with the same God, who regulates all in the assembly with assuredly no less care and love.

In the rest of the chapter the apostle dwells on the care taken that the administration of the bounty should be not only beyond suspicion, but clothed with dignity and godly confidence by the known character of those entrusted with it. For it is not enough that the end should be divine, but that the means also should approve themselves to every true conscience. If lucre be apt to be filthy, if covetousness be idolatry, if the love of money be a root of all evil, the Spirit of God knows how to bring in Christ into every detail, and to turn both way and end into blessing to God's glory.

"But thanks to God that giveth the same zeal for you in the heart of Titus, in that he received indeed the exhortation, but being very zealous of his own accord he set out unto you. But we sent together with him the brother whose praise in the gospel [is] through all the assemblies, and not only [so] but also chosen by the assemblies our fellow‑traveller with this grace that is being administered by us unto the glory of the Lord [himself]* and our† readiness; guarding against this, that none should blame us in this abundance that is being administered by us, for we provide‡ things honourable not only before [the] Lord but also before men. And we have sent with them our brother whom we proved to be zealous many times in many things, but now much more zealous by great confidence that [he hath] in you. Whether as regards Titus, [he is] my partner and fellow‑labourer toward you; whether our brethren, [they are] messengers of assemblies, Christ's glory. The showing forth then of your love and of our boasting for you show forth** unto them†† in the face of the assemblies." (Vers. 16‑24.)

* B C Dp.m. F G L many cursives and ancient versions omit aujtou' "himself."

† Text. Rec. has uJmw'n "your," contrary to the oldest and best MSS which read hJmw'n "our."

‡ Instead of Text. Rec. pronoouvmenoi with later MSS (or better gavr added as in C. etc.), the best read pronoou'men gavr "for we provide."

** For Text. Rec. ejndeivxasqe with many old MSS, is real in B Dp.m. Ep.m. F G etc.

†† The kaiv "and" of the Text. Rec. has no adequate authority and encumbers the sense.

The apostle thankfully owned the grace of God in giving Titus to feel as he zealously felt himself about the Corinthian saints in the matter, so that while he met the desire, yet too zealous as he was to require it he was ready to set out of his own accord unto them. He speaks as if it were already done; because in the style adopted in letters the facts would be made good when Titus had reached Corinth with this epistle. How eminently suited to comfort as well as rouse to a holy zeal the saints themselves when such a servant of the Lord as Titus so promptly responded to the apostle's heart, confident as both were that, whatever appearances indicated to those who judged superficially, grace had wrought in them, really and would yet flow through them to God's glory abundantly! If Timothy was like‑minded with him to care for the state of the Philippians with genuine feeling at a later day, the Corinthians might now learn no less, as they were already prepared to do, how Titus shared the zeal of the apostle in carrying out the proffered bounty of Corinth, which bad been so slow of execution as to compromise them.

Thoughtful too as ever that Christ's glory should be sustained in His servants, He would not expose Titus to unworthy, however unwarrantable, question; and so he associated with him in this service "the brother whose praise in the gospel is throughout all the assemblies." So well known was he by this description to the Corinthians that no direct designation was needed, though men of other times have found it so vague as to afford grounds equally plausible for many, equally uncertain for any one in particular. Of one thing we may be assured that, whether or not Luke was intended, "whose praise in the gospel" has nothing to do with him in respect of the inspired account of our Lord which induced many of the ancients to appropriate the description to him, any more than to Mark. Barnabas and Silas have been conjectured; as also Aristarchus, Gaius, Trophimus, etc. But none of these guesses seems less happy than that of some speculative Germans, who have applied to;n ajdelfovn to a supposed brother (after the flesh) of Titus, not seeing the incongruity of such an one, if indeed he existed, for the work in hand. The object and character of the association would have been frustrated by selecting one so near to Titus. But we do know the further consideration that, whoever he may have been, he was chosen by the assemblies to travel with the apostle and the rest who were to carry the offering of love from the, Gentile saints to their poor brethren in Judea.

Here we see an important principle in exact accordance with the direction of the twelve in Acts 6. As the christian multitude gave the means, they were left free to choose the administrators. This was as wise as gracious. The apostles kept aloof from all appearance of favouritism, and adhered to their own work with prayer, the condition of power. They might solemnly establish the seven over their business of serving tables; but they called on the disciples in general to look out from among themselves men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom in whom they had confidence. Such were the proceedings in the assembly of Jerusalem; and a like method was adopted among the Gentile assemblies, where many joined their contributions for the need at Jerusalem as we learn in verse 19. Where the saints gave, they chose according to their best judgment for the due application of their gifts, whether in one assembly, or for the special work of many assemblies. But in no case did they meddle with the ministers of the word. These the Lord gave, not the church; and the church, instead of choosing, received those whom the Lord chose and sent, not merely the higher ones, as apostles and prophets, but the more ordinary, as evangelists, pastors and teachers. For they too all rest on the same principle of the Lord's gift, and not man's. And hence it is an utter confusion to mix up two things so different as the Lord's sole title to give and send His servants in the word, and the assembly's title to choose those in whom the saints have confidence to administer their bounty.

The case before us falls under the latter. "The brother" un‑named was chosen by the assemblies "our fellow‑traveller with the grace that is being administered by us unto the glory of the Lord [Himself] and our readiness;" as indeed the apostle had directed in 1 Corinthians 16: 3, 4. The moral reason of the caution follows: "guarding against this, that none should blame us in this abundance that is being administered by us, for we provide things honourable not only before [the] Lord but before men." (Vers. 20, 21.) It is not lack of faith, but rather faith working by love which would cut off occasion from men, as well as walk with pure conscience before God. The allusion is to Proverbs 3: 4 in the LXX.

The next verse, as well as that which follows, proves that the apostle added another brother. "And we sent with them [i.e. with Titus and the one already described] our brother whom we proved to be zealous many times in many things, but now much more zealous by great confidence that [he hath] in you." (Ver. 22.) Still less is it possible for us to determine who is this second brother meant; because we have not even so many marks as attached to the first. But two particulars fitting him for the work are mentioned: the apostle's experience of his proved zeal often and variedly; and again the exceeding warmth of his own zeal now by his (hardly Paul's) great confidence in the Corinthian saints. For the margin of the Authorised Version is more correct than the text, at least in my judgment. None could be so unsuitable an associate as a near relation, if the aim were, as it was, to inspire confidence in the donors.

It seems to be clear from verse 23 that Titus stood relatively in the higher position of the three who were to accompany the apostle: "Whether as regards Titus, [he is] my partner and fellow‑labourer toward you; whether our brethren, [they are] messengers of assemblies, Christ's glory." Is it not then incredible that the apostle would have thus classified or described men so eminent as Barnabas, Silas, Luke or Mark? Not to say that it was only at a later day that he expresses his re‑assurance as to the last. Could he yet write that Mark was serviceable to him for ministry? or that he was among his fellow‑workers for the kingdom of God who were such as had been a consolation to him? Renewed confidence may be gravely doubted then, though it came at length; and the apostle was glad to say so as soon as he could to the Lord's praise.

It is well to note how the expression "messengers [ajpovstoloi] of assemblies" illustrates the difference of a charge from men however delicate and weighty as compared with a gift or charge from the Lord like an apostle. These brethren, while beautifully and graciously styled "Christ's glory" as being active in the display of His excellency, were deputed envoys of certain churches who entrusted them with their contributions for Judea. Not only did he decline the sole administration of the gift himself, but he directed and sanctioned the choice of more than one and gave their task dignity in all eyes by associating the two brethren, not only with Titus who shared the highest confidence of the saints, but with himself. Our Authorised Version, however, is quite right in not rendering the word "apostles" (which is appropriated to the envoys of the Lord in the highest rank of His work) and in preferring "messengers" here and in Philippians 2: 25, where it is said of Epaphroditus who was the bearer of what the Philippian saints sent at a later day of the apostle in Rome. To translate the passage in our text or in Philippians 2, "apostles" can only be from inconsiderateness, or still worse — the desire to level down the apostles of Christ by levelling up the messenger or messengers of churches. The source of the commission is the measure of their difference. To confound them is to degrade the Lord or to deify the church, the great effort of the enemy by those who know not the truth, however they may look in opposition to each other. For here it is that the highest and the lowest ecclesiastically meet: the one by exalting a merely human caste of church officials to the place which the Lord gave His apostles; the other by reducing the apostles of the Lord to those chosen by the assemblies or delegates of the people. They both agree, one superstitiously, the other rationalistically, in unbelief of Christ's gracious power in providing for the perfecting of the saints.

Having thus summed up what he had to say of his companions, of moment for the Corinthian saints at this time, he calls on the saints to give the proof of their love and of his boasting about them to those brethren in the face of the assemblies.

2 Corinthians 9

 

But the apostle has a good deal more to say on a subject so constantly and often urgently needed in the assembly, where the poor are apt ever to abound. He had brought before the Corinthians the bright example of the Macedonian believers, notwithstanding circumstances most unpromising naturally. And this had stirred up the apostle to urge on Titus the completion of this grace also in Achaia which the Corinthians had begun a year ago. Not that he spoke by commandment, but through the zeal of others and proving the genuineness of their love, while setting before them the incomparable grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to act on their souls. So God in giving the manna to Israel took care that, whatever the inequality in gathering, none should be in excess and none want: was there to be less regard for each other in the church? Love desired not the case of those, nor pressure on these, but rather a principle of equality in mutual consideration of each other, and this wherever the church is found. Then he sets forth the hearty diligence in this matter of Titus, who had gone about what remained to be done at Corinth with two other brethren; for thus had the apostle lent the contribution importance whilst guarding it from the smallest imputation of evil, and calling on the Corinthians to make good their love and his own boasting of them.

"For about the ministration for the saints it is superfluous for me to write to you. For I know your readiness which I boast of you to Macedonians that Achaia hath been prepared a year ago, and your* zeal stimulated the mass. Yet I sent the brethren in order that our boasting of you may not be made vain in this respect, that (as I said) ye may be prepared; lost, haply, if Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we may be ashamed, that we say not ye in this confidence.† I thought it necessary therefore to exhort the brethren that they would go before unto you and complete beforehand your blessing promised before,‡ that it be ready thus as blessing, not as§ covetousness. But this [I say], he that soweth Sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth in blessings shall reap also in blessings; each as he hath purposed|| in his heart, not of sorrow or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver." (Vers. 1‑7.)

* The common T.R. reading oJ ejx uJm.  is largely supported, but not by the best MSS, etc., and may be taken as "zeal on your part."

† T.R., with several uncials and most cursives, etc., adds th'" kauchvsew" "of boasting."

‡ proephg. has much the best support, not as in T. R. prokathg.

§ wJ" the best MSS, not w{sper as T.R. with a few cursives.

|| T. R. has the present, "purposeth," with most, but the oldest read the perfect.

From Galatians 2: "we know how earnest our apostle was like the rest as to the general principle, and how in this particular case his heart went out to the distressed saints in Jerusalem, none the less because his part of the work was emphatically toward the Gentiles. But his delicacy is no less striking and instructive here, where he gives the saints in Corinth full credit for the same love which overflowed his own heart; "it is superfluous for me to write to you." They had been taught it of God themselves. Why then did he write so amply? Not because he did not know their ready mind; not because they had failed to give him ground to glory in what God had wrought in this respect; for as he in the last chapter boasted of the Macedonians triumphing over their trying and needy circumstances in their most generous remembrance of the poor saints in Judea, so now he lets the Corinthian saints know his habit of boasting of themselves to Macedonians, and very especially in their preparation for this call a year ago.

Hence, no doubt, it is that in his zeal for themselves and the Lord's honour in them, and seeking the happy flow of love in every way, he speaks (in the epistolary aorist) of sending the brethren referred to in the close of the preceding chapter, in order to guard in this particular against mishap in his boast on their behalf. He wanted them to be prepared beyond danger of disappointment as far as pains on his part could secure it. How painful for him, not to say for them, it would be if brethren came from Macedonia and found shortcoming in the very saints, the report of whose zeal had acted so powerfully in kindling their own! What shame on all sides if this confidence in the Corinthians should not prove well‑founded! He did not wish, as we know from 2 Corinthians 16, that there should be collections when he came himself; as he would guard against haste on the one hand or personal influence on the other, or malevolent insinuation. But his love for them and desire for the Lord's glory in the business made him exhort Titus and his two companions to go on before to Corinth and previous to his own arrival complete their fore‑promised blessing. Compare, for this use of "blessing," Genesis 33: 11, Judges 1: 15, 2 Kings 5: 15; it is love not in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth, 1 John 3: 18.

The apostle's longing was, not merely that their proposed beneficence should be ready, but in such sort as blessing, and not as covetousness, meeting thus the danger on both sides. As he would have it a blessing on the givers' part, he repudiates all covetousness on the part of those receiving it for the poor saints. He does not seem to limit his caution to the former nor to allude in covetousness to a niggardly spirit, any more than to make pl. mean "tenacity," instead of the desire of having more which soon runs into tricky means to get more.

But this further he adds, a wholesome thing to remember, being truth in God's moral government, and of all moment in our life on earth: he that sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that sows with blessings shall reap also with blessings. It is no question of correspondence in kind, but it may be spiritually also and so much the better. Still it is true, and especially among God's people, as it always was. (See Prov. 11: 24, 25.) Scripture indeed teems with it in one form or another; and experience is the sure and plain commentary. God despises not what is given to the poor saints; but the spirit of giving is far more important than the gift. Therefore the apostle follows up the apothegm he had just applied: each just as he has predetermined in his heart, not of sorrow or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver, quoting Prov. 22: 8 (Alex. LXX). To grudge and grieve over what is given is unworthy of a saint of His; to exact it no less unworthy of His servant. How needed is faith here as everywhere! how energetic is love, which is our only due spring in this as in all else practically, whatever the encouragements God may and does give those whom grace has called and strengthens to walk in the path of Christ! Himself the sovereign giver of all good, He loves to see the reflection of His grace and blessing in His children.

The close of the apostolic exhortation on giving is admirably in keeping with all we have had already. Not only does God love a cheerful giver, but He is able in His grace to see that there shall be means to give, and not in this form only, but for every good work. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth." (Prov. 11: 24.)

"And God is able to make every grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in every [thing], may abound unto every good work; as it is written, He scattered, he gave to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever." (Vers. 8, 9.) No doubt that God has now revealed Himself in Christ according to His own nature, in view of heaven and eternity; no doubt He has given us life in His Son and redemption through His blood and union with that glorified man at His right hand, that we might glory in nought but His cross here below, and count not life dear to serve the Lord in His way and our measure, as we wait for Him from heaven. But this does not hinder the government of God and the pleasure He takes in blessing large and generous hearts, as of old, so now. Special privileges do not forbid His general principles, and His power finds a way in His wisdom to harmonise all. And the apostle, who knew better than any what it was to suffer with Christ and for Christ, is just the suited one, out of his capacious mind and heart, to communicate the assurance of these His unchanged ways, for which he cites Psalm 112: 9; the beautiful description of man blessed in the kingdom when divine judgment introduces it by‑and‑by. Then the fear of Jehovah and obedience will have might on the same side, and judgment will return to righteousness, and wealth in no wise corrupt it, but it endures for ever with a spirit of compassion and gracious consideration of others. There may be judicial ways peculiar to that day as looking on his enemies, and his horn exalted, etc.; but true righteousness, far from being hard, dispenses with liberal hand from that which grace supplies abundantly. Nor could it be otherwise in the estimate of a true heart that now, in the day when grace is vouchsafed in other and deeper ways, it should fail in this. It is not so however; and He who shows us His mercy beyond measure or thought is able to make every grace abound, and this that we might have the blessed favour of imitating Him here too, or as the apostle puts it to the Corinthian saints, "that ye, it every time having every kind of sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work," as it is written in the Psalms.

There is no need, we may by the way remark, of altering the force of "righteousness" here or elsewhere. It does not mean "benevolence" as the Geneva Version renders it with many a commentator, but comprehends it. (Cf. Matt. 6: 1, 2.) Righteousness means consistency with relationship; and what can be more consistent than generous remembrance of want in others, especially in the household of faith, on the part of those who own that all is of grace in their own case?

But this is not all. Not only is God able thus to do, but He, the God of all grace, acts accordingly. "But he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for eating will" supply and multiply your sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness, [ye] being enriched in everything unto all liberality which worketh out through us thanksgiving to God." (Vers. 10, 11) It is not a wish or prayer as in the Authorised Version, nor is it (with the same Version, the Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, etc.) correct to construe corhghvsai "minister" or supply (were this the true form) with a[rton eij" br. ("bread for your food"). Compare Isaiah 55: 10. It is an assurance that the God who amply provides for ourselves loves to furnish means as well as opportunities of blessing to others, as He delights in owning and rewarding these fruits of righteousness, which are really of His grace, as if they were ours and not of Him by us. The form of the sentence following is slightly irregular, the sense quite sure and plain, without introducing the parenthesis of the English or other versions. God would thus increase the fruits of their righteousness, "while ye are in everything being enriched with every kind of liberality, which is such as worketh out through us thanksgiving to God." The word translated "liberality" is given in Romans 12: 8 as "simplicity," which is no doubt its literal force. But thence, from conveying the absence of excuse for not giving, it easily derived the sense here implied. The apostle acknowledges the source of all they had given — that they might abound in good works, reminds them of his own share in it whether in strengthening their zeal or in dispensing the fruit, and anticipates the thanksgiving of those about to be relieved by it rising up to God.

* The future appears in the most ancient and best MSS, Å B C D P, fifteen cursives, in the old Latin, Vulg. Cop. Arm. Aeth., etc.

On this last thought, the worthy conclusion of all previously urged, the apostle dilates to the end of the chapter. "Because the ministration of the service is not only filling up the wants of the saints, but also abounding through many thanksgivings to God; through the proof of this service [they] glorified God for the subjection of your confession unto the gospel of Christ and liberality of fellowship toward them and toward all; and their supplication for you, while longing for you, on account of the surpassing grace of God [bestowed] on you. Thanks [be] to God for his unspeakable gift." (Vers. 12‑15.) Thus is shown the true and proper character of such a loving contribution for the poor saints. It is an honourable service and a ministry of love. It meets their wants, but it flows over, and rises into many thanksgivings to God. It draws out praise from those who receive it in this subjection to His name; for why also thus liberally remember them at all? It rouses them to prayer with earnest longing for those who manifest such grace. And if such be the blessed effect of love working in the heart and the supplying the poor saints with that which otherwise perishes in the using, what shall we say or feel, as we think of Christ? Thanks to God for His undescribable gift. The reader will agree with me that it is strong to suppose the apostle could speak in such unmeasured terms of liberality in earthly things, however of grace. Spoken of Christ, of all God is to us in and by Him, what can be more proper? One would scarcely have deemed it needful to make even this brief remark, if Calvin and many others had not allowed a turn so derogatory, as it seems to me.

2 Corinthians 10.

 

From the exhaustive treatment of giving and receiving according to Christ which filled the two preceding chapters, the apostle turns to vindicate the authority given him in the Lord. This Satan had been bringing into question among the Corinthians, not merely to discredit the servant, but thereby to undermine the testimony and separate the saints from Him whose grace and glory were interwoven with it most intimately.

In the beginning of the epistle, now that they had begun to judge themselves in God's sight truly, if as yet imperfectly, he could open his own heart and speak of his ways and his motives which had been so basely misconstrued; he had just alluded to his authority enough to indicate his possession of it with calmness of spirit but also unwillingness to exercise it with severity. He even appeals to God as a witness upon his soul that it was to spare them, not through fear or levity or any other unworthy reason, he had not come as yet to Corinth, but with marvellous tact and gracious skill he binds up, with his explanation of what had been misunderstood, the divine certainty we enjoy in Christ by God's word and the power of the Spirit given to us. And then, just touching on the case of discipline which Satan had used and was still seeking to use to separate the Corinthians from the apostle, not only in judgment but in affection and in the mutual confidence which springs from it, he lets them know how that an evangelistic door, even opened to him in the Lord, failed to turn his loving heart from themselves at this critical juncture; but spite of all, he thanks God for always loading him in triumph in Christ, as in an ancient procession of victory where sweet spices were being burnt, harbinger of death to some of the captives and of life to others. This gives occasion to the admirable setting forth of the gospel of the glory of Christ, the ministration of the Spirit in an earthen vessel in contrast with that of the law which false teachers would ever mingle with it, and to the manifestation of the superiority of life in Christ over all that can obscure, menace, hinder or destroy, which runs through 2 Corinthians 3 — 2 Corinthians 6: 10. Thence he returns to his relations with the Corinthian saints, but not without exhortation to keep them clear of every association of Satan, flesh and world, inconsistent with Christ.

After this, to the end of 2 Corinthians 7, he freely speaks of what had tended to make a practical breach between him and them. Then in true grace and wisdom he who took nothing for himself from the saints at Corinth proves how his heart beat freely toward them by informing them of the grace displayed in Macedonia notwithstanding their well‑known and deep poverty in liberally contributing to the poor saints in Judea, and by giving the Corinthians an opportunity of proving the genuineness of their love, especially as they had begun a year ago but had not yet given effect to it; a work in which Titus shared the gracious desires of the apostle, not only as to the help itself for the suffering poor but also that the saints in Corinth should not fall behind their boasting about them. But therein he manifests with equal strength the avoidance of all reproach on the part of those engaged with himself in administering the relief, and the manifold blessing of such liberality, and God's delight in it, whether one thinks of the saints that give or of the saints that receive through His grace who is Himself the unspeakable gift of God.

The apostle did not love to speak of himself or even of his authority, high as it was and most surely conferred by the Lord. But there was a necessity for the Corinthians as for the Galatians; but here he reserves it for and pursues it to the close of the epistle; whereas there he could not but begin with it, the call being yet more urgent.

"But I myself Paul entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of the Christ, [I] who according to appearance [am] mean among you but absent am bold toward you — but I beseech that present I may not be bold with the confidence with which I count to be daring against some that count of us as walking according to flesh. For walking in flesh we do not war according to flesh. For the arms of our warfare [are] not fleshly but powerful with God to the pulling down of strongholds, pulling down reasonings and every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and leading captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ, and being in readiness [or ready] to avenge every disobedience when your obedience shall have been fulfilled." (Vers. 1‑6.)

It seems that Paul physically had nothing of a showy presence, such as men like generally, most of all perhaps Greeks. But besides his was a lowly and gracious bearing which judged self and set it aside, as in everything, so particularly in the delicate task of dealing with others; which did not suit the Corinthian mind, nor seem in keeping with the apostolic office: especially as the apostle could and did to them write severely now and then in his first epistle. His adversaries accordingly took advantage of all this in seeking to aggrandise themselves and to lower the apostle and his teaching. He appears here and elsewhere to take up their words and meet them in the Spirit, as one who had learnt the lesson, if over saint did, of death and resurrection with Christ. He therefore introduces himself, now that they had morally compelled it, with straightforwardness and dignity; and he entreats them by the meekness and gentleness of the Christ, which had as great price in his eyes, as it seemed to have none in theirs. Did detractors tax him with a mean appearance, but withal boldness when absent, that is, in his letters? Well, he says, I beseech that I may not when present have to be bold (qarrh'sai) with the confidence with which I am (not "reckoned," but) minded, or think to be daring (tolmh'sai) against some that think of us as walking according to flesh. Whatever the energy and fervid zeal and depth of feeling and strength of will found in his natural character, Paul had borne himself among the Corinthians with a self‑forgetting humility and the forbearance of active love. It was what he had seen in the Master he served, and this reproduced itself in his adoring heart and in his ways. Let men beware of despising in the servant what was the fruit of the perfection of Christ. But who also so unsparing in his words? Is there the least incongruity? What can be so outspoken as love — the love of Christ? Did Paul find pleasure in blaming his "beloved sons" in the faith? It was and must be due to their state if he came with a rod, or in love and the spirit of meekness. So far from liking to censure, as enemies insinuated, he beseeches that he may not when present have to exercise his authority with a power withering to those who opposed the Lord and sought to cloak their own carnality under such an imputation against him. Revelling in the grace of God for his own soul, it was his deepest grief to see saints misled by Satan, forsaking their own mercies, grieving the Spirit, and putting the Lord's name to disrepute. It was not of Paul to lord it over the faith of any; he was a workman, and a fellow‑workman, of their joy. And it was his joy far more than theirs. But he was servant in all he had received of the Lord Jesus, and responsible to use his authority where requisite. And as he had spoken out in his letter, so he would act when present; but he would rejoice if no such need arose. For he sought not himself, nor his things, not theirs, but them.

"For walking in the flesh we war not according to flesh." All who live here below can say the former; how few, the latter — at least as the apostle could. But it was because the weapons of his warfare were not fleshly but mighty "with" God, "before," "according to," or "for," Him.* Flesh prides itself on its own resources within which it entrenches itself against God, who works in His children when dependent, least of all in His own when independent. The enemy was seeking to bring back again fleshly wisdom, which like all that is of the first man attracts nature and exalts itself against the knowledge of God, for this is inseparable from Christ, and from Christ dead and risen. If we war not according to flesh, it must be by pulling down reasonings and every high thing exalted (or exalting itself thus) and leading captive every thought unto the obedience of the Christ. This is the object and effect of dependence, as wrought by the Spirit of God. For there is nothing harder to man than contentedness with being nothing; nor does aught hinder the obedience of Christ more than subtle self‑seeking.

* It is the dative which admits of all these shades, of which it is not easy to decide which is best.

We may see in the first how the apostle employed those arms with God to the overthrowing of strongholds, whatever the reasoning or the high thing that was lifted up against the knowledge of God. Take their fleshly zeal for Paul, Apollos, or Cephas: he brings in Christ and His cross to judge its roots, declaring that the former were but ministering servants through whom they themselves believed and as the Lord gave to each; and in fact all theirs, and they Christ's and Christ God's. It was a carnal corruption of their privileges. Take their worldly ease: with such an unbelieving anticipation of the day when we shall all reign together, he contrasts the apostles set by God as the last appointed to death, despised, suffering, and become as the world's offscouring until now. Take their appeal to law courts: he confronts the indignity of saints, who are to judge the world and angels, prosecuting suits one against another before the unjust. Take their laxity about temple feasts: he shows that their boasted intelligence about the vanity of idols was exposing them to Satan's snare, and drawing them into communion with demons. Take lastly their denial that the dead rise: he proves that it virtually upsets the resurrection of Christ, and consequently the gospel with all their heavenly privileges and hope. Thus admirably does the former epistle lead captive every thought into the obedience of Christ.

But the apostle adds another word which yet more brings out the grace and wisdom which wrought in and by him. "And being in readiness [or, as we say, being ready] to avenge every disobedience when your obedience shall have been fulfilled." (Ver. 6.) He loved the saints, and even more Christ's glory in the church. Therefore he could stay away and be mis‑represented, but still wait till the word was brought home by the Spirit. This had been in part at least: the gross evil had been not only got rid of, but the saints in Corinth had been deeply moved in judging their own haughty and insensible state, and were now in danger really of' veering to the opposite extreme of judicial hardness toward the one who had not only sinned without shame but ensnared them also. Grace becomes the church as well as righteousness, yea it should characterise us now as earthly righteousness was looked for in Israel. But grace in the apostle could wait, not with indifference at any time, but in all patience now that conscience was working, till their obedience should be fulfilled, never giving up Christ's title to punish every sort of disobedience, and not merely what was scandalous. He would have them all with himself united for the Lord against every evil thing. The church must renounce Christ if it sit down in quiet acceptance of what denies His name. But grace knows how to hail a little that is of God, and looks for all according to His will in due time, in the solemn judgment of what is repugnant to His nature and word.

Such is the way the apostle sets forth beseechingly the authority he had received in the Lord against the detraction of adversaries who were even yet exercising a poisonous influence over the saints. Nothing was farther from him than the fleshly, vacillating, and tortuous policy they attributed to him. But these are the common tactics of the enemy. The first to brand others with lack of spirituality, of fidelity or even integrity, are those who are themselves guilty in these very respects, and spend their breath in a restless endeavour to imbue all they meet with their own surmisings; until they seem at last not only to believe their every impression, but to be satisfied that rancour is true love and invective nothing but faithfulness to Christ. The apostle, after showing that it is one thing to walk in flesh, another to walk according to it, declares that we do not wax according to flesh. He puts it not as a merely personal question of fact, but as a matter of general christian principle and practice. The warfare of the saint derives its character from Christ. The liberty to which we are called gives no licence for flesh, as if violence or vituperation were consecrated in His service. His name gives no just plea to war according to flesh, but on the contrary reproves such carnality, and ought to awaken suspicion of the end because of the way. The arms of our warfare, powerful as they are with God to overthrow flesh's strongholds, are of small value in carnal eyes. The apostle insists on all being reduced to the obedience of Christ, and on readiness to avenge every disobedience when their disobedience should have been completed. What are we here for if not for that obedience? Yet grace and wisdom would first deal with what most openly and seriously dishonours God; and then, when conscience answers to the word, would look for more, yea for all that is pleasing in His sight. God is in the assembly, His dwelling, His holy temple (however men may forget or fritter down the solemn fact), and surely there to give efficacy to His own word and will, as He then was to vindicate by His power the authority of His servant when undermined or denied.

"Do ye look on things according to appearance?* If any one hath trust in himself that he is of Christ,† let him of‡ himself consider this again, that even as he [is] of Christ, so also we.|| For even§ if I should boast somewhat more abundantly of our authority which the Lord gave¶ for building up and not for your overthrowing, I shall not be ashamed; that I seem not as it were to terrify you by letters: because his letters, saith one,**[are] weighty and strong, but the presence of the body weak and the speech contemptible. Let such a one consider this, that such as we are in word by letters when absent, such also in deed when present. For we dare not class or compare ourselves with some of those that commend themselves; but they, measuring themselves among themselves and comparing themselves†† with themselves, are unintelligent [or without understanding]." (Vers. 7‑12.)

* The Latins and some of the Greeks took this as an exhortation, not as a question. Others understand it indicatively.

†Sundry copies as Dp.m. Ep.m. F.G., etc., add dou'lo", "bondman."

‡ ejfj eJ. Å  B. L., etc., ajfj eJ. almost all others with Greek fathers. Lachmann originally inclined to the first, afterwards to the last.

|| Most cursives with a few uncials support Cristou', "of Christ," as in the Text. Rec.

§ te even is omitted by B F G, etc., as kaiv is by the best MS and most versions. A few also read, "I shall boast."

hJmi'n "to us" Text. Rec., is not in the oldest copies.

** B with the Latin copies give "they say," and so Lachmann, though Tischendorf says that he omits it.

†† The critics strangely differ, as do the copies, in the last phrase, not only as to form, but as to arrangement. The renderings proposed singularly differ also.

It seems clear that Paul had nothing in presence or action, any more than in rank or position, to attract the fleshly or worldly mind. So we see elsewhere that the heathen who were struck by the miracles wrought called Barnabas Zeus, and Paul Hermes. Some of the Corinthians indulged in similar depreciation. They could not understand an apostle of such mean appearance, and a style of speech so little suitable to an ambassador of Christ. In this last respect they were much more fastidious than the Lycaonians who felt the force of Paul's words. External manner had an egregious over‑value in Achaian eyes. The apostle at once brings in Christ, who reduces all men and all things to their true level. "Do ye look on things according to appearance? If any one hath trust in himself that he is of Christ, let him of himself consider which answers to it. Bathe goes farther. "For even if I should boast somewhat more abundantly of our authority which the Lord gave for building up and not for your overthrowing, I shall not be ashamed; that I seem not as it were to terrify you by letters." Now he quietly, but with firmness, lets them know how much more he might have put forward his apostolic authority. He had not talked, we may be sure, of the blindness he had inflicted on Elymas; he had written in his first epistle of delivering the incestuous offender to Satan, as well as of coming with a rod for the refractory in general. But he had not come, and these vain men treated the warning as vain words. But the Lord gave not in vain the function of acting as His spiritual right hand on earth, though its prime aim was for blessing, not punishment. Still the hand that can wield the trowel can use the scourge; and it were better to fear for their own bold irreverence than to put him to the proof, whether the Lord was with him now.

The apostle's call was to build up, not to cast down; and love it is which builds up. But there was opposition to the Lord quite as much or more than to Paul in questioning the authority given him. And in order to sap and destroy it, advantage was taken of his words and ways to impute fickleness, vacillation, and untruthfulness, as we gather from the first chapter; lack of moral courage when present and despicable weakness in person and ministry, as we see here, aggravated by the heroic style of his letters when absent; craft, guile, and self‑seeking, as it would seem from 2 Corinthians 12. Self‑will never did lack material for disparaging the person, character, office and work of a servant beyond all example used, kept, and honoured of the Lord. If he refrained then from saying more, as he easily might and naturally would, of his authority in and from the Lord, it was that he might not seem as if he would frighten them by his letters. And this because his letters, said one, are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence weak and his speech of no account. Such was the carping of his adversaries or of one in particular. We can understand it well. Neither spirituality nor unworldliness nor faithfulness vaunts itself nor seeks to lower others; but flesh betrays thereby its pretensions and its party‑spirit.

There were various parties in the Corinthians, and some who strove to stand clear in grace and truth; but of all this schismatic activity the Christ‑party, I should gather, was the most obstinate. Certainly we have no allusion in the second Epistle to any other; but there appears to be a trace that the spirit of those who said, "I am of Christ," claiming a peculiar and exclusive connection with Him, was not yet extinguished. The root of this error is judged in 2 Corinthians 5, especially verse 16. We can readily understand how it might creep in among men boasting of having seen, heard, and perhaps followed the Lord in the days of His flesh. Here the apostle bids the man (who is confident in himself that he is of Christ) of himself to think this again, that even as he is of Christ, so is Paul. How simple is the truth, how destructive of airy dreams which would misuse even Christ to flatter self! Nor is anything so holy or humble as the faith which cleaves to Him. Similarly of his authority from the Lord, as of his relationship to Him, he bids such a detractor think (ver. 11) that "such as we are in word by letters when absent, such also in deed [we will be] when present."

It was the adversaries who had nothing to boast but words or manners, show or position. When he came, the apostle would know not the word of those puffed up, but the power; but he desired earnestly that it might be, through self‑judgment on their part, a visit in love and in a spirit of meekness. But their state might compel him to use a rod, as it did to speak of himself when he would rather discourse only of Christ. Their boastfulness about themselves, their alienation from him, went along with real evil and error in some who misled them, with whose vaulting ambition he deals afterwards. For the present he contents himself with this severe rebuke: "For we dare not class or compare ourselves with some of those that commend themselves; but they, measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves with themselves, are unintelligent." With this clique of self‑satisfied men the apostle did not venture (he severely says, though with courtesy) to rank or compare himself and brethren like him; but he retires with a Parthian shaft, for he lets them know that to measure or compare themselves thus is the reverse of that intelligence on which they most plumed themselves.

Another thing forgotten by his adversaries the apostle here introduces. The sphere of work is not a question of human choice or judgment, but of the divine will. There were those who slighted the labours of Paul, and their fruit at Corinth; but as he had not entered on that field of his own will, so he had toiled in the face of difficulty and with signal blessing guaranteed for his encouragement from the first.

"We however will not boast as to things".* unmeasured, but according to the measure of the rule which God distributed to us, a measure to reach as far even as you. For we do not,† as though not reaching unto you, overstretch ourselves, for even as far as you we advanced in the gospel of Christ, not boasting as to things unmeasured in another's toils, but having hope, while your faith increaseth, to be enlarged among you according to our rule unto abundance, to preach the gospel unto the [quarters] beyond you, not to boast in another's rule as to things made ready. But he that boasteth, in the Lord let him boast; for not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth." (Vers. 13‑18.)

* The singular is in D F G, and in several Latin copies.

† Lachmann strangely follows the Vatican (B), etc., in omitting the first and objective negative, which necessitates an interrogative force "For do we overstretch," etc.

The saving grace of God widely as it goes forth, even to all, falls nevertheless under the ordering hand of God who has His will about the sphere as well as the character of His service.

Others might boast immoderately. This is natural to the flesh, especially in vain minds. But the apostle laboured as he lived in the fear of God. Not a thought crossed him of displaying abilities; he was a servant, a bondman, of Jesus Christ; and so to him it was no question of liking or disliking, but of doing the work assigned to him, "according to the measure of the rule which God distributed to us, a measure to reach even to you."

In truth as all the christian life is meant to be a matter of obedience, so in particular the work of the Lord; else will it speedily degenerate into vain glory or slighting others, and often better men than our. selves. So certainly it was here. The Lord had not called them as he did Paul to Corinth. They at their ease had followed where Paul had wrought with constant self‑denial, and not outward labours only but deep exercise of soul; a labour in which grace alone could sustain by the Holy Ghost in continual dependence on the Lord. And the Lord had rejoiced his heart with much people, even in that corrupt city, brought to the knowledge of Himself. This was a work of divine power and goodness; but some had risen up or entered in since the apostle's departure, whose worldly spirit depreciated the work, and claimed superior power. If Paul had begun, they were the men to finish. Was he not indeed too ready to begin and leave his work incomplete as he roved from place to place? For their part they preferred the chiefs who stayed and reared a statelier edifice, as in Jerusalem. This they now strove to do at Corinth.

Such vapouring the apostle simply and thoroughly disposes of by the great truth that God apportions the sphere of labour. Those who venture on an enterprise of the sort without God, must not wonder if their service be without His honour and blessing. Happy the man who is wont to look to God, not only for his soul and in his walk, but also in his work. Nor does God fail to vouchsafe His guidance in this as in all things where His servants wait on Him. It was a. new language doubtless to the self‑exalting men of Corinth, jealous of the power and authority of the apostle. Power belongs to God, but He loves to use it in and by those who walk by faith; and now was the fitting time and place to make known the secret to the saints. It was "according to the measure of the rule which God dealt to us, a measure to reach as far even as you." There was no overstraining in the apostolic word or work, as though not reaching to the Corinthians; "for even as far as you we advanced in the gospel of Christ." None could deny this. The apostle had traversed many lands, planting the standard and proclaiming the good news of Christ in them all. He had done so as far as Corinth to the joy of many hearts. Let others boast then of lengths without measure; he and those like‑minded would not boast of anything of the sort, more especially if it were taking advantage of other men's toils, which he was careful to avoid. "But having hope, while your faith increaseth, to be enlarged among you according to our rule unto abundance."

Thus admirably does the apostle rise above the pettiness of human conceit or pride in divine things, nowhere more offensive than there, on the one hand laying bare those cheap pretensions which turned to selfish account the toil of others; on the other, cherishing confidence in the grace of God that the faith He had given would grow and thus afford him an opportunity of being enlarged as he says among them, instead of being chilled and straitened by having to deal with serious and growing evils. For thus would he be set free in fact and in spirit to preach the gospel unto the quarters beyond them, instead of boasting in another's rule as to things made ready. This his adversaries were doing, as we have seen, and as the apostle here says quietly, but none the less cuttingly.

But the Christian has a just ground of boasting There is One in whom we may and ought to boast, not self, but the Lord. So said the prophet of old, when the Jews were either glorying in idols or distrustful of Jehovah, who was laying bare their vanity and punishing their departure from Himself. So repeats the apostle now to the saints at Corinth. To glory in the Lord is due to Him and good for us; to glory elsewhere is a danger as well as a delusion. It connects more or less immediately with self; and not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

2 Corinthians 11.

 

The apostle loved to spend himself in the service of Christ or the saints, and begrudged a word about himself even when the occasion demanded it, at least when it might look like self‑defence. His wisdom as his joy was to testify of Christ. To speak of himself even as His servant he counts "folly," however needful. But it is part of the enemy's tactics to undermine and lower, and destroy if possible a true servant of the Lord, no less than to cry up those that serve their own belly and by their fair speech and speciousness deceive the hearts of the guileless. For can anything be more calculated to frustrate testimony to Christ than to blacken the bearer of it in his motives, ways, and aims? Hence, as thus the object of unceasing detraction to the saints at Corinth by self‑seeking men who were really Satan's instruments in dishonouring Christ and corrupting the church, the apostle addresses himself, however reluctantly, to the necessary task of vindicating His name assailed in his own person and ministry.

"Would that ye might bear* with me in some little* folly;* but even bear with me. For I am jealous as to you with a jealousy of God; for I betrothed you to one husband to present a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craft,** your thoughts should be corrupted from the simplicity** that is towards Christ. For if indeed he that cometh preacheth another Jesus whom we preached not, or ye receive a different spirit whom ye received not, or a different gospel which ye accepted not, ye might well bear with [it]. For I reckon that I am in nothing come short of those surpassingly apostles; but if even ordinary in speech, yet not in knowledge, but in every [way we were] made manifest [or, manifested it]† in all things towards you. What! did I commit sin in humbling myself that ye might be exalted, because I gratuitously announced the gospel of God to you? Other churches I spoiled, receiving hire for service towards you. And when present with you and in want, I have not been a burden to any one (for my want the brethren on coming from Macedonia supplied); and in everything unburdensome to you I kept and will keep myself. There is Christ's truth in me that this boasting shall not be stopped‡ unto me in the quarters of Achaia. Wherefore? Because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do I will also do that I may cut off the occasion of those desiring an occasion, that wherein they boast they may be found even as we. For such [are] false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ: and no wonder,*** for Satan himself transformeth himself into an angel of light: [it is] no great thing then if his servants also transform themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works." (Vers. 1‑15.)

* Steph. with the most and best, ajneivc. Elz. hjneivc. but, rightly mikrovn ti  (for ti Steph.) and ajfosuvnh" (though wrongly th'").

** ou{tw is added by the Text. Rec. with many witnesses, but not Å B D F G P, etc.; kai; th'" aJgnovthto"  added by m B F G, etc, and so Lachmann and Alford.

† fanerwvsante" Åp.m. B Fgr G, etc. fanerwqevnte" Åcorr. Dcorr. E H L P, etc. fanerwqeiv" Dp.m. etc.

 

‡ sfragiv. the error of a few cursives with Steph.; Elz. has rightly fraghvsetai.

*** qau'ma Å B D F G P R, etc. for qaumastovn of Text. Rec. supported by most later copies.

He apologises first of all for having to speak, not of Christ only, but of himself. Yet if any one might be jealous over the Corinthian saints, he surely who betrothed them (such is his expressive figure) to one husband, to present in them a chaste maiden to Christ. Such is the destiny of the saints; they are loved, washed, sanctified, justified, in view of this intimate relationship to Christ, which was most real and sure to the apostle, not so to those who lowered the standard of future hope and present separateness and conscious nearness in love and holiness to Christ by allowance of ease in this life, and of association with the world in its objects and ways, its philosophy or even religion. It is not only that here have we no continuing city and seek the coming one, but that we are now espoused to one husband even Christ, and are called to judge not conduct only but unsuitable thoughts and feelings. And as Paul had thus espoused the saints at Corinth, could he be otherwise than jealous at the creeping in of so much that was inconsistent with presenting them a chaste virgin to Christ?

For it was not merely failure through unwatchfulness: false principles were being instilled, and some relished the poison. So he continues, "I fear lest by any means, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craft, your thoughts should be corrupted from the simplicity that is towards Christ." In proportion as Christ is a living person to the soul, the reality of Satan's counterworking will be owned. Insensibility to the wiles of the enemy as a true and active adversary to be resisted is the awful indication of an unbelief common and growing in Christendom. How many Christians there are who think and talk slightingly enough of the Corinthian saints, themselves more lax still, not in ways only, but in faith! Satan is to them scarce more than an abstraction, an ideal expression of the power of evil. So far were those addressed, poor as they might be spiritually, from such incredulity, that the apostle could refer without hesitation to the serpent beguiling Eve. The history of the fall in Genesis was as yet indisputable truth to all who called on the name of the Lord; even the manner of the tempter's approach proved no difficulty, as it has to many a soul since, and this to their no small loss. Scripture recorded the simple, sober, solemn truth, which all heathenism attests in a traditional form more or less moulded into fable. And the latent enemy who employed the serpent is active still as ever, and now under Christianity is corrupting the thoughts of saints from the simplicity of the truth as to the Christ. For the merely professing mass the end will be the apostasy, and the man of sin revealed, whose coming is after the working of Satan in all power and signs and wonders of falsehood, and in all deceit of unrighteousness to them that perish.

And what had they got to warrant slight or alienation? "For if indeed he that cometh preacheth another [a[llon] Jesus whom we preached not, or ye receive a different [e{teron] spirit which ye received not, or a different gospel which ye accepted not, ye might well bear with [it]." For none of these blessings were they indebted to any channel but the apostle; him they had lightly esteemed whilst ready to honour the self‑exalting men who had set up to teach on his foundation, crying up the twelve only to depreciate Paul. "For I reckon that I am in nothing come short of those surpassingly apostles; but if even ordinary in speech, yet not in knowledge, but in every way we manifested [it, or, were made manifest] in all things towards you." They had all had the amplest experience of the apostle in everything; and as in power so in knowledge, they knew that he was behind none, unless it were in the rhetoric of the schools which the Greek mind overvalued.

But low‑minded men misunderstand and despise that humility and love of which they are themselves incapable; and some there were at Corinth who cringed to position and means as they were insensible to the apostle's grace in working with his own hands, or at least receiving no aid from rich Corinth. "Did I commit sin in humbling myself that ye might be exalted, because I gratuitously announced the gospel of God to you? Other churches I spoiled, receiving hire for service towards you. And when present with you and in want, I have not been a burden to any one (for my want the brethren on coming from Macedonia supplied); and in everything unburdensome to you I kept and will keep myself." Ready to evangelise at all cost to himself everywhere, the apostle in some places felt free and happy to receive, not only from individuals but from assemblies, going on with God in grace and humility: when the world's spirit prevailed, he was reserved and would receive nothing. The general principle remained intact: "the labourer is worthy of his hire;" "the Lord hath ordained that those that preach the gospel should live of the gospel." But the apostle whilst laying down what is right could and did go beyond it in grace, not using it for himself but for Christ wherever His glory called for it. From the poor Macedonian brethren he received; from the wealthy Corinthians nothing. O what a contrast is this day in Christendom! Nor did he thus speak to draw out their liberality in future, for as he had kept himself, so would he in future. "There is Christ's truth in me that this boasting shall not be stopped unto me in the quarters of Achaia." Was he disappointed and bitter now? "Wherefore? Because I love you not? God knoweth." It was indeed to deny his uniform life in Corinth and since.

His true motive he explains. "But what I do I will also do that I may cut off the occasion of those desiring an occasion that wherein they boast they may be found even as we" — a cheap boast where men have plenty and need no self‑denying devotedness. "For such [are] false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ." The beginning of those evil ways was then at work which soon formed a clerical class, dispensing even with the claims to gift from Christ under the fabulous pretension to apostolic succession. Such men then opposed the apostle in person, as now they oppose his doctrine. Is this wonderful, when. as the apostle reminds us, "Satan himself transformeth himself into an angel of light? It is no great thing therefore if his servants also transform themselves as servants of righteousness," though he solemnly adds, their "end shall be according to their works."

Having turned aside to warn of pseudo‑apostles, their high pretensions, and their low realities, the apostle comes back again, reluctantly as we see, to speak of himself, his "folly" as he calls it. In truth no task could be to him more repulsive, for he loved to speak only of Christ and the wondrous grace of God in Him. But what he so much disliked was a necessity; and at length the duty is faced of confronting their pretensions with his own reality. If in the previous chapter he shrank from pressing on the rich care for the poor saints, still more did he shrink now from self‑vindication. But the Lord's glory was concerned and the saints were endangered; and so he again takes up the disagreeable task.

"Again I say, let not one think me to be a fool; but if otherwise, even as a fool receive me, that I also may boast some little. What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord but as in folly, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to flesh, I also will boast, For ye bear fools pleasantly, being wise. For ye bear if one bring you into bondage, if one devour you, if one receive, if one exalt himself, if one bout you on the face. As to dishonour I speak, as though we had been weak; but wherein any one is bold (I speak in folly) I also am bold." (Vers. 16‑21.)

It was impossible to treat the assailed ministry of Christ without speaking of himself and his service; and of these how could he speak to unfriendly ears without apparent boasting? So we have effort and apology and circuitous approach, all characteristic of the man, but the work done thoroughly and the word of God dealing with their consciences. Boasting was certainly not the way of the Lord; boasting in the Lord is what becomes every believer; and the apostle shrank perhaps more sensitively than any other man from boasting in aught else. But the false apostles were dishonouring the Lord and damaging the saints by putting forward their fleshly advantages; such as a fine personal presence, power of mind, play of fancy, readiness of speech, rhetorical artifices, independent fortune, family connection, social position, and the like. Therefore does he feel it necessary to put forward what God had wrought according to the ability He bestowed; and this not merely in positive spiritual power, but in every kind of labour and suffering for the Lord's sake. It is humbling yet instructive to contrast the apostle's pain at having thus to speak, and the too evident pleasure with which many a servant of Christ goes off into personal narratives, which seem to have no aim but to prove his own cleverness at the expense of poor Mr. This or Mr. That, the great sacrifices he has made for the truth, or the surpassing excellence of his line of things in the testimony of Christ. Indeed it is well in these days of fleshly pretension, which claims high and exclusive spirituality, if our ears escape the deliberate effort to lower such as are resolved by grace to exalt Christ only and to love all that are His, abominating therefore all party‑work, whether in leaders or in followers.

Still, he is instinctively averse to everything which might look like self‑exaltation, and which necessarily involved speaking of himself or of his work. He deprecates their thinking him a fool; but if they would not concede this to him, "Receive me even as a fool, that I too may boast some little." They, being deceitful workers, sought their own glory; the apostle wrote only to deliver the saints from that which undermined the Lord and puffed up the flesh. Nevertheless it was not Christ; and not to be wholly occupied with Him was distasteful. "That which I speak, I speak not after the Lord, but as in folly, in this confidence of boasting." He had ample matter and real substance; still it was not directly the Lord, and this tried him, however necessary it might be. This seems to be the true meaning; not at all that he was writing as an uninspired man, but that, by inspiration, he was writing what was painful to a heart wholly devoted to the Lord's glory, but indignant at the trickery of these spurious ministers, and at the ready ear given to their insinuations by many of the saints. And certainly the Corinthians who permitted and enjoyed the lofty talk of those who detracted from Paul had no right to complain of the rapid glance at his work and sufferings, as well as power and office.

"Since many boast according to flesh, I also will boast, for ye bear with fools pleasantly, being wise." The false teachers without scruple flattered the saints, as they flattered themselves. The irony of the apostle is the most cutting reproof of self‑complacency. Where the folly really lay was neither doubtful, nor far to seek. He who has Christ for his wisdom can afford to be counted, and to count himself, a fool; it is really the truest wisdom, which they wholly miss, who exalt a favourite teacher into the place of Christ, and claim the character of obedience for such abject and perilous folly. Among the Jews, to say "there is no God" was to be a fool, in the worst sense of the word; among Christians, to set the servant practically above the Master, to give the servant the homage due only to Him, is real folly, and commonly as at Corinth it is the acceptance of Satan's ministers to the disparagement of those who are truly serving Christ.

Nor can any sight be more remarkable than the way in which flesh displays itself in these circumstances. The same saints, who were restive under the authority of a true apostle, were all submission to those who were false. "For ye bear if one bring you into bondage, if one devour you, if one capture, if one exalt himself, if one beat you on the face." Such was the degradation into which many at Corinth had fallen, hugging the chains which they saw not; for flesh is blind as well as foolish, and loves its own things, not those of Jesus Christ. It likes a director of faith and duty — not conscience in God's presence, subject to the word. It submits to bondage to man, if it be allowed sometimes licence. It never really knows and enjoys liberty in the Spirit. It ignores and endures wrongs, through indulgence to its favourites, to the last degree of injury and insult, as if all this were a high degree of religious merit, instead of the lack of faith and power which must bow down to a human priest or pontiff. The history of Christendom is but the filling up of the sketch the apostle has drawn of what Satan had wrought to a certain extent at Corinth.

Now at length the apostle comes once again, however slowly, to himself and his ministry. "As to dishonour I speak as though we had been weak, but, wherein any one is bold (I speak in folly), I also am bold." It was the apostle's glory to be weak that the power of Christ might rest upon him. This his adversaries turned to his reproach, and he bowed to it; he was far from affecting that high spirit which imposes on the vulgar used to it in the world, and is ever of price to the fleshly mind. But he apologises for speaking folly, and he adds, "wherein any one is bold, I also am bold." He was pained and ashamed to allude to his own things, however true and blessed; whilst they blazoned with the utmost vanity their advantages, however petty or really despicable in comparison.

The fleshly pretension of those who opposed the apostle prided itself on its Jewish extraction, as clericalism and ecclesiastical corruptions are apt to do virtually if not naturally as here. Knowing that the apostle turned every eye to Christ in heaven as dead and risen, they seem to have forgotten how easily he could dispose of such claims to superiority. "Are they Hebrews? I too. Are they Israelites? I too. Are they Abraham's seed? I too." (Ver. 22.) It is a climax from the external designation of the chosen nation, through the internal name (clearly enough distinguished in such scriptures as 1 Sam. 13: 3‑7, 19, 20; 1 Sam. 14: 21‑24), to the name in virtue of which they inherited the promises; yet each appropriated to himself with a curtness very galling to his vain‑glorious rivals. It was low ground in comparison of Christ, and the apostle treating it with scant respect turns to a higher claim.

"Are they ministers of Christ? (Beside myself I speak) I above measure;* in labours very abundantly, in prisons very abundantly,† in stripes exceedingly, in deaths often. From Jews five times I received forty [stripes] save one, thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; by wayfarings often, by dangers of rivers, by dangers of robbers, by dangers from countrymen, by dangers from Gentiles, by dangers in town, by dangers in desert, by dangers at sea, by dangers among false brethren, by‡ toil and trouble; in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Apart from things without [or, besides], my pressing care§ day by day, the concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is stumbled, and I burn not? If I must boast, I will boast in the matters of my infirmity. The God|| and Father of the Lord Jesus, he that is blessed for ever, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the ethnarch [or, prefect] of Aretas the king garrisoned the Damascenes' city** to seize me; and through a window I was let down in a basket by the wall and escaped his hands." (Vers. 23‑33.)

* Lachmann gives uJperegwv: it is hard to say why.

† Lachmann and Treg. follow B D E, etc. ful. per. ejn  pl. uJp.; Tisch. prefers Åp.m. Fgr. G, etc. pl. per. ejn  ful. uJp.

‡ Text. Rec. adds ejn with the later uncials, cursives, Vulg., etc.; but Åp.m. B D E F G and Gothic do not read the preposition.

§ ejpivstasi" Å B E F G, several cursives, etc.; ejpisuvstasi" Text. Rec. supported by most of the later uncials and cursives, apparently also by the Greek and Latin expositors. The more ancient copies give moi instead of the vulgar mou.

|| Verse 31 has been strangely tampered with by copyists. Thus the Clermont and St. Germain's (now St. Pet.) MSS. to oJ qeo;" add tou'  jIsrahvl. Again they and two other uncials with very many cursives add hJmw'n to t. kurivou, as still more add Cristou' to jIhsou'.

** The more ancient copies read p. Dam.  rather than Dam. p.  and have no qevlwn as in Text. Rec.

It is hardly exposition that is needed here, but thanksgiving for the grace bestowed of God on a man of like passions with ourselves, when the eye surveys such a roll of suffering labour for Christ, when the heart seeks to realise what it actually means so to be poured out as a libation, as he says to Philippi, where he could rejoice and rejoice in common with all the saints, not as here where the folly of the Corinthians wrung out of an outraged heart the reluctant tale, so profitable for us and all, which we should never otherwise have had recounted. We may well be humbled as we read that which puts our lukewarmness to shame.

Nevertheless, though the summary is as brief as it is plain in the main, the wounded modesty of the apostle, forced to withdraw the veil from a life of unequalled suffering, enters on the task with apologetic words which let out the pain it cost him to speak of his own things. He puts the question as to his adversaries, "Are they ministers of Christ?" and answers, not now as a fool (a[frwn) but as raving, "I above measure." The, commentators, ancient and modern, will have it to be a comparison. This is the very thing be seems studiously to avoid by the use of the preposition used adverbially and by other means afterwards. It is impossible to conceive an answer more spiritually wise and conclusive. For he does not even notice here the extraordinary power which the Lord had given him in the Spirit to deal with disease, death, or demons; nor yet the immense range and success of his work in the gospel; but he turns from his very abundant labours to the excess of stripes which had befallen him, his very abundant imprisonments, and his frequent exposures to death. Those who sought to undermine him might boast of their learning or their originality, their logic or their imagination, their depth of thought or their piquancy of illustration. They might appeal to their adherents numerous or intelligent, to their high favour with women, to their popularity with men; for they sought above all to draw away the disciples after them. What did they care for the poor and despised? What for the interests of Christ and the church?

The phraseology of the apostle (as in uJpe;r ejgwv, and also the sense of parektov") may be now and then difficult to seize or convey from the brevity and abruptness of one who could not bear to dwell on such a theme in view of unworthy adversaries who stood high in the esteem of many a saint. But he assuredly does not mean that any service here was more than the ministry of Christ, for this to him was the highest glory; and the Lord Himself had said that whosoever would be great among them should be their minister, and whosoever would be first should be slave of all. Nor would he merely intimate that he was more devoted and laborious than his detractors, as some have supposed. He was really comparing himself with none; but apologising for so speaking as contrary to a sound mind, he could not but own himself Christ's minister beyond measure. No doubt the comparative occurs both with "labours" and with "prisons," and even Bengel thought the false apostles experienced these like Paul, but less. But it was overlooked that the Greek tongue often uses the comparative without any object of comparison in a merely intensitive sense,* where we should employ the positive qualified by "very," "rather" or the like, meaning (if we attempted to fill up the ellipsis) "more than usual," or "ordinary," etc.; and the context confirms this as well as the moral bearing. For ma'llon or plevon would have been more natural to express comparative superiority, while uJper‑ballovntw" and pollavki" just afterwards oppose the idea. We see in 2 Corinthians 10: 12 what the apostle felt of comparing, which was their way, not his who was altogether above a habit so far beneath Christ or the Christian.

* Winer (Gr. N.T. Gr. iii. § 35, Moulton's ed.) seems to deny this, so far as the N.T. is concerned; but hardy assertion is no proof. I do not say that it is ever used for the positive; nor would the superlative suit, but just what is found. Were there only the two comparatives employed, it would be strange to depart from the literal meaning "more abundantly." But as the context stands before and after, and taking account of the moral considerations, as well as the delicate dignity of the apostle, I incline to the version given as. preferable.

The apostle next glances at particulars thus far in his course, to which others had compelled him who can have little anticipated such an answer to their vain‑glory. He puts them to shame with (not miracles but) sufferings. "From Jews five times I received forty [stripes] save one, thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and day I have been in the deep." This last danger was of course, like the three shipwrecks, previous to that which is so graphically described in Acts 27, though Grotius by a singular oversight speaks of it as if included. The one stoning at Lystra is related in Acts 14. Paley notices the remarkable accuracy of the inspired historian as compared with the apostle's statement. There is the nearest approach to a seeming contradiction without giving the least real ground for it. The same chapter which gives the case of stoning mentions at the beginning that an assault was made on Paul and Barnabas at Iconium, "to use them despitefully and to stone them; but they were ware of it and fled unto Lystra and Derbe." "Now had the assault been completed; had the history related that a stone was thrown, as it relates that preparations were made by Jews and Gentiles to stone Paul and his companions; or even had the account of this transaction stopped, without going on to inform us that Paul and his companions were aware of their danger and fled, a contradiction between the history and the apostle would have ceased. Truth is necessarily consistent; but it is scarcely possible that independent accounts, not having truth to guide them, should thus advance to the very brink of contradiction without falling into it." (Horae Paulinae. Works, v. 120, 121, ed. vii.) In the Acts we have but one of the three beatings with rods, and not one of the five scourgings by Jews.

And what a picture of ceaseless, unselfish, suffering toils is despatched in the next few words, before which the great deeds of earth's heroes grow pale with ineffectual light, attended as they were with heavy blows on others and clever schemes to screen themselves! "By wayfarings often, by dangers of rivers, by dangers of robbers, by dangers from countrymen, by dangers from Gentiles, by dangers in towns, by dangers in desert, by dangers at sea, by dangers among false brethren, by toil and trouble; in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." Yet this is the man who deprecates it as "folly" to speak of himself, who practised as he exhorted "but one thing!" "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Forget his failures, his sins, he did not; it is good and wholesome both for self‑judgment and as a witness of sovereign grace and faithfulness on God's part. But his progress, his trials, his sufferings, others only by their folly constrained him to recall, in meekness setting right those who opposed, if God per. adventure might sometime give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.

Yet it is not only the endurance of cruel usage from time to time from open enemies that tests the heart; it is shown out yet more by the unwearied and constant going out, no matter what the labour and the danger, from country to country among strangers whom the Jews could readily influence when they themselves took fire at the gospel, added to the manifold trials of the way. "in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from countrymen, in perils from heathen, in perils in town, in perils in desert, in perils at sea, in perils among false brethren; in toil and trouble, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." How poor the lengthy tales of the most devoted labourers in ancient or modern times compared with these living strokes from the heart of the great apostle!

Nor was it by any means an exhaustive account. Apart from the things besides" (parektov", possibly without," as in the Vulgate, Calvin, Beza, Authorised Version, etc.), "the pressure on me day by day, the concern for all the churches." There is little doubt that an early confusion crept into the text, and that the true word here is one signifying "urgent attention," as in Acts 24: 12 it is rather one signifying "faction" or "tumultuous concourse," though the more ancient copies support the former word (ejpivstasi", not ejpisuvstai") in both; and they are followed in this by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, and Tregelles. Mr. T. S. Green is one of those who fall into the opposite extreme of reading the latter word in both. It is one of the few instances where Scholz has in my opinion shown better judgment, reading "concourse" (ejpisuvsatsin) in Acts and "pressure of attention" (ejpivstasi") in the passage before us. Anxiety for all the assemblies is the appended explanation of that care day by day which pressed on the apostle. And of this he gives us a sample. "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is stumbled, and I [emphatic] burn not?" If they were sorely troubled by scrupulosity, he could and did enter into their difficulties; if any one was stumbled by the unworthy bearing of others, his soul was on fire, filled with love for Christ and the saints, and abhorring selfishness and party with thorough hatred.

Was this self‑praise? "If it is needful to boast, I will boast of the matters of my infirmity. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is blessed for ever, knoweth that I lie not. At Damascus the prefect of Aretas the king garrisoned the Damascenes' city to seize me; and through a window in a basket was I let down by [or through] the wall, and escaped their hands." No doubt, it was a remarkable escape at the beginning of his ministry; but it was just the last thing one who sought his own glory would have repeated and recorded for ever. No angelic visitors opened the bars and bolts of massive doors, nor blinded the eyes of the garrison: the apostle was let down in a basket through a window in the city wall. Truly he gloried, not in the great deeds or sayings of his ministry, but in his weakness and the Lord's grace. It is the more remarkable from the way in which he proceeds immediately after to speak of his being caught up to the third heaven.

2 Corinthians 12

 

We have had the apostle glorying in what had no glory in men's eyes. Now he turns abruptly, from being let down in a basket to escape a Gentile governor, to being caught up to heaven for a vision of the Lord in paradise.

"I must needs boast, though not profitable; but I will come* unto visions and revelations or [the] Lord. I know a man in Christ fourteen years ago (whether in [the] body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not: God knoweth), such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether in [the] body or without† [or apart from] the body, I know not: God knoweth), how that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words which [it is] not lawful for a man to utter. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on mine own behalf I will not boast save in [my] weaknesses. For if I should desire to boast, I shall not be foolish, for I shall speak truth; but I forbear, lest any should account as to me above that which he seeth me or heareth‡ of me." (Vers. 1‑6.)

* For k. dh; ouj sumfevrei moi, ejl, gavr T. R. after K M and most cursives, etc.; the more ancient support k. dei', ouj s‑on mevn, ejl. dev,  Å D, etc., having k. dev and B 213 ejl. de; kaiv.

† B Dp.m. Ep.m. read cwriv", the rest ejktov".

‡ ti is added by T. B. and Lachmann.

The text is, from the conflict of readings, rather precarious. But the truth conveyed runs like a ploughshare through all fleshly thought and feeling. Certainly in the boast of the apostle is not one thing palatable to nature, or exalting to himself or of profit humanly. Grace alone characterises visions and revelations of the Lord, and to these he would come. Yet even though boast one must in the Lord, room for vain glory is excluded. "I know a man in Christ:" not "I knew," as the Authorised Version so strangely misunderstands. Still even in the form which the apostle employs to convey the former, personal boasting is sedulously avoided, so much so that even our translators appear to have conceived that he was speaking not of himself but of some other man.

How blessedly Christ meets self in its need and guilt and ruin in order to deliver from its power, not only by the judgment of the first man, but by identification with the Second! It is good to be indebted to another's grace: what is to be thus lost, if one may so say, in the blessedness of Christ? Undoubtedly Paul had the marvellous experience he so vividly alludes to; but he puts it in a way meant to convey to any "man in Christ" that it is his privilege substantially, as it was his own in fact miraculously. In 2 Corinthians 5 we were told that, if any man is in Christ, it is a new creation: the old things passed, all things made new, and all of the God who reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. Here it is one caught up to the third heaven and in paradise hearing what it is not possible or permissible for man to tell unspeakable words. The sphere he was introduced into, though the communications were beyond what could be conveyed now; but it was of great moment to have the certainty of all. And he whose province it was to make known the counsels of God as to Christ and His own for heaven was thus allowed to hear, that all in Christ should know their portion by such a chosen witness.

The entire allusion is as peculiar as wise and suited. "I know a man in Christ fourteen years ago." Faith does not boast of visions and revelations of the Lord, any more than of its doings: of trials and sufferings one may speak if compelled, and so too of that which appertains to every man in Christ, though one alone got the vision. So David said not a word about the lion and the bear which he was enabled to kill while engaged in his lowly task, till it was needful to allay the fears of others to God's glory; and the apostle only spoke many years after a wondrous experience which others less spiritual would have talked of everywhere for as many years or more. What would not the Corinthians or their misleaders have made of it?

Prophets of old have known what it is to look on scenes outside man's experience. So Isaiah, the year in which king Uzziah died, beheld the Lord on His throne with the Seraphim in attendance on His glory, that he might fittingly to the people bear witness of their evil but of the virgin — born Jehovah‑Messiah who should establish the kingdom and deliver the people from their sins to God's glory. Ezekiel too was lifted up between earth and heaven and transported to Jerusalem in the visions of God and the temple (Ezek. 8 — 11), as afterwards to Chaldea (ver. 24), and finally to the land of Israel (Ezek. 40 — 48) for the future temple and city and division of the land. Nor is it only in the great Apocalyptic prophecy of the New Testament that we trace the analogy of these ways of the Spirit, but we see His power in catching away Philip bodily to Azotus or Ashdod, from the neighbourhood, one of the roads leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. As for the apostle, he says "(whether [in the] body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not: God knoweth), such an one caught up to the third heaven." It was not dubious, but transcendent, knowledge; and God who gave it hid from the apostle whether it was in spirit only or in bodily presence also. Certainly, if caught up like Philip, there was left such a sense of the glory as was too deep and bright for human words or for present circumstances. Body there or not, he was not hindered from feeling the glory to be beyond the measure of man. There the glorified will be to enjoy all with Christ at His coming, in bodies like His own; and there the disembodied saint goes to be with Him; there too Paul as a man in Christ, but Paul actually as apostle and prophet that we might learn now, was taken up. "And I know such a man (whether in [the] body or apart from the body, I know not: God knoweth), how that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words which [it is] not lawful for a man to utter." In the mysteries of the old heathen there were "unspeakable words," but they were strange forms of language to alarm and overawe the mind. Here the things forbade communication as rising completely in their nature above all that surrounds or is natural to us.

But the apostle does boast, not exactly "of" nor "in" but" on behalf of such a one." God did not deal thus with His servant for no reason but worthily for Himself: and Paul was led by the Spirit in speaking of it fourteen years after the fact to meet the exigencies of the testimony of Christ. It was grace to give the privilege; it was grace not to boast of it for himself meanwhile; it was grace to write of it now, and to write it in the inspired word for all saints in all time. "On behalf of such an one I will boast, but on mine own behalf I will not boast save in my weaknesses." These we have had in the preceding chapter; they were the suffering of love for Christ's sake in a weak body with all men and things opposed, which Satan was ever skilfully arraying against him. How beautiful are the feet of such heralds of good things! Yet philosophy and religion saw only what was despicable, as in the Master, so in the servant. Do we know what it is to live beyond the depreciation of our fellows? Let us look to it, however, that it be truly for Christ and His glory in those that are His. Nothing is more opposed to Christ, yet nothing more common among Christians than a pretentious self‑asserting spirit, which will boast of the distinctive possession of the truth which we know, even though it most condemn us. God looks for reality in a world of shadows and untruth; He looks for the possession and reflection of His revealed light and truth where darkness reigns; He looks for divine love where only self is found, though in subtle forms; He looks for the faith which reckons on Him according to His word in the face of all difficulties and dangers. Assuredly the apostle thus lived and laboured: as it is for our profit to see in these two epistles how misunderstood is such a path even among saints, who are apt to welcome a high and self‑exalting spirit, even though it indulge in sufficiently contumelious ways towards themselves. So the Israelites, who would have a king like the nations, received one after their own heart, who served himself, instead of ruling them in the fear of the Lord,

"For if I should desire to boast, I shall not be foolish, for I shall speak truth; but I forbear, lost any should account of me above that which he seeth me or beareth of me." The servant was jealous of his Master's glory, and hence his reticence as to much which would have interested us in the highest degree. "To me," he could say as none other since nor then nor before "To me to live is Christ;" and he was as vigilant as to this in public ministry as in private walk. "On behalf of a man in Christ" he had much to say, as he does say it elsewhere; and so he boasts here, for here all is of grace. "Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive, why dost thou glory as if thou didst not receive?" But even here, though speaking truth only, he forbears lest any should account of him beyond what he sees or hears of him. Such is the effect of a life spent in the faith of Christ and His love.

We have seen the spiritual power and tact with which the apostle handles his glorying, how he blends "the man in Christ" with that which was peculiar to himself, so as to out of all self or fleshly boasting, and yet to afford every saint intelligent of his privileges the same conscious privilege substantially as he had himself received miraculously. Now he turns to that counterpoise which the wisdom of the Lord had bound up with his own experience in order to hinder the misuse of it; for flesh was as bad in the apostle as in any other, and it needed His dealing no less than in the Corinthians, though differently as to form.

"And that I should not be uplifted by the exceeding greatness of the revelations,* there was given to me a thorn [or stake] for the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I might not be uplifted overmuch.† For this I thrice besought the Lord that it might depart from me; and he hath said to me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for [my]‡ power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest on me Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, in straits for Christ; for when I am weak, then am I strong." (Vers. 7‑10.)

* diov Å A B F G, etc.

† The last clause is omitted by the best MSS. Åp.m. A D E F G, etc., Vulg. Aeth., etc.; but it can hardly be doubted that it was done in error to correct a supposed repetition, which was meant for emphasis. This is an instructive fact.

‡ mou is added in T. Rec. with many but not the highest authorities. It is implied.

Here at least is no ambiguity, no studied mysteriousness of mention. Paul boasts of nothing here below but in his weaknesses, and indeed specifies one especial trial, or thorn if not "stake" for the flesh, sent to make nothing of him in the eyes of others, rendering him contemptible, it would seem from elsewhere in his preaching. With this goes an extraordinary irregularity in the very expression which it is easier to paraphrase than to translate with any smoothness, if we adopt with some diov "wherefore" after "revelations" and before "that."

This the Revisers deal with ingeniously: "And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations — wherefore, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given," etc. Otherwise, accepting the word, Lachmann was driven to make verse 6 a parenthesis, and to connect the first clause of verse 7 with the end of verse 5; and then the new sentence began with dio; i{na mh; k.t.l. which of course, if all allowed, yields a simple sense. In the text of Tregelles the insertion is beyond measure harsh. Alford brackets the word, and very oddly the last clause also, though repeatedly affirming its propriety for emphasis or solemnity; Tischendorf rejects it.

It will be observed that in the early part of the chapter the allusion is to what was communion with God's presence, not matter for communication to His children; and in that communion the body had no part. What he saw and heard was so outside its sphere that he knows not whether he were in the body or out of it. A man in Christ thus favoured he knows, but whether in the body or apart from the body he knows not. Could anything make him feel more distinctly that all the power to enjoy is in God?

Yet flesh even in a saint might work in consequence and whisper that none before had over been so caught up to the third heaven. Hence, lest by the excess of the revelations he should be uplifted, there was given him what was alike painful and humbling. What the thorn in the flesh was in Paul's case is purposely left undetermined, even if one may gather more or less its nature; but its moral aim, its intended effect, cannot be doubted. Nor is the measure of reticence without a wise motive, for it is a general principle of divine dealing with a form suited to each person so dealt with. If we hear of a messenger of Satan on one side, we hear of something given on the other. If the enemy take pleasure in the pain of God's servant or child, He assuredly works even by that which so distresses the flesh for the deeper blessing of the soul.

Lessons previously not learnt at all or imperfectly are now taught. "For this I thrice besought the Lord that it might depart from me; and he hath said to me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for [my] power is perfected in weakness." (Vers. 8, 9.) How it reminds us of what was still more wonderful, yea of absolute perfection, in that very Lord Himself when He prayed thrice that, if the Father would, the cup might pass from Him. Here it could not, ought not, to have been otherwise; for how could He who knew His love as the Son but deprecate unsparing judgment because of sin? The Lord, in that infinite suffering according to God's will and in doing it, was alone necessarily: but in the case before us we have as a principle what pertains to us and must be our position by grace, if indeed we are to be kept from the more humbling lesson of what the flesh is by a positive fall like Peter's. There are exceeding precious privileges given to the Christian. And it is not in the soul's entrance into or enjoyment of them that the danger lies, but in our natural reflection on their possession afterwards. Hence God knows how to use in grace what Satan means for hurt as in Job's case. Only here it is far deeper and more triumphant, as it ought to be now that Christ is come and redemption accomplished. It is not only dependence on God exercised and maintained, nor is it mere resignation to inevitable trial, but the sufficiency of grace practically proved, and Christ's power perfected in weakness.

Thus he who felt as soberly and profoundly as any man ever did can say, "Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weakness, that the power of Christ may spread its tabernacle over me." This is incalculably more than vanquishing mighty foes by faith and patience. It is taking pleasure in what is most trying and overwhelming to nature that Christ's strength may be manifested. Where flesh might rise, it is put down. In such dealing with us is the life of the Spirit; but Christ makes the bitter sweet, and His power can make its dwelling in us when we acquiesce in our nothingness and rejoice in it if it be but to His praise and glory. Practically there is nothing so profitable for the soul; and the apostle was ministering in the most effectual way while thus drawing forth from his own deep experience the true glorying of the saint as he knew it in his life before God and His ways with him day by day. What did they know of it, who were boasting of themselves or their leaders at Corinth and depreciating the true path of Christ to which the apostle clave faithfully? They would willingly have persuaded themselves into the idea that such devotedness and suffering were but the eccentricities of an ill‑balanced mind, and a prejudice to the gospel rather than a true and acceptable testimony to Christ. But, bear or forbear, he will tell them and us undauntedly what it is to live Christ. "Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, in straits for Christ; for when I am weak, then am I strong." Practical Christianity is as truly of faith as deliverance. All is of grace, though the ways differ. In every respect Christ is all. Only in redemption He suffered for us; in the path of faith we suffer with and it may be for Him. And blessed are those who thus suffer now, whether for righteousness' sake or for His name.

But was not the apostle speaking of himself, of what grace had given him to suffer? Was it not talking of what he calls weaknesses, insults, necessities, persecutions and straits for Christ, but on his own part?

"I am become foolish,* ye compelled me; for I ought to have been commended by you, for in nothing was I behind those surpassingly apostles if also I am nothing. The signs indeed of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by both signs† and wonders and powers. For what is there wherein ye were made inferior to the other assemblies, unless that I myself pressed not heavily on you? Forgive me this wrong." (Vers. 11‑13.)

* Text. Rec. adds kaucwvmeno" on large but inferior authority.

† Good and numerous authorities support Text. Rec. ejn s., as some read te s., and Åp.m. * B, etc., s. te.

It is not irony, but the genuine and deep feeling of one whose heart burned with a divinely given sense of what Christ is, and of love to the saints, forced to speak of himself by those who should have been prompt rather to have vindicated him and his service in love. It was the more painful, because he is treating, not of sin in man met by the righteousness of God in Christ, but of utter weakness in the Christian displaced by the strength of Christ. Even the saints in Corinth were as to this on ground like the world, the heathen world around them. They gloried in. intellect, in learning, in eloquence — briefly in man. They had never applied the cross of Christ practically to judge it, save so far as grace may have begun the work by the first epistle; and we need His glory on high, as this second epistle shows, to deal with fleshly pretensions thoroughly. (Cf. 2 Cor. 4, 2 Cor. 5) The weakness which some detractors laid to his reproach he was so far from denying that he himself insisted on it as the condition of the display of Christ's power.

It was real and culpable ignorance therefore to contrast him with those surpassingly apostles in this respect. Rather was it true that in nothing was he behind them, though as he says he was nothing, and quite content to be so. What his heart yearned for was Christ's glory, Christ's strength, not his own. As later in Philippians 3 his desire was to be found in Him, not having a righteousness of his own, that which is of the law, 'but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; so here he would not be strong in himself if he could, but weak that he might be strong through Christ. He would glory of a man in Christ, but in himself of nothing but his infirmities.

Natural power indeed is as offensive in the service of Christ as is one's own righteousness in justification: the latter denies Christ for us, the former denies Christ in us, or rather His power resting on us in our own felt weakness, yea, nothingness. Nothing can be more opposed to the feeling and the reasoning of flesh and blood. Human nature dislikes what is humiliating and painful; it loves ease or honour. To go on in difficulties, dependent on nothing but the Lord, is most trying, not delivered but enduring, that He may be glorified and we may prove the sufficiency of His grace. Such is the true pathway of power, and Paul trod it as none other since, in whom the first man is apt to be strong, the confusion or perplexities of others being only the greater where the Second man seems also strong, and the consequence serious for those who accept the activity of the two Adams as the right and desirable thing, to be admired in the Christian and the service of Christ. How different was his experience who took pleasure in all that made him for Christ's sake despised before others, and crushed in himself — when weak then strong!

Yet had he far rather have not said a word of himself, even when speaking only of this suffering trying path, and absolutely silent as to himself, his family, his acquirements, or his doings. It was the Corinthians who compelled him to speak out for their own profit, even though it took the shape of reproof. Neither was Paul behind the apostles, however exalted any might be; and none the less but the more, though (and because) he was nothing; nor were the Corinthians inferior to the assemblies, save in Paul being no burden to them. And as he shows that the apostolic signs were wrought among them in all patience by both signs and wonders and powers, so he asks them to forgive him the wrong of never accepting support or favours from that rich assembly. It is calm, dignified, loving but overwhelming, in its exposure and reprimand of their fleshly conceit, as well as of their readiness to take up insinuations against him whom they ought rather to have defended when impugned.

"Behold, this* third time I am ready to come unto you, and I will not press heavily,* for I seek not yours but you; for the children ought not to lay up for the parents but the parents for the children. And I most gladly will spend and be spent for your souls, if even† more abundantly loving‡ you I am less loved." (Vers. 14, 15.)

* tou'to, omitted in Text. Rec. with three uncials and most cursives, is attested by Å A B F G, many cursives, and most ancient versions etc., uJmw'n "on you" being added in Text. Rec. with most but not the oldest.

† The kaiv is very doubtful, being rejected by Åp.m. B F G, etc., but given in most other authorities.

‡ ajgapw' instead of the participle in Åp.m. A and a few other witnesses.

The servant would still (if now at length he revisited Corinth) cherish the portion of his Master, and give rather than receive: though entitled to live of the gospel and be cared for by the assembly, he would forego his title in the midst of those who might misuse or misunderstand it to Christ's dishonour. He would be like a parent in unselfish affection to his children. He would fare as He whose love was the more as others hated, however pained to find the saints so like the world. How singularly close was Paul's "imitation" of Christ!

"But be it so: I did not myself burden you, but crafty as I am I caught you with guile. Did I make a gain of any of them whom I sent unto you? I exhorted Titus and sent the brother with [him]: did Titus make any gain of you? Walked they not in the same spirit? [and] not in the same steps?" (Vers. 16‑18.)

Here the apostle obviates the cunningly mischievous insinuation of any who might charge him with reaping advantage indirectly through his friends. Such dishonour he repudiates. Guile like that was far from his soul, though the accusers seemed by no means above it if they suspected him; for what will not malice in the heart dare to think and say? They well knew that Titus and his companion walked in their midst with a self‑abnegation kindred to his own. No wonder this unwearied witness of Christ's glory abhorred from the bottom of his heart the sickening compulsion which drew forth such words from his pen; but we should profit by it all no less than those primarily addressed. There are many saints like those in Corinth: where the servant like him who thus pleads for Christ and like Christ?

Nothing can be conceived more untrue than the impressions which the Corinthians had received of the one to whom they were so deeply indebted; and this from the rivalry of men who boasted much, and as usual with little or nothing really to boast. So it was even in these early days, so often halcyon days in superficial estimation, unless indeed for eyes yet more superficial, which, misled by theory only, look for progress in Christendom, degrading the past to exalt the present and speculate on the future. Positive and weighty and even notorious facts were utterly opposed to the misrepresentation of his adversaries; and none ought to have known better than the Corinthians how unfounded was all this detraction. It would be unintelligible if one did not know the natural weakness of the mass to fall under high‑sounding words, and the subtle activity of the enemy to take advantage of the flesh in order to ruin the church and make it an instrument to the Lord's shame, instead of a witness in grace to His glory. Therefore did the apostle stoop to refute this miserable trash. But he was jealous lest this too should be misinterpreted, and he next proceeds to guard even this brief notice of his slanderers.

Ye long ago* think that we excuse ourselves to you. Before† God in Christ we speak, but all things, beloved, for your building up. For I fear lest by any means on coming I find you not such as I wish, and I be found by [or for] you such as ye wish not; lest by any means [there be] strife,‡ jealousy, wraths, feuds, slanderings, whisperings, swellings, confusions; lest on my coming again my God humble me among [or before] you, and bewail many of those that have sinned heretofore and not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and indecency which they committed." (Vers. 19‑21.)

* Text. Rec. has pavlin supported by the later uncials and most cursives, versions, etc.; pavlai Åp.m. A B F G and most of the Latins, Vulgate, etc.

† katevnanti on similar grounds, and rather stronger than the received katenwvpion,

‡ There is the highest, though not the largest, authority for the singular form, which seems to have been assimilated to the words following.

There need be no question, I think, as to the reading in verse 19. It is not "again" as in the Authorised Version, but "this long time," which does not suit the interrogative form. If others sought self‑justification, not so the apostle, whatever their surmisings. For those who are not occupied with Christ readily conceive of others what fills their own minds. He whom they misjudged turns to the presence of God and in His sight speaks in Christ. His speech was not only in the consciousness of the divine presence, but characterised by Christ, not by the natural man. In His name does not seem the thought, nor yet conformably to His doctrine. He stood consciously over against the highest tribunal, and spoke in Christ accordingly, not in the flesh; as he thus disposed of any self‑complacency on their part in judging him, so he disclaims as carefully all thought of self‑interest or fear: "but all things, beloved, for your building up." Love never fails, and it builds up. For this he spoke and toiled and suffered.

And the more because he could not but have the gravest apprehensions of not a few in Corinth, whatever his comforting hopes of the rest. "For I fear, lost by any means on coming I find you not such as I wish, and I be found by you such as ye wish not." It was the dread of their state and its consequences for themselves and to his own heart which had hindered his going when he had intended; and the delay had exposed him to evil tongues long since. And he still feared that the work of restoring grace meanwhile was not so complete, but that much which was amiss remained feebly if at all judged in many. For rather would he come in love and a spirit of meekness, than with a rod which their condition might demand. If he found any failing not in grace merely but in righteousness, those who were thus putting the Lord to shame must be as unwelcome to His servants, as he must prove to them in vindication of His name. The evils he hints at as still at work are those which he had so unsparingly rebuked in his first epistle; strife and jealousy, outbursts of angry passion and cabals, outspoken slanderings and privy whisperings, manifestations of proud insolence, and open disorders. It is a long list of sad evils; but how soon these might characterise true believers, where there is a party or parties to take up and spread and give effect to the word of leaders!

Some see it hard to reconcile the warm expressions of loving confidence found elsewhere, especially in the central part of the Epistle, with these forebodings. They even venture to conjecture that the latter portion from 2 Corinthians 10 formed another letter written at a different epoch, and under circumstances widely differing from those supposed in the preceding part; or at least that a considerable period elapsed between the writings of the former and the latter parts. But there is really no special difficulty, as the apostle does not here speak of all, but of many; and the attentive reader will not fail to discern, even in the earliest chapters of the first portion, quite enough to prepare him for the solemn anxieties which press on the apostle's spirit before he closes the Epistle with his parting appeals.

Indeed, it has been pre‑eminently remarked of this very chapter with truth that it contains the most striking contrasts among those that bear the name of the Lord. There is, on the one hand, the man in Christ, viewed in an extraordinary measure of enjoying the privileges of a Christian; there is, on the other, the most distressing exhibition of the worst possible state of the saints practically in both violence and corruption; and there is between these extremes the way of the saint, in being made nothing of, that the power of Christ might rest on him. Thus there is really no difficulty for those who accept God's word in simplicity; and the intellectual activity which musters objections is spiritually as infirm and unintelligent, as it also dishonours the Lord.

Verse 21 seems naturally inconsistent with the notion of a second visit as yet, though it is admitted on all hands that the apostle had intended ere this to have paid it. "Again" goes with coming, not with "humble," though some prefer giving it to the entire clause. What an expression of love lurks in the apostle's words! To find saints thus in sin was God humbling him in their presence, not them in his, as it looked as a fact. But he felt as he spoke "in Christ." It was God humbling him at the evil condition of his saints, and what it rendered necessary. And what does he say as he thinks of the grossest forms of it? "And I bewail many of those who have sinned beforehand, and not repented of the uncleanness, and fornication, and indecency which they committed." It is not that his hand would fail to wield the rod, but it was surely with a wounded heart which bled because of shameless evil among those who called on the name of the Lord. Doubtless the corruptions were characteristic of heathen Corinth; and old habits soon revive, even in young converts, when the heart turns from Christ to other objects. But what a tale is told of feeble faith? For faith it is that overcomes; and they were overcome with evil, not overcoming it with good. Nature is an important fact for the enemy; but the Holy Spirit lifts above all hindrances, forming, exercising, and strengthening the new life we have in Christ our Lord.

2 Corinthians 13

The apostle reverts to his intention of visiting the Corinthian saints once more, and in such a way as to give a solemn force to the visit when it should be accomplished.

"This third [time] I am coming unto you. At [the] mouth of two witnesses and three shall every word [or, matter] be established. I have foretold and foretell, as if present the second [time] and now absent, to them that have sinned before and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare. Since ye seek a proof of the Christ speaking in me (who toward you is not weak, but is powerful in you, for although he was crucified in weakness, yet he liveth by God's power; for indeed we are weak in him, but shall live with him by God's power toward you), try your own selves whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves. Or recognise ye not as to your own selves that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed ye be reprobate?" (Vers. 1‑5.)

It had been already explained why the second visit had fallen through. It was to spare them he had not come. When he should revisit them, they must not expect such forbearance. His patience had been misconstrued by some, if others had profited. But this third time he was coming; and when he did, everything should be established with due evidence. The previous warnings he had given, to not only those that had sinned heretofore but all the rest, only strengthened his resolve not to spare at his coming again. The, language most naturally conveys that he had not gone to Corinth the time when he had intended his second visit. Hence he says, "I have foretold and foretell, as if present the second time and now absent, to them that have sinned before and to all the rest," etc. There is no ground apparent to my mind that this was literally a third visit, rather on the contrary the second in fact, though third in purpose.

It helps greatly to the understanding of what follows to see that, whether marked externally or not, there is a parenthesis after the first clause of the third verse which runs through the fourth also; so that the connection of the first clause of verse 3 is really with verse 5. Since ye seek a proof of the Christ speaking in me, . . . . try your own selves whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves." It is a final notice of and answer to their unworthy questioning of Paul's apostleship. Did they demand a proof of Christ speaking in him? Were not they themselves proof enough? Had He not spoken to their souls in that servant of His who first caused His voice to be heard in Corinth? As surely as they were in the faith, which they did not at all question, he was an apostle — if not to others, assuredly to them. The many Corinthians who, hearing the apostle, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, were the last who ought to gainsay the messenger if they appreciated the message and Him who sent the messenger. If they were reprobate, having confessed Christ in vain, there was no force in the appeal, which derives all its power from their confidence that Christ was in them as the fruit of the apostle's preaching.

This also shows how baseless is the too common abuse of the passage, as well as of 1 Corinthians 11: 28, to sanction a doubting self‑examination, as one often hears, not only in the practical history of souls, but in the teaching of doctrinal schools otherwise opposed. Here, say they, we are taught to search ourselves and see that we be not too confident: does not the apostle in the first Epistle to the Corinthians call on each habitually to examine or prove himself before partaking of the Lord's Supper? and does he not pursue that special call by the general exhortation in the second Epistle to examine or try themselves whether they be in the faith? The truth is that an examination of the context in each case dispels the error as to both — an error which strikes directly at the peace of the believer, if not also the truth of the gospel. For the gospel is sent by God, founded on the personal glory and the work of His Son, to bring the believer into communion with the Father and the Son in full liberty of heart and with a purged conscience. These misinterpretations, under cover of jealousy for holiness, tend immediately to plunge the soul into doubt through questions about itself.

What then do the passages respectively teach? 1 Corinthians 11: 28‑31, the duty, need, and value of each Christian testing himself by the solemn truth of the Lord's death expressed and confessed and enjoyed in His supper. How slur over sin of any kind, were it but levity in word or deed, in presence of that death in which it came under God's judgment unsparingly for our salvation? Nor is it enough to confess our faults to God or man, as the case may require; but as on the one hand we discern the body, the Lord's body, in that holy feast of which we are made free and which we can never neglect without dishonouring Him who thus died for us, so on the other hand are we called to discern ourselves, scrutinising the inward springs and motives of all, and not merely the wrong which appears to others. But this intimate self‑searching, to which we are each called who partake of the Lord's Supper, is on the express ground of faith, and has no application whatever to an unbeliever. This last doubtless has been mischievously helped on by the error of "damnation" in the Authorised Version of verse 29, which verses 30‑32 clearly refute, proving that the judgment in question is the discipline of sickness or death which the Lord wields over careless or faulty saints in positive contrast with the condemnation of the world. As for the passage in our chapter, we have already seen that the argument derives all its force from the certainty that those appealed to were in the faith, not in the least that they were uncertain. That they were in the faith through Paul's preaching ought to have been an unanswerable proof that Christ spoke through him; if Christ was not in them, they were reprobate; and was it for such to question his apostleship Scripture never calls a soul to doubt, always to believe. But self‑judgment is ever a Christian's duty; and our privileges, we being in ourselves what we are, only deepen the importance, as representing Christ, of dealing with ourselves truly and intimately before God, as well as of reminding our souls habitually of the Lord's death and of its infinite and solemn import as shown forth in His Supper.

The parenthesis connects the apostle's ministry, Christ's speaking in him, with all he had laid down before as its true principle throughout the epistle, as well as in the preceding chapter. Christ certainly had shown Himself toward them not weak, but powerful in them. Let them only bethink themselves of the past, and weigh what His grace and truth had done for them. And if they found fault with the apostle as indifferent to, yea, as despising and abominating, fleshly power and worldly wisdom, let them think again of the Saviour, who "was crucified in [lit. out of] weakness, yet he liveth by [lit. out of] God's power." Let them judge then who was consistent with Christ, His cross and His resurrection — they with their natural thoughts; or the apostle with his ministry so despicable in the eyes of some? "For indeed we are weak in him, but shall live with him by God's power toward you." Where was dependence in faith of the crucified One? Where real power, as became the witness of resurrection and glory on high? Where unselfish devotedness and practical grace answering to Him who loved the church and gave Himself for it?

Thus did the apostle turn the unworthy demand of some in Corinth as to his apostolate to their own souls' blessing as well as to the overthrow of their argument. So at the beginning of this epistle he had dealt with their imputation of fickle levity if not of untruthfulness by insisting on the immutable truth of what he preached of Christ, and the power of God in the Holy Ghost's blessing that confirmed it in the believers. Not less does he here overwhelm those who, in their anxiety to dishonour his commission from Christ, were bringing to nought their own title to Christ. Did they seek evidence of Christ that spoke in Paul, and that was not weak toward them but was mighty in them? Let them try their own selves whether they were in the faith. The apostle was content with no better evidence than his Corinthian converts, unless indeed they were reprobate, which was far from the ground they took or he. He had far rather give them, and that they required, no proof of his apostolic power in severe discipline.

"But I hope ye shall know that we are not reprobate. But we pray* unto God that ye may do nothing evil, not that we may appear approved, but that ye may do the right though we be as reprobate. For we can do nothing against the truth but for the truth. For† we rejoice when we are weak and ye are strong: this also we pray for, your perfecting. For this cause I write these things while absent, that I may not when present deal severely according to the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for casting down."

* eujcovmeqa Å A B D F G P many cursives and all the ancient versions save the Pesch. Syr. and the Gothic, instead of the sing. eujcovmai of the Text. Rec.

† Text. Rec. adds dev contrary to the best authorities.

It is impossible to conceive a more admirable dealing with a state of mind which must have been as grievous as it was humiliating to the apostle. Their high-minded ingratitude and short‑sightedness only brought out an answer complete and withering, yet dignified, lowly, and loving. His heart was occupied with their further blessing, more than with his apostolic office, which he asserted for their sakes more than his own. To stand in doubt of him might jeopardise their own faith rather than his apostleship, which was there to he exercised if need were in vindication of the Lord against their evil, as it had already been by grace in their conversion. But he prayed that they might give no such occasion, not that the validity of his claim might appear, but that they might do that which became saints, even though he might lack such proofs or be ever so depreciated. There would then be no occasion for the display of power, as their honourable walk would testify for the truth; and as for the apostle, he could say "we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and ye are strong." And he prayed for this too, their perfecting.

It was reserved for the anti‑church to claim irrevocable authority along with immunity from error. Where difference exists among the faithful, it is folly to claim a character which attaches only to their agreement in the power of the Spirit. And the apostle disclaims what the Roman pontiff arrogates, that clave errante the decision binds. The inevitable effect, soon or late, will be destruction, not edification. It is not Christ, but human assumption, not to say presumption.

Whether it be an individual's assumption or an assembly's, or whether as in one notable theory it be the chief along with that which represents the church as a whole, such a claim is fictitious and destructive of the Lord's glory. The promise is strictly conditional, not absolute; and never was there an apparent failure save when the condition was broken, and then in very faithfulness the Lord gave not His sanction. To be unconditionally true, there ought also to have been infallibility, which belongs not even to an apostle but to God alone. The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way; and this now in the church by His own guaranteed presence and lending, though nothing seem harder to conceive where the several wills of so many would naturally act diversely. But He is there in the midst to make good His gracious power when truly waited on, with subjection in the Spirit to the written word which casts its divine light on facts and persons; that all without force or fraud may act as one in the fear of God, or those who dissent may he manifested in their self‑will, whether they be few or many.

But the taking for granted that a given sentence is irrevocable, because it is the opinion of a majority or even of a whole assembly, in the face of facts which overthrow its truth or righteousness, is not only fanatical (I do not say illogical only) but wicked fighting against God. In such a case, humbling as it is, most humbling for an assembly to judge itself hasty and mistaken in pretending to the mina of the Lord, where it was only the illusive influence of prejudiced leaders or the weakness of the mass who prefer general quiet in floating with the stream at all cost, or both causes or others also, the only course at all pleasing to the Lord is, that the error when known be confessed and renounced as publicly as it was committed, being due to Him and to the church, as well as to the individuals or company, if there he such, more immediately concerned. To keep up appearances in deference to men however respected if mistaken and misleading, to give expression to high‑sounding terms or to vague begging the question of truth and right, in order to cloak an evident miscarriage of justice, is unworthy of Christ or of His servants. This was far from the apostle, who, as at the beginning of this epistle he disclaimed lording it over the faith of the saints, at the end proves his sincere desire, even when grievously slighted, to avoid if possible sharp dealing with those who had afforded grave occasion, and to use the authority which the Lord gave him for building up and not for casting down.

"For the rest, brethren, rejoice [or, farewell], be perfected, be encouraged, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Salute one another with a holy kiss. All the saints salute you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit [be] with you all*."

* Text. Rec. adds ajmhvn with most manuscripts (not the most early) and most ancient versions, etc.

May our souls be corrected and strengthened and refreshed by so benignant a conclusion! It well befits the epistle of restorative grace. The work of bringing back the saints in Corinth to meet thoughts in the Lord as to themselves and His servants, and the apostle especially, was only begun. Much remained to be done, both in fulfilling obedience and in avenging all disobedience. But the apostle was encouraged of God, and would comfort them on his part. He bids them, not merely farewell, but rejoice; he wishes what was lacking supplied, what was awry adjusted; he desires them to be not discouraged by or in occupation with themselves, but cheered on as they looked at his exhortation to the Lord; he would have them cultivate, not crotchety points of difference, but the same mind; he calls them, not to indulge in questions gendering strife, but to live in peace; and he assures them that the God of love and peace, as one combined blessing in the power of His presence, should be with them. What a spring of consolation for those who in the measure of deepening self‑judgment might otherwise have been cast down! Nor was it only of that divine source of blessedness he assures them, but he calls on the expression to one another of mutual and holy love, as he sends it from all the saints in that part of Macedonia whence he wrote.

The benediction that closes all has the same suitability which we see in each epistle, admirably adapted to the state of the Corinthian saints, and of course not only to all others in similar experience but instructive and wholesome for all that believe. Yet for this very reason one feels the unintelligence which turns such pointed words of blessing into a standing invariable form for all sorts of different occasions, as if we were reduced to one ouch mode of dismissal, or that it was of the Spirit of God to select that which might seem the most comprehensive and comforting. As God gives no licence to confusion in the assemblies, so does He not sanction those who walk in pride and passion, in self-will, railing, and contention, however graciously He may act, when they begin to judge themselves. We need, not the word of God only, but His Spirit to apply it aright: else we May unwittingly pervert even that word to real mischief, with cheer where reproof is rather called for, and rebuke where consolation would be more seasonable. But what grace is told out in this inspired servant sending under all the circumstances such a parting message to all the saints in Corinth! "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." Poor, weak, unworthy, what can saints lack to help them when this is made good? and what simple soul among the faithful would on such a warrant doubt it? or desire less or different for himself and his brethren? The free and full favour of Him who for us died and rose; the love of that God against whom we had without cause sinned to our utter ruin, yet who sent the Saviour to redeem us; the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, the power and seal of this infinite blessing, who gives us a common and abiding share in it all, yea, with the Father and the Son: what a portion to be with us all, and assured for ever!