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Remarkable change of tone here, and henceforward. So remarkable that—in last century, for the first time, then in beginning of this, and again, after a respite, during the last fifty years—from time to time Higher Criticism has suggested, or claimed, 10–13 as a distinct document, perhaps a letter between the two extant Epistles. But Textual Criticism knows of nothing but an unbroken connection with 1–9. The change [from “we” to “I” (generally); “the conciliatory and affectionate strain of entreaty which pervaded the first part is here exchanged for a tone of stern command and almost menace; there is still the same expression of devotion to the Corinthian Church; but it is mixed with … a sarcasm and irony” paralleled in the First Epistle, but not up to this point in the Second (Stanley); also, “the Corinthians are no longer commended for their penitent zeal, but rebuked for their want both of love and penitence” (ib.). The confident hopes of the first part of the letter give place to gloomy forebodings] may be sufficiently accounted for by supposing a pause here in the writing of the letter. [Say, a new day’s dictation beginning here; or a new amanuensis to be found; or anything else which may conceivably have made a break, during which perhaps new tidings may have come from Corinth; or Paul’s mood may have changed, and the darker aspect of matters may have reasserted a predominance over a more hopeful view, during the interval.] Romans 14:15 in less degree contrast with 1–13 (Farrar). 2 Corinthians 10:2; 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 10:10 [if translate literally “says he”], 11, 12, 18, and 2 Corinthians 11:4, by (e.g.) Farrar, Conybeare and Howson, are supposed, but not necessarily, to point out some pre-eminent opponent of Paul. Have to infer from Paul’s language—certainly once (2 Corinthians 10:11), and perhaps in other cases (e.g. 2 Corinthians 10:1), quoting the words and thoughts of opponents—who these were and what were their charges against him. [Like calculating the disturbing cause—perhaps a new planet—from the perturbations it originates in the path and movements of one already known.]
2 Corinthians 10:1. Gentleness.—Same as “moderation” (Philippians 4:5); also in Acts 24:4; 1 Peter 2:18. “Moderation which recognises the impossibility cleaving to formal law, of anticipating and providing for all cases that will emerge; … recognises the danger that … waits upon the assertion of legal rights, lest they should be pushed into moral wrongs; … pushes not its own rights to the uttermost.” [Philippians 4:5 excellent example.] “All” God’s “going back from the strictness of His rights as against men; … all His refusals to exact extreme penalties,” are the archetype and “pattern of this grace in us.” (Trench. Syn., § xliii.) Also, “meekness” is passive; seated in the inner spirit; shown by the superior to the inferior; “gentleness” is active; exhibited in conduct; shown by man to man, without distinction of higher or lower. “Meekness” is that “temper of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us without disputing or resisting; … does not fight against God, and more or less struggle and contend with Him.” (Trench, xiii.) He says, further, that this attitude before God makes us bear meekly [e.g. as David from Shimei] human provocation. See this in Matthew 11:29; hence Paul’s appeal here. Q.d. “Let me still have room to exhibit towards you the meekness and gentleness of Christ; do not oblige me to put these aside and bear myself otherwise toward you.” I Paul myself.—“Think of me, me. ME; you know me; you did love me; you owe much to me.” Perhaps latter part to be read as if quoted: “Who am (as they go about saying) base.” Base.—, “lowly”; this and “meek” found together in Matthew 11:29; significantly. This rendering, however, requires the verse to be read as Paul’s own sentiments.
2 Corinthians 10:2.—“I beseech you, so reform and change [before I come] that,” etc. Notice, “Show courage”; not same word as in 2 Corinthians 10:1. “Count,” “reckon,” for “think.” “They have formed their judgment of me and my probable action; I too have considered my plan of campaign against these high-speaking and high-exalted gentlemen and their doings.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-4.—Cf. Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:25, “Walk in the Spirit.” Paul not afraid of a verbal inconsistency, with a real consistency underneath. According to (2 Corinthians 10:3), same word as “after” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Cf. Romans 8:5-9. Flesh, here, for sake of antithesis, used first in a morally neutral sense, and then [“after the flesh”] with the more usual evil connotation. “In the flesh,” more than “in the body,” of course, but not more than, “as conditioned by the limitations, liabilities, weaknesses, of innocent, non-moral, human nature; the conditions under which all human workers must do all human work.” Carnal.—See under 1 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 3:3. Weapons.—Includes defensive armour; not weapons of attack only. “Fleshly lusts war against the soul.” Its “instruments” (Romans 4:12) are literally “weapons.”
2 Corinthians 10:5.—Note, not to the “obedience” of Paul, but “of Christ.” Also “bringing into captivity” conveys more than merely making captive; rather “leading captive,” as in a triumphal procession. Suggested that the form of the imagery here is local, with a colouring drawn from the ruined hill-forts of Rough Cilicia, the western half of the province. Paul may have heard old people in Tarsus tell how, sixty years before he was born, the mountains were infested with pirates, who swept the Levantine seas, sallying forth from many little ports and coves on the coast, and retiring with their booty to inaccessible hill-forts; till at last Pompey the Great had organised a formidable expedition and cleared out the nest of robbers, reducing a hundred and twenty forts to ruins, and carrying captive over ten thousand prisoners. [Must not make too definite or precise; language very general.]
2 Corinthians 10:6.—Note the happy adroitness of “your”; as if suggesting, “You, of course, will not do anything but obey, ‘fulfilling’ obedience to me—and to Him—completely. Those others, who will not,—well, I shall be prepared,” etc. A “gentlemanly” turn of thought.
2 Corinthians 10:7. Appearance.—Same word as “in presence” (2 Corinthians 10:1). “They say that, as to appearance, I look to be nothing and nobody.… These very wise people, are they so superficial in their grounds of judgment as that? Do they—you—only go by the surface look of a man, or of things?” [Both indicative and imperative are supported strongly], Christ’s.—Too definite to refer this to 1 Corinthians 1:12 : “I of Christ.” Note [with Beet] that Paul does not allow any personal feeling, or heat of controversy, to lead him to deny that even his opponents may be Christ’s; he himself is, at all events, and that is all he insists upon. Think.—“Count,” “reckon,” as 2 Corinthians 10:2; and so “thoughts” (2 Corinthians 10:5) is “reckonings.” Note small change of reading and rendering.
2 Corinthians 10:8. Boast.—First of sixteen occurrences of this word in this section. More abundantly.—Than even in 2 Corinthians 10:1-5. Does he revert to “we,” as expressing what is true of all apostles? A significant characteristic of apostolic authority. (Repeated in 2 Corinthians 13:10.)
2 Corinthians 10:9.—Facts will justify Paul. His Master will see to that for him, so that his “letters” (generalised from the First) may not seem mere empty thunder.
2 Corinthians 10:10.—Keep “say they”; not “says he,” of an individual. Singular; but like on dit, man sagt.; was “weighty and strong” ironical? Or a real concession, not to be refused even by his opponents? Perhaps (ironically): “He writes very effectively and with vigour—does he not?” Presence.—His Parousia (literally); the word used of Christ’s “appearing.” But “appearance.” in our colloquial sense, is in the word, as well as “appearing.”
2 Corinthians 10:12.—tries to keep one of Paul’s (favourite) assonances. “Pair, or compare” (Waite, in Speaker). His own type of man, and, above all, each man himself, was to each his standard of excellence; self-instituted, self-applied. “A mutual-admiration and self-admiration society” (Waite). “We dare not” [same word as 2 Corinthians 10:2 : “There is one thing I dare not do”] “take up our place in the ranks of such self-satisfied gentlemen—oh, dear, no!” Note the polished sarcasm at the end: “are not wise.” One expects something very caustic as the conclusion. “What shall I say of these brethren? They—they—they—are—without understanding! We will not say more!” The “weakness” of the remark is its strength and sting.
2 Corinthians 10:13-16.—“Why do these men come to Corinth at all? They have their province; I have mine.” [Perhaps appointed in Acts 15:0; see Galatians 2:7; Galatians 2:9]. Each of us has his “measure,” his “boundary,” marked out as with a “measuring rod.” [Cf. for the thought, Acts 17:26. Also, more than a verbal coincidence with the A.V. will be found in comparing Psalms 19:4 (Hebrew) with Romans 10:18.] Yet in Antioch, in Galatia, as in Corinth, they dog my footsteps, and only work at undoing my work; on trespass the while! If I am at Corinth, or come to it, I am on my own ground (2 Corinthians 10:14). God put you clearly within my part of the world’s field. Indeed, I am intending to make you my base of operations, if you will help me, for a new venture into regions beyond, as yet untouched by anybody, but mine to occupy. See Romans 15:18; Romans 15:24. Illyricum his limit. Nicopolis in Epirus he did perhaps reach, (Titus 3:12). [Suggested that his Greek language would not carry him beyond, into Illyricum.] See this man, “of no appearance,” pushing back farther and farther the borderland between “Gospel” light and heathen darkness!
2 Corinthians 10:17-18.—Another of Paul’s parenthetic escapes, from the oppressiveness of an unwelcome topic into a region of broader, clearer, freer, spiritual thought. “Away from men’s jealousies, narrownesses, enmities, rivalries; away even from my own enforced boasting! Let us all stand together a moment before Him. Who will boast there?”
HOMILETIC ANALYSIS.—Whole Chapter
In these two Epistles Paul reveals himself, more clearly than in any other of his writings. This section, 10–13, is pre-eminent in this self-portraiture. [As Rousseau’s, so these] Paul’s “Confessions.” In this chapter two companion, complementary portraits of him and his work. In the first a soldier, armed, ready to go on a warlike expedition against his opponents. In the second a pioneer missionary, carrying the knowledge of his Lord into regions appointed as his sphere, where no other had as yet even named Him.
A. Paul going on campaign (2 Corinthians 10:1-11).
1. This section is really the Ultimatum before War is declared and opened.—He still hopes that it may be averted. He begs (2 Corinthians 10:1-2) that the necessity of strong measures may not be forced upon him. He had rather come in civilian than in military array, wearing “the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” That very spirit, indeed, displayed for eighteen months when he was amongst them, had been misunderstood. The very unobtrusiveness of demeanour, the very silence as to any Apostolic claim to maintenance, the simple, unadorned presentation of the Gospel of a Crucified Saviour,—had all been perversely interpreted as a consciousness of official and personal inferiority to some other apostles and teachers. Yet he is loth to do otherwise, or to bear himself otherwise amongst them, if he comes again. He is willing even yet to hope—against all he hears from his informants—that (2 Corinthians 10:6, latter clause), before he comes, all this big, boastful talking—so bitter against himself,—and all the many shameful and disorderly doings in the very Church, will be put away, and “the obedience of Christ fulfilled” by them, at least by all but an insignificant minority of “disobedient” ones. The very mildness of such an appeal will, he knows, be again misinterpreted to his disadvantage; this very letter will hardly seem so “weighty and powerful” as usual. Yet he does not want to “destroy.” Anybody can cast a soul out of the fellowship; nothing is easier than to strike a refractory man off a Church roll; with a word he, as an apostle, can “deliver a man to Satan,” with all the awful consequences of such handing over; but this after all is not the main, or his favoured, use of Apostolic power and authority. [So, very rarely did Christ use His power otherwise than for beneficent ends, and never merely to vindicate Himself, or to punish an enemy.] It is given “to build up, not to pull down,” or to ruin (2 Corinthians 10:8). It is the glory of an apostle “not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56). Any hireling can abandon or scatter a flock; a shepherd loves to collect or recover them, even to recover one obstinate, persistent wanderer. It is far more difficult to keep a waverer, or a fallen one, in connection with the Church, and to bring him again into living union with the Head; such work is more congenial to Paul’s heart. Why will they force matters to an extremity by their persistent wrongdoing? (2 Corinthians 10:2). [As above suggested, how all this echoes and embodies the very spirit and attitude of Christ—and so of God—towards rebel sinners. How many an “ultimatum” is sent, full of warning and appeal, before the doom at last falls. God wants peace; the name “Immanuel” is the expression of His desire and effort. If men will have it “God against us,” then they must know all the fulness of His power, moving to execute the sentence of His righteous “wrath.” That power, too, is “in readiness to revenge all disobedience, when the obedience of the Church is fulfilled.” How mighty to destroy; yet how unwilling to set destruction in motion! How lingering His anger; how loth to strike! See, e.g., Christ simply “withdrawing Himself” (Matthew 12:15), and the occasion of it (2 Corinthians 10:14), and the reason (2 Corinthians 10:17).] He is willing even to acknowledge that some of his self-constituted opponents are really “Christ’s” (2 Corinthians 10:7), in a sense comparable to (“even so”) that in which he himself is so. They should be allies, not enemies. A very noble trait this in Paul’s conduct of the controversy. A very high development of grace in a man, that he can hopefully include amongst those who, however erring or mistaken, belong to the Master, his own, even bitter, personal opponents. Difference of judgment too often dims the eyes of love, till it can recognise no brother in the opposite ranks.
(1) Still he can, if occasion demand it, and the issue be forced upon him, come to Corinth “travelling in the greatness of his strength.” [Like his Lord again (Isaiah 63:1).] Like the Gospel itself, his Apostolic power has two aspects, according as it looks upon those “who are saved” and those “who perish” (2 Corinthians 2:15). [All goodness has its condemning aspect. It can kill, as well as make alive.] He can be the man of daring boldness (2 Corinthians 10:2). The letters were a truer exposition of the man than was that “weak” bodily appearance because of which they had undervalued him. He has “weapons” in his hand; he is armed for a conflict to the uttermost,—if it comes to that. (What is he thinking of as his weapons of warfare? He could inflict sickness, or death. Yet he can hardly contemplate any extensive use of such an awful prerogative. When he did use it, there was certainly nothing personal in the judicial act; but how easily does such excommunication become “carnal”!) They will find him fearless in condemnation, unmoved by the fear or the favour of any in the Church; they will find a force of will they hardly gave him credit for. The disorders in their midst, the sensuality, the party-spirit, the incipient rationalism (to use the modern word),—these must, and should, be done away with. “Authority”—against authority,—he would take care to make his prevail. [Again we are reminded of the certain, if delayed, victory of the holiness of God, let evil be borne with long as it may, perhaps only to grow bolder because of the very forbearance. See it “exalting itself against the knowledge of God,” in an extreme, an aggravated form just before the final crisis (2 Thessalonians 2:8). So the room in Jairus’s house was filled with scornful laughter, not five minutes before Christ, with the Divine ease of Omnipotence, raised the maiden from death (Matthew 9:24, and || s).] There are evil days in every Church, when no discipline can be too sharp or prompt, no penalty too severe. There are cancers on the moral life of the Church, for which there is only the knife. Gentle means, gentle remonstrance, calm discussion, are no longer admissible. We pity the offender, but at all costs we must put him out of the ministry or out of the Church. So, also, we may be very sensible of the room there is for varying apprehensions of the same truth, and for varying presentations of it; hardly any one mind, or Church, or age, sees all round it; but there may be “heresy,” so obviously such, and so deadly to all spiritual life, or so full of real dishonour to Christ, that no considerations of “liberality,” of “breadth,” no fear of being called “uncharitable,” “narrow,” “heresy-hunter,” must prevent stern denunciation of error, or the most vigorous action against its teachers. “Peace” is worth much, but not worth the sacrifice of principle. [“First pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17).] “Reformation” times, “Disruption” times, all times of conflict for Truth, are rough times. [Campaigning always is. No war is waged without wounds and death.] There must be many things to grieve those who love peace, to whom anything like conflict with brethren is anguish. Bearing witness can always be called obstinate self-pleasing. Discipline will always entail what some will represent as hardship or “carnal” revenge. But a Paul must go right on, marching against the stronghold of Falsehood—practical or doctrinal; the builder-up must sometimes be a fighter, a conqueror, a destroyer.
(2) Yet as always remembering that, however personal the temporary, accidental occasions and issues may be, the deep underlying thing at stake is “the obedience of Christ.” Paul is only representative in this matter. He stands only for the Apostolic authority to rule or teach or exercise discipline. “War” against him, resistance to his word and authority, is no personal offence merely, or chiefly; it is resistance to “Christ speaking in him” (2 Corinthians 13:3). Thoughts that exalted themselves against himself only,—they would be nothing; but they exalt themselves “against the knowledge of God.” Paul is the temporary embodiment of the two principles of a Divine Revelation from God through His Son, and by His Spirit through His accredited human messengers; and, next, of the Government of the Church by Christ, through His Spirit and the Discipline of the Church,—whatever form that may, from time to time and from Church to Church, assume. [Cf. the principle which explains many of the imprecations of the Psalms. In assailing God’s Anointed, God’s government was assailed. The righteous Sufferer is often suffering, only because men hate Righteousness. It is personal wrong indeed, but the serious aspect of it is the whole attitude towards God and goodness which it reveals; and on that account is God appealed to to punish it.] It is very hard to be thus impersonal, and indifferent quâ the bearing of the matter upon oneself; but the aim must not be lower than, nor aside from, this. Paul is not engaging in the campaign on his own account. He is hardly the Commander, except as under his Chief, and as winning a victory for his King. It is hard to purify a Church, or to engage in controversy for the Truth, and yet to keep the motive pure! Very difficult to war for truth or for the purity of the Church, without warring “after the flesh,”—very difficult for men who, the holiest and wisest of them, “walk in the flesh,” with all the limitations and liabilities of poor human nature! [“The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).] The “weapons” must not be “carnal.” Passion must not be met with passion nor pride with pride. Intemperate language must be met with temperate; overstated orthodoxy will be no defence against overstated, crude unbelief. Discipline must be dispassionate. Force will be no remedy against doubt. Coercion will not save faith. Fulmination of anathemas and excommunications, petty parochial or domestic persecution,—“carnal” all!
3. The enemy is personal at Corinth.—[I.e. it is no mere vague teaching or spirit he has to deal with; but persons, though (see Critical Notes) it is not necessary to suppose that some one prominent man is singled out in these chapters.] Yet the Corinthian opponents are as representative as himself. The real enemy is the “imaginations” and “high things” which exalt and entrench themselves against God. It is the natural heart and the natural intellect—vitiated by the root sin, Pride—arraying themselves against Authority, the authority of God. Hence the form of the passage (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), which makes it a declaration finding many fulfilments, apart altogether from the particular, historical occasion and exposition. The “imaginations,” the “thoughts,” of the natural heart are not morally neutral; the heart is in them. However it may be in mathematics or in natural science, in theology and ethics there is no “dry light,” or colourless. Everything is studied, accepted, criticised, rejected, in light which is coloured, either at its source, or by the intellectual or heart medium through which it passes. To bow to authority in any sense is repugnant, because of the proud heart. “Independence” seems noblest; [albeit a perfectly impossible ideal for life or thought;] each man, each faculty, will set up its own particular little hill-fort and stronghold within the man.
4. How calmly assured of victory is this Paul, of no imposing presence, with no rhetorical address, coming to a powerful, numerous, wealthy Church whose greater part rejected his authority and sneered at his words, only ironically indeed (?) allowing his written words to have force. Paul did clear away the hill-fortresses. Clement’s epistle to Corinth shows a Church of a wholly different character and temper.
B. Paul a pioneer worker.
I. He has his province.—
1. Appointed by God (2 Corinthians 10:13);
2. Suited to his natural capacities;
3. This he will occupy to the fullest of its extent (2 Corinthians 10:16);
4. Readily accepting co-operation and support (2 Corinthians 10:15).
II. His relations to fellow-workers in other fields.—
1. He recognises that they have a sphere appointed to them (2 Corinthians 10:15).
2. Will not interfere with theirs, and expects that they shall not interfere with his (2 Corinthians 10:13-14).
3. Recognises theirs; not depreciating or envying, or boasting of his own (2 Corinthians 10:17-18).
4. Does his own work, and gives little or no thought to any comparative estimating of men or of success (2 Corinthians 10:12).
III. Principles applicable to:
1. Churches and their fields of labour;
2. Different types of workers in same field;
3. Different orders of work for God.
1. Has his province: “according to the measure” marked out by God’s measuring-“rule” [rod]. For special reasons, Peter had the honour of first reaping in the Gentile harvest-field (Acts 15:7). He was the real pioneer both to Jews and Gentiles (Acts 2:10). But at and after the Council, the field was apportioned (Galatians 2:8-9). The act of the United Church only recognised and ratified a Divinely-designed division of the world’s great field. In the central highlands of Asia Minor, on its western coast, in Macedonia, in Greece, Paul touched virgin soil, dealt with untouched heathenism [except so far as, e.g., in Lydia’s case, the presence of Judaism had sent some light into the otherwise unrelieved darkness]. Dangerous work [“have hazarded their lives,”—said of the first missionary inroad into such unevangelised districts (Acts 15:26)], difficult work, but how honourable to bring the Gospel, and to mention the name of Jesus, for the first time to a country, a city, a soul! [Like the honour of the first captain to break through the boom at Derry and to bring supplies to the famishing people (Macaulay, History, chap. 7). Giving a joy like that of the discoverer of a new remedy, who offers it, and sees its success, in some despairing and desperate case.]
2. The work and the man were fitted for each other. It is not accident or caprice, what worker God chooses for a task. For every task, for every enterprise, there is somewhere the very instrument, the man or woman best of all suited by natural equipment, or by the training of education and surroundings, to accomplish it. It is part of the ever-present, all-complicating “problem of evil,” that the Church—and even God—often seem to have to do the work with “second-best” agents. The best are not to hand, or discoverable, by us; He knows indeed where they are, He calls for their service, but they in their awful freedom disregard or refuse the call. Work seems sometimes to languish, because the—obviously well-fitted—worker is unconverted altogether, or, at best, is not entirely devoted to Christ’s cause. [Given natural adaptation, then the needful grace may be had, “for the asking”; prayer will always win this. The natural fitness is a primâ facie call from God. Esther’s fitness was God’s claim upon her (Esther 4:14). He had made her beautiful, and put her upon the throne, with unbounded influence over what heart Xerxes had, “for such a time as this.”] Paul had been trained for his special work. His Roman citizenship put him en rapport with the Empire; his thorough Jewish culture gave him entrée to the Synagogue and the Jewish quarter of a town; the Greek influences of Tarsian boyhood, and, still more, the thoroughness with which he was—beyond perhaps any other apostle or early Christian preacher—emancipated from the prejudice of early training and honest Jewish conviction, so that he apprehended the Gospel with more nearly Christ’s own world-wide view of its adaptation and reach of offer, made him the best to be the pioneer in Gentile lands. [Of natural, physical suitableness, we should have said he had less than some others. Perhaps of no commanding presence; often in poor health; sensitive to slights; unhappy when without sympathetic companionships; soon depressed. His very courage is rather the boldness born of grace, than any special natural courage, which in, e.g., some pioneer travellers seems incapable of feeling fear, or indeed of appreciating danger.]
3. Like his Lord, he desires to say when he lays work down, “It is finished.” Literally this can never be. Work grows as it is being done. But, at least, he desires that no part of his special province shall be unvisited [even to utmost Spain (Romans 15:24; Romans 15:28)]; no part without its centre of light, to radiate illumination through the environing darkness; no mass of population without its lump of the new leaven deposited in its centre. He has a holy ambition to be the first to carry the Light of “the Gospel of Christ.” So, see him; eagerly hurrying hither and thither as the work calls, and openings (Acts 16:6-10) invite; never staying long in any one place [eighteen months in Corinth and three years in Ephesus were his longest voluntary residences in any one centre]; tasting continually the joy of “firstfruits” (Romans 16:5, “Asia”; 1 Corinthians 16:15, Achaia) in the harvest-field.
4. Yet he makes no unwise attempt to do everything himself. Even the pioneer will be stronger and more successful, if behind him there is a company of praying, sympathising supporters, whom first he led to faith, and whose “faith is” now “increased,” and who can now spare him, and “enlarge” him, i.e. can set him at liberty to strike out, and can support him “abundantly” with their contributions whilst he strikes out into “(regions) beyond” Corinth. [The pioneer first makes the Church, and then uses it as a basis. The Church should thank God for its pioneer agents, prize them, stand by them, supply the needful means for carrying on and extending the work. No more precious gift of God to His Church than men suitable to be pioneer-men.]
1. Sometimes the pioneer is ensnared by his very consciousness of pioneer gifts and grace. He wants, with a “covetousness” which has its noble side, to cover all the field, and not simply his own special section of it. No man has a monopoly of God’s work. God has other labourers, as well adapted to their own apportioned province as he himself is to his. His intense preoccupation with his own work, and his very consciousness of special aptitude, prevent him from appreciating other men’s work, or from recognising fully that he is not himself fitted for every field and for every form of service. Not so Paul. “Another man” has also “his line”; [not at all in the modern colloquial sense, but] the measuring-“rod” has apportioned a sectional “field” to him. No one man—no one Church—can do everything. Paul has none of that narrowness, which, e.g., cannot say a good word for another man’s methods and work, and indeed cannot see them.
2. Hence he refrains from trespassing upon their ground, though he expects [he did not get it!] the like consideration.
3. His “independence” of spirit (2 Corinthians 10:16) is by no means the subtle self-complacency, the vanity, which makes a man “boast,” “Ah! I was the first to enter Corinth for Christ! No man had proclaimed Jesus in Galatia until I went! Everybody had missed such-and-such a man, until I took him in hand!” That would be a spirit fatal to success, because cutting the man off from the Spirit of God, in Whose strength he can alone hope to succeed. He will not boast of what he is honoured to do even within his own “line.” The Lord does it all! (2 Corinthians 10:17-18). Much less will he intrude into another man’s, and then boast of what he has done “without” (i.e. outside) his “measure.” [As the Judaisers did: “See how many more of Paul’s people we have won over to ‘circumcision as well as Christ’! Galatians 6:13 : “glory in your flesh.”] Depreciation, envy, boasting,—all these are strangers to his work and motives. No; it is the Lord’s errand, the Lord’s field, the Lord’s work, the Lord’s labourers, the Lord’s success. He will “make his boast” only “in the Lord.”
4. He therefore simply goes on with his Master’s work. He will neither make himself the standard for others, nor for himself; his own ways and plans and even mannerisms of success shall not be made the absolute Right; nor will he trouble himself very much about the “comparison” which men are drawing—and his own heart would naturally help them—between him and his fellow-workers. The Lord keep him and them all humble together, and bless their labour with all success, even as he desires to be blessed in his own! [Real danger for workers, nervously anxious about their own qualifications and progress in work, to be continually looking away from themselves—their own spiritual life and their own diligence—and eagerly scrutinising others. Very easily leads to distrust of God, to envy, to despondency, if they suffer by comparison; and to self-sufficiency, if the result of their examination seem flattering to themselves. Better to leave others to themselves and to their work and their Master; to go quietly on with our own, leaving nothing undone that we can compass, to fulfil our own task and cultivate our own special field. “Comparison” work is poor work, ill-spent time and thought!]
III. The Churches should carry out the principles,
1. In the arrangement of their work. In some mission-fields, and very often at home, there is waste of activity, of appliances, of plant, of men, by “overlapping.” There are, indeed, calls to enter, which no Church may refuse to listen to. “Open doors” of circumstance and providence compel new enterprises in towns, in mission-fields, where some workers at least are already labouring. But usually the special, temporary call (like that of Peter above) is soon superseded by the paramount considerations which the common sense and the right, catholic, heart of the Church, being herein the expression of the mind of the Lord, dictate; securing some mutual concession and arrangement, dividing the field, leaving each Church in possession of its own “measure” and “line” and province. The spirit which brought Paul’s rivals to Galatia and Corinth,—to reap where he had sown—to pull up, rather, what he had sown, in order to put in their own seed—to steal away from him for themselves, and for their own particular shape of “the Gospel,” the converts whom he had first won for Christ; the selfish competition that follows into a field already brought under cultivation, rather than begin on the untouched forest or the mere waste moorland, in some “regions beyond” the area occupied by the Churches;—these have too often had their individual and their Church embodiment in later ages. Even intense zeal should respect the (perhaps very different kind of) work of other men.
2. God has embodied the principle of apportionment of province and work, in the history of the Truth in His Church. The Churches—the local, national, confessional subsections of The Church—have in the occasions of their divisions, and in their relations to each other, given reason for scorn to the World and pain to every heart which is true to the Unity of the Body. Yet, as always, the historical, providential fact has had its Divine as well as its human aspect. Namely this: Truth is too large a thing for any one mind, or Church, or age to grasp and present, in its all-round completeness. Men, Churches, centuries, have been complementary in their testimony and their work. They have emphasised (have often had their Divine raison d’être for origin and continuance as separate communions, in the need that they should emphasise) now this aspect, now that; perhaps one which was neglected by the rest, or which, by an undue emphasis upon some complementary aspect, had been obscured, or thrust into unmerited discredit; or perhaps one which was specially needed by the man or the time. [Hardly a heresy which has not been an attempt, at first, to recover or express some forgotten phase or portion of truth; becoming a “heresy,” erroneous or mischievous, because, in its turn, crude or ill-balanced in its representation, and failing to do justice to the part of the Whole which others saw and tried to utter.] We may conceivably hold a Church, one in Creed and in organisation, to be in ideal the Best. As matter of fact, the Churches, the ages, the teachers, have each borne their witness to the phase and portion of the Truth which God’s work needed. True Catholicity of spirit recognises that each has a “measure,” a “line,” a province.
3. True Charity as between worker and worker demands the recognition of the principle, “to every man his work” (Mark 13:34). The pulpit will understand the student’s desk, the student will understand the preacher, the evangelist the expositor, the expositor the red-hot evangelist; the worker amongst the facts of criticism of Revelation will not in his library undervalue the country pastor, with his crudely simple, “old-fashioned” views of the Bible, nor will the plain, homely, believing worker be suspicious of the critic; the theologian will give and may ask patient, trustful respect for motives and work, in his relations with the man of science. Each is cultivating his own portion of the field, for the advantage of the Lord of the Whole field; there will therefore be mutual respect, reciprocal non-intrusion in any hostile sense, no mere self-centered comparison of worker and worker, with disparaging thoughts and words concerning “the other” as the issue. There are different types of worker and different orders of work for God.
Also IV. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18). The end of the day of toil brings all the Churches, and the workers in all the ages and fields and methods, together before their Common Master. Each brings in his “results”; converts won; fields of knowledge and branches of inquiry secured for Christ; ages or countries and nationalities Christianised, in their literature, their legislation, their social life and its daily moralities; each lays all down before the Lord Christ; and even as His “Well done” is heard, acknowledges that all the success has been His Gift. To-day, and in that day, the man, the Church that glorieth, must let the glorying be “in the Lord.” [“So that, as in my former letter (1 Corinthians 1:31), I said to you of your own personal standing and life in and before God—‘He that glorieth,’ ” etc.] Applause from our own Church, or contemporaries, or coterie, will be valued only as it bears bringing into the presence of Him Whose “approval” is the one absolute, eternally true verdict. His “approval” after His “proving” of the work and the worker,—that only is the satisfying, safe ground of self-gratulation. If He say, “Well done,” then only, whatever be the verdict from others, may our heart say to itself, “Well done.”
2 Corinthians 10:5. The Conflict of Faith with Undue Exaltation of Intellect.
1. N.B. Undue exaltation. Religion can have no quarrel with really moral and reasonable intellect, or with human thought that recognises its own weakness and limitations. The arrogance of the pretensions of human thought speaks of a fall, an early, radical convulsion and upheaval which has disturbed the original harmony between reason and revelation. Intellect is the ally, and discoverer, of truth; its highest employment is to be the instrument of religious truth.
2. Also fallen reason is generally enslaved to desire; not free, but unconsciously working at the secret bidding of an irritated passion. Or, working half-conscious of its bondage, for that reason asserts its freedom especially as against the Revelation of God, with nervous, exaggerated vehemence.
3. There is
(1) Mercenary Intellect, in bondage to sharp necessity (as it, sometimes reluctantly, thinks), or to the mere spirit of gain. “Cannot afford to have a conscience.”
(2) Self-advertising Intellect. Will be “original,” at whatever cost. Takes some subtle delight in perturbing the religious world with its startling assertions, made to win notoriety.
(3) Sensualised Intellect. Whole literatures, with their fertility of thought, beauty of language, ample power, aiming to excite basest passions.
(4) Self-reliant, cynical Intellect; the slave of a sublime egotism. But its enslavement is disguised, and its cold, clear, incisive energy passes for the very bloom and majesty of perfect intellectual freedom.
4. True there are nobler types amongst the opponents. Their true house is the Church; but they have not yet found the way to Damascus. They may safely be left to God.
II. Note, intellectual opposition to Revelation, in the second generation, when the great occasions are over, and the great captains are gone, oftenest takes refuge on some natural heights, or behind some artificial earthworks—some unproved assumption, some disputed principle. E.g.
(1) Will admit no room for faith; assumes to know and command the whole field of truth; assumes that there is no higher sphere accessible to man than those of sense and reason. But science never fixes limits to its possible range of inquiry and knowledge. Above the reach of telescope, below that of microscope, it believes in regions of fact hitherto unexplored. No reasonable ground of jealousy if beyond the farthest reach of natural science there be a region real, but unknowable by its powers and instruments of observation. Reason can prove much: an immaterial soul; freedom of will; the righteousness of the judgment of conscience; a First Cause, Who is One, personal, infinite, free, to be obeyed by His creatures. This much, perhaps; with a progress assisted by supernatural guidance, but also disputed at every step. But no more. Death, the Trinity in Godhead, Sin, its removal; of these reason knows nothing that can help the deepest need of the soul of man. She should be faith’s handmaid, not its substitute.
(2) Granted a supernatural, revealed sphere of truth; then, next, reason will have no mystery in it, nothing unverifiable or beyond the grasp of reason. An unreasonable assumption to take; we no judges beforehand of what a Revelation should contain. Further, a mystery is a truth, though one hidden from direct knowledge or unassisted inquiry. Also nature is full of mysteries; Life is a thing really unknown to us. So is Force. The higher we mount in the scale of being, the more there are of these hidden truths. To have rid our thought about these great truths of all objection because they are full of mystery, is to have “cast down” an entrenched fortress, with great powers of resistance.
(3) Granted a revelation, granted some mystery inevitable; then, next, reason will have no dogmatic form, propounded on authority. But impossible to assert definitely any one belief without dogmatically denying its opposite; without limiting intellectual liberty in regard to it. “The real crime of dogma is that it treats as settled and certain that which unbelief would fain regard as doubtful or false.” Prejudice against dogma the last stronghold of the enemy. If religion is to be practical, it must give truth in a form which will give strength for motive and resistance. If Christian truth had not been definite and dogmatic, it would not for eighteen centuries have satisfied the supreme necessities of the human soul.—Condensed from Liddon, “Univ. Sermons,” 1869, sermon vii.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Topic: The Victory of Christ over Thought; or, The Self-sufficiency of Christianity to fulfil its Mission. Note, the Gospel defined as “the knowledge of God”;—knowledge, clear, systematic, defined, adapted to the constitution, circumstances, destiny, of man. Of God; its author, subject, end. Note, further, this Gospel is to bring men’s thoughts into subjection to Jesus Christ; to enthrone Christ in the soul of humanity. Note, also, the Gospel recognises man as a thinker. Man’s thought may be regarded in three aspects:—
I. The distinguishing attribute of his nature.—Therefore in seeking to purify and ennoble it, and through it to stir and rule the world, the Gospel is performing a noble function.
II. The great parent of his character.—Man is what his thoughts are: false, true, feeble, or vigorous, independent, progressive,—so the man. Nations obey, first Force, and then, as they advance, Thought. No durable prosperity where men’s minds are dormant.
III. The chief instrument of his influence.—No influence man can wield is like this. Can only remove corrupt thought by free and loving thought. Christ set His thoughts circulating; is influencing by His thought every part of the world, every factor of the world’s life. So, then, the noblest task of Christianity is to bring thought into subjection to Christ. How? Not by infringing upon freedom of thought or will. By
(1) Arousing thought into life and action. The first action of Christ on the mind is to make men think; there are some who had no thoughts until they knew Him. By
(2) Removing obstacles. Pulling down, “casting down,” “bringing into captivity,” human depravity. This depravity manifesting itself in (a) Sensuous materialism; the despotism of matter over mind. You cannot hope for, cannot touch, the sensuous man. (b) False philosophy; not this or that system, but the spirit of all wrong systems; proud, mystical, arrogant, forgetting or disdaining the necessary limitations of human mind. (c) Religious superstition; which is indolent; substitutes mechanical action for mental activity (“Don’t think; leave thinking to the priest,” etc.); encourages idleness;—in every religion. (d) Secular authority.
(3) On the other hand: “Our weapons,” etc. “It is no secular principle that guides us. We lean on no material, visible power whatever, but the weapons we do use are ‘mighty.’ No matter what the stronghold may be called, its dimensions, its resources, its popularity, down it must go! Mighty to ‘pull down.’ We have only one thing to bear in mind, namely, to be on the side of Christ and truth and spirituality, and, whatever may become of us, our cause must rise and triumph. Have we confidence in spiritual weapons for the truth?… Shall policy, earthly considerations and schemes and measures, however well intended, be able to sustain the religion of Christ, or the truth that came down from heaven? Shall the Bible, or shall something else, be our guide through the voyage of life? Thanks be to God, I have no difficulty in … taking my side as the humblest of the humble in this war, and whatever fortifications may be erected against the truth a breach shall be made. The citadel shall be taken, and the people’s thoughts be made captive to Christ.”—Caleb Morris, “Homilist,” Third Series, vi. 216 (condensed).
2 Corinthians 10:4-5. True Soldiership.—The warlike instinct is in its usual embodiment no more justified by its persistence in human nature than is idolatry or falsehood. Yet there is lawful, urgent use for it. Not against his fellow-man, but, e.g., against nature, to subject it to his use; against his physical propensities; against ignorance, crime, disease, poverty. Plenty to fight against, without fighting man! So then:—
I. The weapons of true soldiership.—First, they are “not carnal”; as opposed to
(1) Miraculous agency; though employed at first, miracles are not the regular weapons with which Christianity fights her battles;
(2) All coercive instrumentality, by the civil power, or other;
(3) All crafty inventions, anything which, to exalt a man or forward a sect, accommodates Christianity to the sensuousness, prejudices, credulity, superstition, of mankind. Next, they are “mighty.”
(1) They are of God—His productions.
(2) They are His instruments. Unlike men and their books, God goes with His ideas, and works by them. Mighty “not through the enactments of law, force of eloquence, cogency of reasoning; not through imposing rituals and thrilling music; not through human zeal, however fervid; not through human sacrifices, however costly; not through human efforts, however adapted and persevering; but through God.”
II. The victories of true soldiership.—They are
(1) Mental. A storm or a wild beast will more readily overcome the body than you will; unless you conquer the mind, you have not conquered the man.
(2) Corrective. Pulling down the fortresses; “prejudices, worldly maxims, associations, passions, habits; behind which the mind entrenches itself against God.” “Infidel thinkings, superstitions, selfish, dishonest, vain, sensual thinkings.” Every anti-theistic feeling and passion. He who strikes at these root-evils of the world, pursues the best plan to conquer all the evils that afflict humanity.
(3) Christian. “The forms of the universe come to man mirrored in his thoughts. The great God comes to him only in the reflections of his thoughts. The million forms of civilisation are thoughts embodied. Of thought man weaves his web of destiny, cultivates, his paradise, or kindles his hell; it is the millstone beneath which he shall sink, or the pinions on which he shall rise for ever. Now the work of a true soldier is to bring this fontal force into an entire subjection to Christ—to make all men like Christ; and then, what a world will this be!”—“Homilist,” iv. 32 (condensed).
2 Corinthians 10:1-2. A Christian—
I. Must expect reproach.—Can do very little—certainly very little extended work for God—in which will not occur many things capable of diverse estimate and representation, by opposite types of mind, by equally honest judgments, or by those whose acquaintance with the facts is, in varying degree, partial and incomplete. John the Baptist and Christ Himself could not please everybody (Matthew 11:16-19), nor were understood by everybody. Must also take account of the world’s distinct bias against the spiritual man; it always presumes the most unfavourable interpretation. No undue perturbation or astonishment, therefore, if the thing most simply intended, with the most direct aim at doing right, and that as in the sight of God and of Christ, is the very thing made matter of severest and (as we feel and know) “most unjust” animadversion.
II. Must endure it meekly.—Too easy for self-esteem—wounded, and not without cause of just complaint—to ruffle itself up, and becloud our judgment of our critics, and put us as utterly in the wrong as they, in our feelings towards them, or in our words about them, or in the method of our self-vindication.
III. Yet may meet it with the courage of conscious integrity.—There is time, and occasion, for bearing in silence, and going quietly forward, taking little heed. But there comes time, and necessity for the Gospel’s sake, for simple, direct, bold avowal of what we know to be the truth of the case. (See further, under 1 Corinthians 4:3.)
2 Corinthians 10:3. Our Warfare; our Conditions, our Foes, our Weapons.
I. In the flesh.—Weakness, ignorance, infirmity. Do not always do or say the wisest thing. “If only we knew better—”
II. Against the flesh.
III. Not after the flesh.—E.g.
1. Bodily austerities fail to subdue the evil heart.
2. Physical coercion, persecution to the death, are no right, or serviceable, methods of securing right opinion or right morals.
3. Human passions are no weapons for doing the work of our campaign against error or sin.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5. A true application of this to the war whose purpose and whose issue is the subdual of our own inner self and its life to the yoke of Christ.
I. We are part of the “world” which is alienated from, and in revolt against, the mind and will of God. There is a “world” within us, as there is to be a “kingdom of God” within us; the Individual summarises, focusses as into a small, but very vivid, picture the “world,” or “the kingdom,” as seen on the larger scale in the Race. “Spirit” and “flesh” at ceaseless war within. [Galatians 5:17. Observe, not, “So that ye are not in fact able to,” etc., but, “So that ye may not,” etc.; each aiming to restrain the natural aim and action of the other.] The “world” within us is our first, hardest problem. We respond to Matthew 11:28-30, and find “rest” from guilty fear and shame, and from any necessary (Romans 7:18-19; Romans 7:21, etc.) obedience to sinful impulse and habit (Romans 7:25). But only to find a new conflict arising, a new and deeper—deepening—appreciation of the presence and evil of sin cleaving to imagination, judgments, purposes, motives. Hate ourselves for the ignorance, pride, envy, jealousy, self-will, love of sin, indolence in service, inertness towards God and good, which we discover.
II. Enemy strongly entrenched.—Sin “native” to us. A usurper, indeed, with no right to possession. [Sin no designed or necessary accompaniment of humanity. Christ’s sinless human life “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). The foundation of all hope of our ultimate triumph in the struggle lies there,—“the Prince of this world”—of this little “world” within us—is “judged,” and shall be “cast out” (John 16:11).] But it has made nearly every faculty and power—bodily or mental—a stronghold. [As, in the days of Stephen’s weak rule, the barons covered England with their strong castles, each of which became a centre of revolt against authority, and of cruel, violent oppression.] Physical appetites—natural, neutral, necessary, per se—have become its seat. Imagination, memory, curiosity, joy in new conquests and acquirements, fear, love, anger (which has a rightful sphere and exercise), ambition (which in itself is a tribute to the nobility of human nature, and has saved the world from stagnation),—all have been fastened upon by sin; need reconquering for Christ. Yet, to measure hope by much of our past experience, or by our observation of others, is to say: “The complete conquest is hopeless! A modus vivendi is all we can expect. Must be content that in the hill-country of Canaan there will to the last remain many unsubdued enemies, of whom the most we can expect is that they submit to tribute, and are kept in fairly continuous subjection. No absolute conquest, or perfect peace, until death puts an end to our strife.”
III. Weapons divine.—If it depended upon our watching, praying, effort, our fidelity as against ourselves, our untiring zeal in the warfare; then there would really be no hope of perfect victory; the inner battle-field will never thus be completely cleared of enemies. But remembering the Captain, under Whom we wage the war; the Spirit, our active Ally and Strength; remembering the Key to obtain all needed grace, which, in Faith and Prayer, is put into our hands; remembering the sanctifying power of the Truth (John 17:17); there is hope, there is certainty, of
IV. Complete triumph for Christ.—Everything intrinsically and of necessity evil, cast out, cast down; everything in itself natural, neutral, brought under the obedience of a new law—the new thing, “love to Christ,” taking possession of, and regulating all the use and exercise of, every natural endowment, faculty, power, appetite; all that is compatible with loving God with “all the heart,” used, cultivated, indulged, within the limits of His design and law, within the limits where His smile can rest upon us in their indulgence and use. Imagination purified, and turning away from old, evil objects, with a new repulsion; old links of association broken, and new and holier ones set up; all the necessary laws of human thought made to work in new associations and to serve new purposes. [In the parliament of the inner life of the natural man, the government in power belongs to the side of evil; though there is a small, impotent, protesting minority of votes in opposition (e.g. conscience will bear its witness for God from time to time). In conversion Christ comes into power. His “bills” get passed, sometimes in the face of a dogged opposition, and by a narrow majority of votes. When “every thought is brought into the obedience of Christ,” the minority will have disappeared or been utterly silenced. All the votes then go for Christ, and for His will and purposes. He has captured the whole House by His love and by the spell of His cross, and “leads all in His train,” an absolute Master of all.] [When Christ has captured the fort, He will put a garrison in it, to keep it for Himself. Similarly, and in very close analogy, as to anxious thoughts, see Philippians 4:6-7, made very clear in the R.V.]
2 Corinthians 10:5. [Special application to] “Wandering Thoughts.”—Older sense of phrase was wider than ours; equivalent to “all thoughts which wandered from God,” thus covering all the workings of the natural heart. Customary use to-day is rather for “all thoughts which wander from the point in hand.” Really the wandering of attention. Can the attention be perfectly “brought into the obedience of Christ”?
I. Analyse the process.—[Great relief to some consciences to know that very largely, very frequently, “wandering thoughts” are not per se sinful, but are the consequence of want of that mental discipline, for which every student, on every subject, finds it necessary to struggle; the acquisition of the power of giving fixed attention, at will, for any length of time, being of the first necessity in all serious learning, and accounted by a student worth any price to obtain.] (Say) in prayer. In the morning, when going to ask for the coming day’s help, we consider the circumstances likely to arise, the persons likely to be met with. The thought of no one of these comes alone, but linked with memories of former occasions, difficulties, deliverances, failures. An undisciplined attention finds every one of these memories the possible beginning of a train of thought which is followed, one thing suggesting another, until some sudden recollection shows the person who is bowed in prayer that, for he hardly knows how long, he has forgotten the matter he began with, and has reached a point at which he can hardly understand how he arrived. Pulls himself together and begins again; only to find every new request, every memory of past need or help, becoming “points” on a railway which “shunt” his mind on to a “siding,” leaving him far away from his destination and his business. Or in reading the Word, or listening to a preacher; attention wanders. [Sometimes the preacher’s fault. Does not know his business; viz. how to speak so as to win attention for his topic and his message. Very often result of mere physical weariness, which God perfectly understands, and does not condemn. Too weary—quite blamelessly—after a hard day, or a hard week, to give fixed attention to the reading or the sermon. Easy to test character of such “wandering” by seeing whether it also applies equally to some neutral or secular topic. Can attention, just then, be any better given to any other book, any other speaker? We may not altogether exclude the possibility of direct spiritual, evil agency, making suggestions, in order to distract and divert the attention.]
II. Suggest the help.—
1. Do one’s utmost to acquire the power of giving attention at will. If, e.g., a book is worth reading at all, read it with attention, master it; nor simply suffer the author to project so many images in succession upon the white sheet of our mind, which then pass away, leaving no more permanent trace than do the pictures of the lantern. So, listen with purpose to a speaker, watching oneself lest mere fortuitous suggestion tarry us away with it. Every effort will help a habit; a habit worth all the pains, especially when on one’s knees.
2. Consider before prayer what is needed.—Simply to “plump” down upon one’s knees, without any special “wants,” is to invite “wandering.” An act of quiet recollection in entering upon public worship, will do much to fix thought.
3. Pray to Christ.—The idolater wants something visible, to help to make his God real. To the Father we may attribute no form; hard, therefore, for some undisciplined minds to realise that they address a Person; prayer seems sent out into the mere vacancy of space. To meet, blamelessly, the craving for a visible object is one (by-) purpose of an Incarnate God. He has a form which we shall one day see, and may now, lawfully, image forth. It gives some help to fix attention, to pray to Him as if looking at Him,—into His face. [Thus literally bringing thought into obedience “to Christ.”] [Such things as the position of the body, the place in the room, are not trivialities in this connection.]
4. So far as there is spiritual difficulty beneath the wandering, the remedy is in a quickened interest in the topics spoken of, read about, prayed for. What interests us holds attention. We do not “wander” when we care intensely about the matter of our prayer. Hence, again, whilst 1, 2, 3 may seem “carnal weapons,”—prudential, natural helps,—4 is distinctly a “spiritual” remedy. The heart wholly conquered and possessed by Christ will find—physical conditions being allowed for—no great difficulty with thoughts wandering from, or averse to, or rebelling against, spiritual things and themes.
2 Corinthians 10:5. This Subjection of Thought to Christ implies:—
I. Forming all our plans as subject to His revision, or reversal, or supersession. [Cf. passing the plans of a new building through the surveyor’s office. Or a subordinate, managing his department with constant reference to the known instructions and leading principles of the Head of the firm.] “Talking all over with” Christ, our Friend, Counsellor, Master; not because we ought, but also because we love to do so. Not chafing, or rebelling, if He substantially modify them, or set them aside for something better of His own.
II. Making His revealed mind in the New Testament the standard of judgment and appeal, in all estimates of persons and questions of wrong and right. Not testing them by the shifting standards of our age, or our “set,” or the customary morality, or worldly expediency, which rules in current literature or business life. Bring conduct, persons, proposals in business, or the like, into His presence; look at them, speak of them, correspond about them, as under the eye, in the hearing, of Christ. “What would Christ think, say, do; or wish me to say, think, do?”
III. Taking any word of His as final and authoritative, in any question of revealed truth, or of Scripture history [or of Old Testament literary history]. Shall endeavour to appreciate with fullest justice what He says; but His word final; no “going behind” it. An unchallengeable datum of any problem into which it enters.
2 Corinthians 10:7. “I am Christ’s.”—This may be a word of—
I. Simple, thankful, trustful dependence.—An honour (as Paul feels it); a security (as the sheep feels under the care of the Shepherd),—“I am Thine [“therefore I pray Thee,” or, “therefore Thou certainly wilt”] save me.” Or it may be a word of—
II. Narrow, exclusive (though indirectly so) self-estimation (as with Paul’s opponents).—No monopoly in Christ for any Church, or sect, or person that holds him at all. Cannot say: “The light of the sun, all of it, and only, shines through our one particular window.” There are tests of His presence and work which ought to be fully recognised, outside our circle, in other patterns of Christian than that which we affect or exhibit.
2 Corinthians 10:8. Ministerial Authority, a Reality.
I. Not to be “boasted of,” or needlessly paraded; but may rightly and “without shame” or reproach be appealed to and brought into use. [British officers, unlike the Continental, do not always wear their uniform; yet always invested with their authority, and may use it.]
II. Always as a trust “from the Lord” of the Church. No inherent, indefectible dignity making the minister something beyond a mere man. But—
III. A trust for the “edification” of the Church. The minister has authority, that he may the more effectively keep, save, guide, the flock. To use it for “destruction,”—for any selfish ends, or to punish some personal pique or wrong,—a solemn breach of trust. “Have I built up a single soul? No? Then my ministry a failure, if no more.”
2 Corinthians 10:9-11. “ ‘They say.’ What do they say? Let them say.” I will act. Said Aristotle: “If what my enemies say is false, I will live so as to prove it so; if true, I will listen and amend.” Paul had nothing to learn from his enemies. But how few have not something!
2 Corinthians 10:14-16. [A True Missionary Policy may be expanded and illustrated by timely facts in any particular society, from this.]
I. There are always “regions beyond.”—Work to be done always lies neighbour to work accomplished. “The Church” is only a small clearing surrounded by bush, or forest, or waste, which wants taking in, reclaiming, fencing, cultivating, for Christ.
II. There must always be in a healthy Church the “hope” of pushing farther back the border of the clearing. “Go out into all the world.” Pioneer work which breaks new ground; and quieter, less romantic work, which cultivates what would at once relapse into barrenness or waste if such work were remitted; are equally necessary and profitable. One undivided, indivisible work. But in a healthy Church there must always be the passion for the reclaiming of the “regions beyond.” The Evangelical Revival which regenerated England sent forth, far and near, missionary agencies of every type, in the widest sense of “missionary.”
III. The established work is to be the basis of the pioneer work.—A flying column may make a raid into a hostile land; but ordinarily the advance should keep in close touch with its base. A solitary Livingstone may plunge into darkest Africa, and be lost sight of whilst he is exploring and discovering what there is to do and to be won. But the permanent mission work of the Church wants the organised, established, liberal Churches at home. [Hold the ropes at top of cliff, whilst the rescue party go over to save life in peril.] The obligation, the privilege of the Corinths, the Philippis, the Thessalonicas, is to send forth, to send supplies after, the pioneer Pauls. The missionary on the borderland, or pioneering over the border, is merely the stay-at-home Church embodied. In the differentiation of organ and function in the Body, he is only the particular organ of the Whole which happens to be best suited to do a work which is the work, the responsibility, of All. The whole Body must keep itself healthy, if the Hand which reaches out to gather from the “regions beyond” is to be strong for its work. An unspiritual home Church will not long sustain healthy mission work.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17