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2 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 10
2 Corinthians 10:1-11 Paul entreateth the Corinthians not to leave him cause to exert against them that spiritual power, with which he was armed, and meant to chastise those who undervalued his person and apostolical character.
2 Corinthians 10:12-18 He pointeth out the difference between those who, for want of looking beyond themselves, were arrogant and vain intruding into, and taking merit from, the labours of others, and himself, who kept strictly within the province allotted him by God, and, avoiding self-commendation, sought honour from the commendation of Christ.
Chapter Introduction Hitherto the apostle, who in his former Epistle had blamed this church for so many things, and dealt sharply with them, in this Epistle hath treated them as if they had been a people that had had no faults, or none but what, in obedience to his former Epistle they had reformed, and become a new lump: which argueth, that the major part of the members of it were a good and an obedient people, by whose prevalent vote they had reformed much that was amiss. But in these four last chapters, to let us know that there was yet some of the old leaven amongst them, he useth another style; taking notice, that he understood there was amongst them another (though possibly the lesser) party who had much vilified him; and justifying himself against their whisperings and calumnies, not witlmut some sharp reflections upon them.
Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ: meekness respecteth the spirit or inward man, being a virtue that moderateth inward anger and rash passions.
Gentleness more respecteth the outward conversation. The apostle mentioneth both these virtues, as eminent in Christ, who is our great example, and to whom all Christians are bound to be conformable.
Who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: he here repeateth the words of those who, in this church, reproached him; they reported him a man, who, when he was there in presence with them, was lowly and humble enough; but when he was absent from them, then he wrote imperiously and confidently enough. The sense of the words is plainly this: I Paul, (of whom some amongst you say, that when I am there with you I am low and humble enough, even to some degrees of baseness; but when I am absent, then I write like a lord, boldly and confidently), I beseech you to consider the temper of our common Lord and Saviour, to remember how free he was from rash anger and passion, how gentle he was in his conversation; and by the obligation that is upon you, to love and practise those virtues which you saw, or have heard of, in him.
It is true, (saith the apostle), when I have been with you I have made it my business to behave myself with all obliging sweetness, not using that authority which I might have used; and I beseech you, as not to blame me for that, (remembering the meekness and gentleness of Christ), so by your conversation not to force me to another kind of conversation amongst you; that you would not constrain me to a severer behaviour towards you when I am present with you, to be so free with some of you, as at present I am resolved to be; such, I mean, as have traduced me, as if I
walked according to the flesh, that is, not guided by the Holy Spirit of God, and the directions of his word, but by some external, carnal considerations, respecting my own profit, pleasure, or reputation, indulging my own passions or corrupt affections. Walking after the flesh is opposed to a walking after the Spirit, Romans 8:1. He walketh after the flesh, to whom the fleshly appetite is the principle, rule, and end of his actions; as he, on the contrary, to whom those habits of grace which are wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit himself more immediately by his motions or impulses, are the principle of his actions, and the word dictated by the Spirit is the rule of his actions, and the glory of God is the end of his actions, is truly said to walk after the Spirit.
There is a great difference between walking in the flesh, and warring after the flesh. The best of men in this life walk in the flesh, as their souls are not in a state of separation from, but union with, the body; but they do not walk after the flesh, as their fleshly appetite is not the principle of their actions, nor the satisfaction of it the end of their actions. The apostle, in the latter part of the verse changeth the verb; in the former part he called our conversation, a walking; in the latter part he calleth it a warring; which he describeth negatively in this verse, positively in the following verses. In calling it a warring, he lets us know that it is, and will be, a life of opposition, in which a Christian will have many enemies; though his hand be against none, yet many hands will be against him. But though they be men of strife and contention, in a passive sense, yet they are not so in an active sense, according to the usual notion of warring; for they war not after the flesh, neither as fleshly men, nor in a carnal, fleshly manner, nor yet for fleshly ends. The men of the world war for their honour and glory, or for revenge and satisfaction of their lusts, or for the enlarging of their territories and dominions; but
we do not thus war after the flesh.
As our end is spiritual, so are our means; the means by which we manage our spiritual fight are spiritual. Whether by these
weapons he meaneth the word of God, and his preaching the gospel, or the censures of the church duly administered, it is true, they are not of a carnal nature, or fitted to the subduing of men’s bodies, and bringing them into subjection; they are of a spiritual nature, and have their effects upon the mind and inward part of a man; yet, through the concurrence of Divine grace, there is in them a mighty force and power, to pull down
strong holds: by which metaphorical expression he understands whatsoever opposeth the gospel, and seemeth to defend and uphold men in their sinful courses; subduing the will of man, which is so strong a hold that all the power of hell cannot storm it.
Casting down imaginations; logismouv, reasonings; and every high thing, every height of reasoning,
that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. The great troublers of this church of Corinth were the heathen philosophers, and such as had sucked in their principles; with whose notions, which were conclusions drawn from reason not sanctified and subdued to the will of God, divers doctrines of faith would not agree. St. Paul tells them, that the gospel, (which was the great weapon of his warfare), through the power of God, was mighty to pull down the strong holds which unbelief had in the carnal understanding of men, to overthrow their reasonings, the heights of them, which exalted themselves against the doctrine of faith; and to bring παν νοημα,
every thought, or counsel into a captivity to the obedience of Christ: so as whatsoever was revealed by the apostles from the Spirit of God, men readily agreed and yielded obedience to; whatever their thoughts or reasonlings about it were, they gave credit to it; not because it appeared rational to them, but upon the Divine authority of the revelation; submitting their reason to that, and believing it the most rational thing in the world, that they should believe what God affirmed, and do what God commanded; and this blessed effect the gospel had in all those who heartily embraced it: for indeed to give an assent to a proposition, merely upon a sensible or rational demonstration, is no faith, that is, no Divine faith. Truly to believe, in a Divine sense, is to assent to a proposition upon the credit of the revelation, though we cannot make it out by our reason: and this it is to have our thoughts brought into a captivity to the obedience of Christ. That whereas reason, as it is since the fall subjected in man, riseth up in arms against several Divine propositions, and saith: How can these things be? How can one be three, and three one? How could the Divine and human nature unite in one person? How can the dead rise? &c.: The believer audit verbum Dei et tacet, readeth these things, and others of the like nature, plainly asserted in holy writ, and chides down his reason; resolving to give credit to these things merely because God hath said them, who cannot lie. Thus our νοηματα, thoughts, counsels, reasonings, deliberations, conclusions, all the product of our understanding, is brought into a captivity to the obedience of Christ; and reason itself, which is the governess and mistress of the soul of man, is made a captive to revelation. And in this appeared the mighty power of the weapons of the apostle’s warfare.
The apostle certainly means by this, excommunication; which was the rod which he had before mentioned, asking them if they would he should come unto them with a rod. This rod he here threateneth them with; telling them, that he had another weapon of his warfare, of a spiritual nature too, to be used against such as preferred themselves to be believers, but walked disorderly; only he at present spared them, because though a great part of them were obedient, yet there were some amongst them of whose obedience he could not yet glory; but yet he hoped well, and therefore should wait until, by the use of all fair means, (such as exhortations and arguments), he had reduced as many of them as he could unto obedience. But that being done, God had intrusted him with another weapon, with which he would, in the name and by the authority of God, revenge his glory upon the disobedience of others. Herein the apostle hath set a rule and a pattern to all churches, where are multitudes that walk disorderly; not to be too hasty in excommunicating them, but to proceed gradually; first using all fair means, and waiting with all patience, for the reducing them to their duty, who will by any gentle and fair means be reduced; and then revenging the honour and glory of God only upon such as will not be reclaimed.
Are ye so weak as to judge of persons and things merely from their faces, pretences, or outward appearances? And to magnify these false apostles and teachers, merely because they set forth and magnify themselves, or because they take up a great breadth in the world, and live in a little state and splendour? If any of them do judge that he is the servant or the minister of Christ, why should he not think the same of me? What hath he to say to prove his relation to Christ more than I have? What hath he to glory in upon that account more than I have?
Here is a remarkable maxim, a rule from which all ecclesiastical superiors ought to measure their actions: God hath given to no superiors a power for
destruction of the flock, but only for
edification; so as that no such can pretend to a power received from God, to do or exact any thing which may any ways hinder the salvation of the souls put under their trust; they ought to command or exact nothing, nor to do any thing, but what may probably tend to the promoting of people’s faith, and holiness, and eternal salvation. This maxim the apostle puts in in a parenthesis in this verse, to sweeten what he had before spoken, concerning his readiness to revenge the disobedience of such who should appear to be stubborn and contumacious. But he tells them, he
should not be ashamed if he did boast somewhat more of a just and due authority than the false apostles and teachers had, who vilifled him; for he was an apostle, and had a more immediate authority than they who were ordinary teachers.
This was one imputation upon the apostle, as we may learn by the next verse. I tell you, saith the apostle, that I have an authority, and a further authority than those who vilify me can pretend unto: but I also tell you, I have no authority to do any harm to any of you; all the authority I have is for your edification, as much as lieth in me to promote the business of your salvation; so that I need not be reported as one that went about to terrify you by my letters; yet I know there are some who so represent me unto you.
There are some amongst you that tell you, that indeed (when absent) I write severely, and with authority; but when I am there with you, neither my behaviour, nor my speech, speaks any such authority.
I would have no such person think so of me, for he shall find me the same in deed when I come, that I have spoken myself to be by my letters. I do not write vainy, merely to terrify you, but what I truly intend to do, and when I come he shall find that I will do.
This whole verse is a reflection upon the false teachers of the church of Corinth, from whose manners Paul purgeth himself. I (saith he) durst not, as some others, magnify myself, nor compare myself with those that do so. Neither is it any wisdom in them to contemn and despise others, in comparison of themselves; for observe what measures they take, they only measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves amongst themselves, that is, with birds of their own feather, such as are like unto themselves, and of their own faction and party; which no wise men would do.
The apostle may be understood as speaking both of spiritual gifts, and also of his travels to the several places whither he had gone preaching the gospel. He reflecteth still upon the false teachers who were crept into this church; who (as it should seem) had much boasted of their gifts and abilities, and of their labours and successes. In opposition to whom, he saith, that he boasted not
without his measure, or, (as it is in the Greek, τα αμετρα) unmeasurable things; but he kept himself within the measure of the rule; that is, according to that regular measure which God hath set us. Which
measure extendeth even to you. You have those amongst you who boast unmeasurably of the gifts which they have, and of the great things which they do; I durst not do so (saith the apostle); God hath given me a measure and a rule, according to that I have acted, and of those actings only I will glory. And in my so doing I can boast of you, for to you my measure and line hath reached; God hath made me an instrument to raise him up a church amongst you.
For in our boasting of you as our converts, amongst whom I have preached the gospel, and God hath made my preaching successful;
we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, and arrogate that to ourselves which belongeth not to us: for the thing is true, and ye know that in our
preaching the gospel we have come as far as unto you, and that God hath given our labours success amongst you.
So that although we have boasted of you, we have not boasted
of things without our measure; that is, of things that are not, or (as the apostle expounds himself) of things that were not done by him but by other men; for his line did reach unto them, and his labours had been employed and made successful amongst them. And he declares his hope, that when the gospel should have had its full success amongst them, and their
faith should be increased, ( either by the addition of more persons to the church amongst them, or by the perfecting of their faith, and other graces), they, who were apostles and the ministers of the gospel to them, should by it be magnified, or made great; to wit, by their means, who using much navigation, would have opportunities to comment the gospel, and the ministry of it, to other people, amongst whom they should come: wherein yet they should not exceed their rule; for though ordinary ministers be fixed in particular churches and places, yet the apostles’ rule was to go and preach the gospel over the whole world, being tied to no certain people or places.
To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you; the apostle here expoundeth what he meaneth by the term magnified, or enlarged, in the preceding verse, viz. to have a door opened to preach the gospel in places whither it was not yet come. God honoureth persons when he maketh them instruments to bring any to an acquaintance with, and to the embracing of, his gospel, who formerly had been ignorant of it, and not acquainted with it.
And not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand: he here seemeth to reflect on the false teachers crept into this church, who had nothing to boast in but a pretended building, upon other men’s foundations, and carrying on a work by others made ready to their hands; and seemeth to prefer the work of conversion, and an instrumentality in that, before an instrumentality merely in edification, and carrying on the work of God already begun in people’s souls.
But we have none of us any thing to glory in, neither I Paul who plant, nor Apollos who watereth; whether God maketh use of us as the first planters of the gospel, or as instruments to carry on the work of the gospel already planted, we have nothing of our own to glory in.
God giveth the increase; we have therefore no reason to glory in ourselves, or in our own performances, but only to give thanks to God, who maketh use of us, poor earthly vessels, to carry about and distribute that heavenly treasure, by which he maketh souls rich in faith and good works: all that we do is only instrumentally; God is all, and in all, as to primary efficiency.
Solomon saith, Proverbs 27:2; Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips. Self-commendation is an ungrateful sound to ingenuous ears; no man thinks another a jot the better for his commending himself, but always hath the worse opinion of him for such boasting; but this text speaketh of a higher approbation, viz. from God. No man is approved of God for his speaking well of himself; the business is, who they are who approve themselves in the work which God hath committed to them; to whom the Lord will say: Well done, good and faithful servants: to whom the apostle refers both himself, and those who magnified themselves, but vilified him.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17