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‘We are not ignorant of his devices.’
2 Corinthians 2:11
The personality of Satan is a fact too well established in our own experience for any of us to doubt its reality. He is the enemy of our souls and he compasses their destruction. He works upon us in various ways; his ‘devices’ are many. ‘We are not ignorant of them,’ says St. Paul; yet in how many cases do they succeed only too well. Note these leading characteristics of Satan’s devices. They are—
I. Subtle.—The old device, ‘Yea, hath God said?’ succeeded with our first parents and it succeeds to-day. It is when he appears as an angel of light that he is most to be feared.
II. Alluring.—He tempted our Blessed Lord by showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. He comes to us in the same way, showing us short and easy roads to worldly success, but he conceals from us that spiritual death lies that way.
III. Suggestive.—It is his work to suggest sinful thoughts to our minds, and the step from thought to action is so simple. The plea that it does not do to be too strict or too straight has been the ruin of thousands.
IV. But strong as he is, there is One stronger than he, even Christ, Who has conquered and lives to conquer. In Him is our refuge and strength. Upon the soul which abides in Him the devices of Satan can have no real power.
‘Frequently evil thoughts are thrust in against our wills, evidently not arising from any connection of ideas in our own minds; and this, to those who are given to low and desponding frames of feeling, is a sore trial, believing as they do that such thoughts arise from themselves, and that they betoken a depraved and criminal intention within them. If Christians would believe and recognise more than they do the agency of the tempter within them, they would derive encouragement under such inward struggles from knowing that it is not themselves, but he against whom they are called on to maintain the good fight, from whom such thoughts arise.’
THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE
‘But thanks be unto God, Which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savour of His knowledge in every place.’
2 Corinthians 2:14
That is from the Revised Version. The Authorised Version—‘Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ …’ gives the idea of a general just returned from a glorious victory.
I. The true meaning is the exact opposite. St. Paul and his fellow-believers are not here compared to a general triumphing after a battle; they themselves are led in triumph as captives by a victorious general. In very deed they have been conquered themselves.
II. ‘Thanks be to God,’ or, ‘Glory to God,’ St. Paul may well say, for it was the love of God which sent Jesus Christ, and it is the story of His dying love which melts, subdues, and conquers human hearts, and transforms human lives, and brings the sweetness of heaven down to this earth of tears and blood.
III. If a man is to be saved, the will must bow, the heart must surrender. But how can this miracle be wrought? Christ acts on human wills and human hearts by the spell, by the charm, by the force of irresistible love. So that the man says—
‘John Newton was a well-known evangelical preacher of rather more than a hundred years ago, and he was a miracle of grace. “I was a wild beast on the coast of Africa,” he said, “but the Lord caught me and tamed me, and now you come to see me as people go to look at the lions in the Tower.” In truth he had been a swearing sea-captain, and withal a dealer in slaves, but he became transformed, and sat at the feet of Jesus, and heard His Word, and preached it too, and wrote the hymn “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds.” ’
‘Who is sufficient for these things?’
2 Corinthians 2:16
St. Paul occupied so peculiar a position that it cannot be doubted that he stood in need of peculiar assistance and guidance. His life was laborious, his duties were responsible, his difficulties were many, his influence was vast. Every true Christian, however slender his abilities, however obscure his position, feels in need of grace. He is constantly asking, ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’
I. Insufficiency of human strength for spiritual service.—In the case of St. Paul this insufficiency was very conspicuous. It was his office to preach to civilised and barbarian, to Jews in the synagogue, to Gentiles in the market-place, to Christians in upper rooms; to travel and to brave dangers by land and sea; to endure imprisonment, stripes, and violence; to defend himself and the Gospel before magistrates and before multitudes; to expound the truth, to combat error, to oppose false teachers, to detect false brethren; to write epistles both to fellow-labourers and to congregations; to direct and control the actions of Christian communities. Well might he exclaim, Who is sufficient for these things? This insufficiency is as real, if not as obvious, in the case of Christians in ordinary stations of life, and of Christian labourers called to ordinary service. To maintain a Christian character and to display a Christian spirit, to present a witness of power to the truth, to commend the Gospel by argument, by persuasion, by conduct—all this cannot be done by the use of resources merely human.
II. Sufficiency of divine strength and grace.
( a) This sufficiency is imparted by the clear manifestation of Divine truth on God’s part, and by its clear apprehension on ours. Not by entrusting a secret, but by revealing great truths and principles, does the Lord qualify His servants for their work. Here was the instrument for St. Paul’s work, the weapon for his warfare. And here all Christ’s servants must seek their sufficiency. Pastors and evangelists, teachers and parents, should bear this in mind—that their competency for their several ministries depends first upon their grasping Christian truth, and embodying it in their spiritual life, and using it as their means of spiritual service.
( b) This sufficiency again is enjoyed by the sympathetic reception on our part of the Holy Spirit’s grace. Strength, wisdom, forethought, gentleness, and patience are all needed in the service of the Redeemer. These are the fruits of the Spirit’s presence and operation. Christian labourers need a heart open heavenwards to receive all sacred influences by prayer, by fellowship with God, by true receptiveness of attitude. A Divine, unseen, but mighty agency is provided for all true servants of Christ. Assured of this, they may well lose sight of their personal weakness and ignorance and utter inadequacy, and be content and glad to be participators in the sufficiency which is of God.
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24