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DEFENSE OF HIS APOSTLESHIP.
We now enter upon another field, in which the apostle finds it necessary to defend his claims to the apostolic office from the assaults of his adversaries, at the same time announcing his purpose to deal with them in a summary way when he arrives. During his long absence many preachers had come from Juda, and not only propagated heresies among them, but had done their utmost to sow dissension, especially by impeaching his apostolic authority, advocating the position which many do this day, that there were no apostles but the original Twelve which our Savior called out early in His ministry (Matthew 10:0). That hypothesis would exclude James and Jude, the brothers of our Lord, and authors of epistles that bear their names, as well as Paul, Barnabas and Apollos. Were these preachers from Juda Christians? They claimed so to be, and probably some of them were in reality, while others were Satan’s counterfeits, though doubtless thinking that they were all right. Much help you will find in your efforts to understand especially the historic phases of revealed truth, if you will remember that humanity, grace, sin, Satan and God are uniform in all ages. Church license had never yet been given to the preachers, being a post- apostolic invention. Therefore it was optionally with men to assume the ministerial office at will, and go forth on their own responsibilities. Though license was instituted purposely to fortify against ministerial counterfeits, like everything else it has long ago been usurped and manipulated by the enemy to the detriment of the cause. Corinth was the great metropolis of all Southern Greece, and one of those innumerable, beautiful and fruitful islands constituting the Grecian archipelago. It was the greatest commercial emporium in the world, situated on the Aegean Sea, giving it the commerce of Asia, the Ionian, and that of Rome. Hence it was an attractive center, into which everything, bad as well as good, focalized. Therefore, during his absence of three and a half years, peregrinating (to travel or journey)
through Asiatic Christendom, and visiting the churches of Northern Greece, while the Corinthians had enjoyed the glorious gospel of Peter, Apollos, and many other true heralds and exemplars of the genuine article, they had been terribly preyed upon by a diversity of preachers from Juda, and other countries in infantile Christendom, who had not only propagated many errors, but had actually undertaken to supplant the apostolic authority of Paul altogether; of course, in hopes of capturing them for their own aggrandizement. The same state of things is now going on throughout Christendom. This laid upon Paul the unpleasant duty of defending his own claims to the apostolic office, as well as his ministerial character. This duty was not only obligatory on him for the sake of the cause in all ages, but it was especially incumbent on him to protect the faith of his spiritual children, which was being shaken by these heretical inroads.
1. “ But I myself, Paul, exhort you through the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in personal appearance am indeed mean among you, but being absent I am bold toward you.” Paul was not only a little, ugly man, quite unimpressive in his personal appearance, but dressing in the very cheapest and plainest style, impressing a stranger like a poor old tramp; while, of course, many of his adversaries were tidy and magnanimous in their physique and manner. Yet the fullness of the Holy Ghost and the majesty of Heaven’s commission made him bold as a lion.
2. “ But I pray that being present I may not be bold towards you with that confidence with which I consider that I am bold towards some that reckon us as walking according to the flesh.” Carnal people always judge others by themselves, imputing carnal motives to God’s true people, and thus utterly misunderstanding them. That is the reason why they killed the Son of God and two hundred millions of His faithful followers. They misunderstood them, explaining their deportment from a carnal standpoint. See what a time Paul had with these big, cultured, fine looking preachers, who hounded him everywhere, upsetting his converts, playing sad havoc with his churches and doing their best to undermine not only his ministerial influence but even supplant his apostolic office, to which the glorified Savior in person had called him, both on his way to Damascus and in the temple at Jerusalem.
4. “ For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty unto God for the pulling down of strongholds.” Only a short time before Paul’s day, Mithridates had conquered and expelled the pirates from the very country where he was born and reared, reducing a hundred and twenty strongholds and capturing more than ten thousand prisoners. Hence it is believed that he had his mind on these notable events when he dictated this verse, so vividly describing the omnipotence of grace in capturing the citadels of sin and Satan.
5. “ Casting down reasoning and every edifice which is being raised against the knowledge of God, and leading captive every intent into the subjection of Christ.” Here we see the felicitous, gracious possibility of complete subordination of spirit, mind, body and life to the perfect and holy will of our glorious King. This great work is to be diligently, vigilantly, sedulously and indefatigably sought after, an we receive the experience of entire sanctification, which simply turns over the heart unreservedly to the Holy Ghost, who thoroughly purifies and occupies it contemporaneously with complete consecration. The spirit or the heart is the man properly so called, the mind and body being his servitors. Hence it is incumbent on the sanctified soul to constantly and appreciatively utilize God’s Word, providence and Spirit to bring about this complete subordination of all our mental faculties and corporeal organs to the will of God. Primarily in the Divine administration is the Holy Ghost Himself, sanctifying and dwelling in the heart during the experience of entire sanctification, completely illuminating, subduing, perfecting and occupying the human spirit, i. e., the king of the human organism. Then through the human spirit, His happy and willing ally, He reaches the mind, quickening the memory, illuminating the intellect, fortifying the judgment and purifying the sensibilities, thus bringing into meek and beautiful subordination “ every intent into subjection to Christ.” This is a grand achievement, gradually wrought by the Holy Spirit through the co-operation of the human spirit after the latter has been sanctified and become permanently occupied by the Former. Now the mind having been captured and all of its faculties subordinated to the reign of Christ, i. e., every stronghold now in the possession of the King of kings, then this grand conquest reaches the body, literally capturing every member and bringing all into sweet and harmonious conservatism to the will of God.
6. “ And being ready to avenge every disobedience when your obedience shall have been completed,” i. e., when the Divine obedience shall have reached not only your spirit in entire sanctification, but passed on into the great dominion of mentality, bringing all your intellectual faculties, judgment, memory and sensibility into beautiful, harmonious conservatism with the Divine administration established in the domain of spirituality and the empire of mentality, then, reaching down, literally capturing your animal body and interpenetrating the one thousand nerves and five hundred muscles and all the members, so tuning up this harp of a thousand strings that none but Jesus can play on it, thus forever spoiling it for the world and the devil; then, instead of listening to the siren song of the tempter, you simply walk out a gigantic warrior, armed with full panoply and ready to attack and smash the very conception of disobedience on the faintest presentation of the enemy.
7. “ Whether do you look at things according to appearance?” In that case those big, fine looking preachers would floor poor, little, old, weak-eyed Paul every time. The same is true to-day. The world is cheated and gulled by good looks. Did you ever see a fine-looking preacher who amounted to a picayune? I have preached from ocean to ocean, from the Gulf to the Lakes, and found this principle everywhere verified. As a rule, it is the shabby- looking men and women that put the devil to rout, while it is our great work to fight him off from the good-looking people. “If any one has confidence to himself that he belongs to Christ, let him reckon this again from himself, that as he is of Christ, so are we.” Most important is this constant recognition that God’s people are a unit, and hence the folly and inconsistency of adverse criticism. Diversity is the glory of God’s kingdom. He has made no two things alike. If some of His saints are to you most repellent in speech and manner, remember that God has a great work for them to do for which they would be utterly incompetent if they were like you. Hence you ought to rejoice in this infinitesimal dissimilitude. In the Holiness Movement we have all denominations, all theologies, all races, colors and nationalities. This is a glorious adaptation to the work of God’s holy people in all lands. We ought to rejoice over it and give God the glory, and not waste time and opportunity in criticism. So rest assured that will be attended to without you, for it is the devil’s job, and he never neglects his business. Then please rest easy about all of the Lord’s oddities, for He has use for them.
8. “ For if we were to boast somewhat more abundantly concerning our power which the Lord gave us for edification, and not for your destruction, I shall not be put to shame.” The grand end in view throughout the Bible is edification, i. e., the building up of God’s kingdom. Hence we should always pray with that grand end in view. This is an argument for entire sanctification, without which preachers and people in all ages have enthusiastically rushed forth to the literal destruction of God’s Church in their glowing enthusiasm to build it up, such is the fond hallucination of Satan.
9. “ In order that I may not seem as it were to terrify you by my letters.” While his writings were exceedingly bold and utterly uncompromising on all lines of truth and righteousness, he wants them to know that the grand end is not destruction, but edification.
10. “ Because they say, Truly his letters are weighty and powerful, but the presence of his body is weak and his speech contemptible,” i. e., they charged him with writing, when at a distance and the great sea intervening, like a mighty man with tremendous authority, but when he came among them they were surprised to see a little, ugly, untidy, meanly dressed, shabby-looking man. Then his speech, so plain, straight, hard, rough and uncompromising, contrasted vividly with the studied oratory and beautiful and flowery rhetoric of his adversaries, it put them in quite a dilemma. While no photographs or statues of our Savior or any of His apostles have come down to us, in case of Paul and Barnabas we actually have an exception. When they concluded they were gods at Lystra and proceeded to worship them, they called Barnabas, Jupiter, and Paul, Mercury. This gives us a clear testimony as to the physique of these two noted apostles. When I was at Athens I saw the marble statues of many Grecian gods, having survived the wreck of two thousand years. I saw the marble temples of Jupiter and others still standing. Besides, we have been looking at the pictures of the statues of these Grecian gods all our lives. Jupiter to them was the supreme god of Heaven and earth, enthroned upon the highest pinnacle of Olympus, giving law to the universe. Hence his statue and all of his pictures represent him as a large, fine-looking man. Consequently we may rest assured that Barnabas was a big preacher in more ways than one, and possessing a commanding physique. Now, what do we know about Paul? I am happy to say that we have here very clear information qualifying us to answer this question. The very fact that they thought Paul was Mercury is demonstrative proof that he was like him in speech, manner and appearance. Mercury was the Grecian god of eloquence, who inspired all the orators and gave the poets their immortal songs. His statue represents him as a little, ugly, hump-shouldered man with a head twice as large as the proportion of his body, a sharp, prominent face, anything but handsome. Hence we have from this incidental historic notice positive information corroborating this verse, which certainly speaks for itself. As my books have gone before me into many lands, I now meet no strangers, but am hailed everywhere by people who feel that they are acquainted with me by reading my writings, yet I find them on all hands on meeting me expressing general surprise, and observing, “Why, we expected to see a large, fine- looking man, with a bald head and snowy white beard,” thus ever reminding me of the criticism on the physique of the world’s greatest apostle. [Pardon the apparent comparison, as I am certainly unworthy to black his shoes. I ran into it inadvertently, simply pursuing matters of fact. God grant me at least a participation in the enviable humility of our hero.]
11. “ Let such an one consider this, that such as we are through our letters, being absent, such also are we in work, being present.” Paul here makes no reply to their scathing criticism on his person and speech, but assures them that they may depend on it that he will carry out the severity of his doctrine and discipline to the letter. That is a matter in which there can be no flicker.
CHRIST OUR ONLY PARAGON
12-16. In these verses the apostle gives us a beautiful, clear and positive disquisition exposing the folly and inconsistency of those who compare themselves to one another, and follow human exemplars, which, of course, was true of his critics, otherwise there would be simply no force in their criticism; while Christ Himself is the only paragon for us all to emulate, the folly of following a fallible example arises from the ostensible fact that when your paragon breaks down, if you follow on you will fall too, and the devil get you. While descending Kentucky River on a steamboat, I suddenly recognize that we are all standing still. I look around, and see that we are in a dam and have run into the lock, where we must wait till the water passes out of the dam, letting us down to the level of the river below. While we actually sank down perpendicularly twenty feet, no one was conscious of it, because the boat and everything we saw around us sank with us. I use that as an illustration of the apostasy so common and fatal in our churches. They are utterly unconscious of it, because they all go down together and they are looking at one another. Responsive to the pastoral call, I went to a country church to make a revival effort. Pursuant to the clear illumination shed on the people through that gift of the Holy Ghost denominated discernment of spirits, very copiously conferred on me in that important crisis, I soon saw that Satan had locked them all, pastor and people, in carnal security, and was easing them down to Hell. Having no saint on the ground to whom I could say a word, I remarked to my boy preacher, who by this time had clear light on the situation: “Joe, you see the devil has this whole affair in his dark grip; our only hope is in fasting and prayer.” “That’s so, Brother Godbey; and we ill go at it.” So, leaving off eating altogether, we would spend a night with some of the members, go away to the church without breakfast, and stay all day, spending the intervals of service in writing and reading the Word of the Lord, and agonizing constantly. Two or three days have thus come and gone, meanwhile we are fighting the devil like a dog in a hornet’s nest.
Responsive to an appointment to get wood, a lot of the brethren arrive in the afternoon about two hours by the sun, and find us in the house. They inquire, “We want to know where you preachers are eating?” A brother observes, “You stayed at my house last night, but didn’t eat anything;” and another, “You stayed at my house night before last, and didn’t eat anything, and we can ‘t hear where you’ve eaten anything in the last three days.” [Out in the country where there was no market.] Then I divulged the secret: “We find the de, all went down together, unconscious of the change because they were all looking at one another. Many a time you think the car is running when it is standing still, but you see another train running by which you think is standing still. You see people all around you going to Hell so much faster than you are that the contrast makes you think that you are going to Heaven, while the matter of fact is, you are going to Hell too, but with a little slower speed. I know quite a number of great preachers who for years stood at the front of the church in a back-slidden state, finally sinking into a state of debauchery, giving notoriety to what they had been many years preceding, and some of us reading them like books. Millions of people are sweeping into Hell following human exemplars. One of the greatest arguments in favor of entire sanctification is the glorious fact that it saves us from human leadership, which is always fraught with eminent peril, liable to ruin us world without end, as has been proven in millions of cases. There is no apology for following a fallible man, and, as Paul here says, “comparing themselves to themselves, and measuring themselves by themselves, they are not wise.” The infallible Christ is our only Paragon. The whole Bible is His biography. Hence we are left without excuse. With the help of the infallible Holy Spirit, lighting up the blessed Bible, our infallible way-bill from earth to Heaven, we are all left without excuse. If you are not sanctified wholly, your eye is looking around for a human leader. Beware! follow no human being, but Jesus only. In that case, look out! You will have conflict with human authorities who are determined that we shall follow. When they are in harmony with God and His Word, of course there is no room for disharmony, since we all go along together hand in hand, with our eye on Jesus and His hand on us. But the world is filled with carnal ecclesiastical leaders who fight sanctification with desertion from the simple fact that it takes the people out of their hands. This is the reason why fallen ecclesiasticisms have done their best in all ages to kill all the people who will not obey them. This is the reason why they brutally murdered Jesus and multiplied millions of His followers. If they had it in their power, they would exterminate from the earth the religious people who refuse to follow them. For this reason the irrepressible conflict between carnality and spirituality is bound to continue till Satan is taken out of the world, as it is simply his usurpation of the Lord’s right to rule His people. He is the god of this age (ch. 2 Corinthians 4:4), and determined that Jesus shall have nothing. Hence, when we get to where we can no longer be subjugated by his ecclesiastical autocrats, his plan has always been our extermination, as he has determined that none shall live in this world who do not submit to his reign.
17. “ He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
18. “ For he that commendeth himself is not a proved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” Hence we see the folly of following human leaders simply because they commend us as they commend themselves; but all this commendation amounts to nothing. If you can not bear the test of God’s Word, Spirit and Providence, human commendation is of no avail. Indeed, all these great human authorities who are so grandiloquent in your commendation because you please them, can never help you an iota in the Judgment Day. Then they will have more than they can do to help themselves, and will leave you to paddle your own canoe. Therefore you had better attend to this matter now while you have opportunity, and throw away the folly of comparing yourselves to one another, and see whether you are like Jesus, in your character, life, words and ways.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17