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‘Mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.’
2 Corinthians 10:4
There are times when the Gospel of Christ must assert itself as a destructive power. Would we seek to excel in building up the Church of Christ, we must not be slow to take part in pulling down what is not the Church.
I. All the military language St. Paul here uses was his own choice.—It was not that these disobedient and self-willed Corinthians challenged him as from the battlements of a fortress high up on some precipitous rock. In their own judgment they needed no stronghold against him. They despised him as a weak, wellnigh solitary man. Nothing is commoner than to mistake gentleness for weakness. The forces of Christianity are always despised by those who do not understand them. We must not mind being despised and ridiculed in attacking great evils. Goliath laughed at the stripling who came against him with a sling and a stone. One deep, intelligent, loving conviction in your heart is worth all the strength of the other side.
II. Victory may be certain, but that does not make it easy.—Give what the Apostle calls its full force. The things that have to be pulled down are indeed strongholds. A first principle in all warfare is not to undervalue the enemy. It is the folly of the world that it despises the Church militant; let it be the wisdom of the Church militant that it does not despise the world. These two letters of St. Paul are full of agonising struggle. He does not trifle through them. No consideration is left unemployed. The great fortress of worldliness is citadel within citadel, and the outward may be broken down while the inward remains without a breach. What a gigantic task to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ! We may be more or less captive to something that looks like Christ and yet is not Christ. The unsubdued can only come under the real dominion of Christ by a hearty and unremitting employment of all our spiritual resources.
III. It is not enough to expel them that hold; that which they hold must be utterly destroyed. The end of war is peace; nothing else can justify war. All those separations and hostilities which the Gospel of Christ has produced, which Christ foresaw would be produced, are to end in a deeper, holier peace than mere natural associations can ever afford.
‘War, it has been said of the Romans by Montesquieu, was their only art, and they gave all the energy of their intellect to perfect it. Not only in the camp and on the march did they exercise themselves, but in Rome itself there was a Campus Martius, a field of Mars. Everything was subservient to war. And so with us, conflict, unceasing conflict, is the condition of spiritual success. The brave old hero, Bernal Diaz, who fought in the conquest of Mexico, wore his armour so long and so constantly that afterwards he could not sleep comfortably without it. And in like manner our armour is to become part of ourselves.’
CONCERNING THE COLLECTION
‘For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand.’
2 Corinthians 10:14-Nehemiah :
There are few subjects upon which we need greater guidance than in the giving of alms. Let us see from this passage for what purposes alms were required.
I. There was a collection at that time made everywhere for the poor of Jerusalem.—It was part of the arrangement made between St. Paul and the other Apostles that wherever he went he should remember the poor; and accordingly we find in his epistles plain traces of what he did. Here at Corinth, where there was a great deal of wealth—it was probably the wealthiest place at that time of all the places in which St. Paul preached, because he had not yet come to Rome. We find the same thing was done, however, in other Churches—certainly done at Philippi and at other Churches in Macedonia—and there can be no doubt that St. Paul made these collections wherever he went. This was a temporary thing, and it just lasted for the generation and for no more.
II. Again, from the earliest times we find that it was laid upon the people at large to maintain the Christian ministry.—A Church was founded, and as soon as a considerable body of disciples had been gathered together, it was laid upon them that it was their duty to Christ to see that the ministers who preached among them should be supported entirely by their help; they were to live of the Gospel. St. Paul himself, in certain parts of his preaching of the Gospel, maintained himself, or very nearly maintained himself; but he did it for a particular purpose, and in the doing of it he does not speak of it as if this were something excellent in him, and as if everybody was to follow his example. Quite the contrary, he speaks of it as a thing that he was permitted to do, not as a thing that everybody would be permitted to do. He was permitted to preach without receiving any support from his converts, he was permitted to maintain himself all the time. The rest of the ministers generally were not permitted to do anything of the sort, and we can see the reason: because it was of real importance that the ministers as a rule should give themselves wholly to the ministry, they should give themselves entirely to that work and not be compelled to withdraw their attention in order to obtain their livelihood. That was the second purpose for which money was everywhere required from the people, and that, it is plain, was a permanent purpose. It was not a temporary thing that was to last just for that generation, it was a permanent thing that was always to continue.
III. Yet again, from the very beginning the Christians were called upon to contribute to the support of their own poor, of all those who were too aged or too infirm to maintain themselves. The Christian Church held it always as an imperative duty, and the Apostles plainly enough inculcated this duty, that there should be sufficient support provided for all those who were unable to work. Widows, for instance, when they were old and unable to work, were supported by the alms of the Church, and St. Paul, in one of his epistles, makes regulations about these widows—who were to claim this support, and who were not. The administration of this kind of charity was begun even in the Church at Jerusalem. There we find that the Apostles themselves had it in their hands at first, this administration of alms for the poor; but they were so taken up, as they ought to have been taken up, with their own proper duties as ministers of the Gospel, that there was a great deal of discontent, and it was in consequence of this that the seven deacons were appointed in order that the administration of these alms should be in their hands, and that the Apostles should be free to do their own proper work, namely, to evangelise the world.
IV. St. Paul speaks of support being given in what may be called the perpetual missionary work of the Church, that is, he was not content to remain at Corinth, it was not right that he should. He was to go and preach to the Gentiles beyond Corinth—he did, in fact, go on to Illyricum—and plainly calls upon the Corinthian Church to provide the means of doing so.
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25