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The Apostle in this Chapter, is defending himself, and his Ministry, against some that opposed him. He modestly speaks of his Trials, and Afflictions.
(1) Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. (2) For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (3) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
I would pass over every consideration of a private nature, as it relates to the person of the Apostle, to attend to those important points we meet with in this Chapter, which are of general moment to the Church. It is indeed to be lamented, that faithful servants of the Lord Jesus in all ages, like Paul, have been, for the most part, evil treated; while time-serving hirelings have been caressed, and often laden with worldly honors. But as the Apostle himself remarked, so the faithful of God ought to know, that no man should be moved by these things, for they are appointed thereunto, 1 Thessalonians 3:3 . But, leaving the consideration of such subjects, it will be more to our purpose, to attend to what Paul hath here said, within the compass of these verses, on the jealousy of his soul, for the stedfastness of the Church in the true faith of Christ. This opens to a most interesting point of the Gospel, and I beg the Reader's earnest attention to it.
There is somewhat very lovely, in the midst of all the unkindness, Paul received from the Corinthians, in what he saith of himself, of his godly jealousy over them. What a charming representation it gives, of the Apostle's mind. Their ill requital of his friendship, did not keep back his labors, for their welfare. The salvation of their souls was dear to him. And yet more the love of Christ constrained him. Say what they might of him, yet his regard for them should not lessen. Reader! do not fail to observe, how grace prompts the soul to act, and to rise above resentments. Oh! what a blessed thing would it be, if men possessed of grace, were to manifest, upon every occasion, the superiority of that grace, in returning good for evil, towards those whose natural tempers, unrestrained by grace, act improperly.
But while I notice this by the way, in relation to the Apostle's godly jealousy, I beg the Reader's attention to a yet far higher subject, brought before us in those words, in the cause of that jealousy; namely, lest the minds of the people (Paul saith) should be led away from the simplicity that is in Christ. I hardly know in the whole Scripture, a sweeter, and more comprehensive manner of expression than this, of the plainness to be observed in the apprehension of Christ. The Apostle considers the whole of the subject, concerning Christ and his Church, though infinite in itself, and extending to infinite blessings in its consequences; yet in the outlines of it, so simple, so plain, and so easily understood, under divine teaching; that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein. And in proof of it, the Apostle calls upon the Church, to consider it, under the similitude of Christ's marriage of his Church; in which he shews, that she is espoused to her Lord for the express purpose of being presented to him finally, and compleatly, as a chaste virgin. I beg the Reader to look at the subject in this point of view, under two or three leading particulars, in confirmation.
First. It is one of the sweetest, highest, and most blessed truths, of our most holy faith, that from everlasting, the Son of God betrothed, or, (as it is here expressed,) espoused, his Church to himself, in an union, and Covenant, not to be broken, Hosea 2:19-20 . For when Jehovah, in his threefold character of Persons, willed into being, from his everlasting love, the Church of God; this Church was chosen in Christ, and given to Christ. So that in the same moment, (let that moment be called by what name soever it may, in the language of heaven and eternity,) that Christ became the Head, and Husband of his Church; the Church became the body, and spouse of Christ: and was betrothed to her Lord: Hence all those precious Scriptures, Ephesians 1:4 ; Isaiah 54:5 ; Jeremiah 3:14 ; Ephesians 5:25 to the end; John 17:2 ; John 17:6 ; John 17:9-10 etc. In this sweet point indeed, is contained the whole blessedness of the Church, for time and for eternity. All is founded upon this union. The Church of Christ had this secret grace-union with Christ, before she received her open nature in Adam. And, as Christ had in himself an infinite fulness of all blessings, both spiritual and eternal, for his seed, his spouse, his children, the Church; so, from their being chosen in him, and considered one with him, for receiving all communicable grace, during their time-state upon earth, and all communicable glory, when brought home to Heaven; it was impossible, that their after-connection with Adam should subject them to the loss of those blessings, bestowed upon them before in Christ, and preserved in Christ; which were to be brought forth for their recovery from the Adam-nature of sin, in what in scripture language is called, the fulness of time, Galatians 4:4 . As this view of the subject runs it up to the fountain-head of mercy, so is it very blessed at all times, to trace it to this source; in order to discover, how effectually in this union and espousing of Christ's, the Church is secured, from the woeful consequences of the fall, and everlasting ruin; the power and means of recovery, being securely laid, in the Person, work, and offices, of the Church's Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly. Jehovah, in his threefold character of Persons, having thus from all eternity given, both Being, and well-being, to the Church in Christ; was pleased, for the accomplishment of his own sovereign, and gracious purposes, to go forth in acts of creation; and call into existence Adam the first man in nature, and with him, and from him, multitudes of his race, from whence the Church of Jesus might be gathered, during the time-state of the Church's existence upon earth. And the Lord was pleased, for the same wise, and blessed purposes, that the Church, being alike involved with the whole race of Adam in the ruins of the fall, should feel the awful consequences of her apostacy; and her glorious Head, and Husband, raise her up from those deplorable circumstances, and make her meet for to partake with him, in all his communicable grace and glory, both in time, and to all eternity.
Thirdly. We learn from this view of the subject, how in the incarnation of the Son of God, when he came, and openly tabernacled among us, all those great purposes were accomplished. He assumed our nature: in that nature paid the dreadful debt we had fallen under, both to law, and justice: cancelled the hand-writing of ordinances which was against us, taking it out of the way, and nailing it, to his cross: and having made our peace, by the sacrifice of himself; he returned to glory, to prepare a place for all his redeemed, until he shall come again to bring home his spouse to the everlasting enjoyment of himself in glory: that where he is, there his Church, shall be.
These are the outlines of what the Apostle meant to teach the Church, concerning their being espoused to Christ; and from the simplicity of which, he felt a godly jealousy; that they might not be tempted to depart. But we must observe what the Apostle saith, with the caution he himself intended it, and agreeably to the general tenor of Paul's preaching and ministry, when he talks of having espoused them to one husband; and that he might present them; as a chaste virgin, to Christ. everyone knows, that even in the common transactions of human marriages, it is the Bridegroom himself which espouseth the Bride, and not the friend of the Bridegroom. And, in this act of divine grace, which marks the Lord Christ, in his marrying our nature, Jesus speaks of it as his own act I will betroth thee unto me forever, Hosea 2:19 . And the day of the Lord's manifestation to everyone of his people, is called, the day of their espousals. Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousal, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness in a land that was not sown, Jeremiah 2:2 . And in like manner, the Church is spoken of collectively, as crowning the Lord Jesus, in the day of his espousals, Song of Solomon 3:11 .
So also, when the Apostle speaks of presenting the Church as a chaste Virgin to Christ; it is well known, that neither the first presentation of the Church to her Husband in grace, nor the final presentation of the Church in glory, is the act of men, or angels. All is from Christ himself, to himself; and, in every act of grace here, and glory hereafter, it is the Lord which worketh in his people, both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure. The Holy Ghost, by the Apostle, refers the whole, and every act, into Christ. He gave himself, it is said, for his Church, having loved it that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and present it to himself a glorious Church, Ephesians 5:24-26 .
Neither can it be said, in the present time-state of the Church, that Christ's Church is presented as a chaste virgin; for though, from everlasting she is married to the Lord, and Christ is her first Husband; Hosea 2:7 , yet as a treacherous wife, when the Lord called her by his grace, she was departed from the Lord, and He brought her back. Jeremiah 3:20; Jeremiah 3:20 . But the Apostle's meaning is evidently in allusion to his labors in the ministry among them, when the Lord the Spirit owned and blessed the labors of Paul in his aim to allure them to Christ. And perhaps, in a more limited and confined sense the Church may be called chaste, when after her recovery from the Adam-fall of sin, she became cautious in the principles of faith, not suffering a corruption from the minglings of human invention, but through grace was enabled to preserve a virginity in the pure doctrines of the Gospel, which at regeneration she received. We have a similar relation in this sense in the book of the Revelation: Revelation 14:3-5 .
When the Reader hath duly attended to those proper distinctions, I would request a moment's notice further, to what I humbly conceive the Apostle had in view, when he called the faith, the simplicity that is in Christ. It is a beautiful, though short account, of the pure faith of Christ. And in an age like the present, deserves the more particular regard.
The simplicity that is in Christ, implies, (what in truth is the exact description of it,) that it is a, plain, sweet, simple, and impossible to be mistaken plan, under divine teaching, of Jehovah's own providing, for the recovery of the Church, from the ruins of the fall. In which, each glorious Person of the Godhead comes forward in his office-character of love, and grace, to make the highly favored objects of that love happy in time, and happy to all eternity. So that everything in it is full of a beautiful simplicity. The everlasting love of God the Father to the Church in Christ, is expressed, in all the innumerable instances of it, in the most plain, gentle, tender, and affectionate manner. One Scripture contains in its bosom the sum and substance of every other: God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life, John 3:16 . In like manner, the everlasting love, of God the Son to the Church, is revealed in terms of equal simplicity, and grace. For He is said, so to have loved the church as to have given himself for it, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor, Ephesians 5:2 . And no less, the everlasting love of God the Holy Ghost to the Church, comes home endeared to the heart with equal clearness, in that, it is said: After that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, we were saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, Titus 3:5-6 . And what can be more plain, more simple, or more perspicuous, when we discover, that all our mercies flow from this united source, in the joint love, good-will, and unceasing affection of all the Persons of the Godhead.
Reader! do not hastily pass away from this view, of the simplicity that is in Christ! The Serpent beguiled Eve by his subtlety, in doing what? Even in seducing her to believe, that the simple act of faith, of believing in God, and depending wholly upon him, was to simple to give credit to; and, likening to his devilish, devices, she fell. And what is the artifice of the Arch-fiend now? To tempt men to swerve from the simplicity that is in Christ, by supposing that Christ's Person, work, righteousness, and blood shedding, are but procuring causes; and that our faith, sincerity, repentance, and the like, must he added, in order to render it effectual. And thus, the simplicity that is in Christ, the minds of some men are corrupted from the beautiful whole of Christ, in Christ, and from Christ, becomes mingled with creature-attainments. And, instead of accepting Christ, as the One only Ordinance of Heaven for salvation; men of this description teach their hearers, that their faith, their sincere endeavors in, obedience, and their sorrows for occasional departures, the Lord will accept; and in consequence bestow upon them grace, mercy, and favor, through, Jesus Christ. How might the congregation exclaim against such false doctrines, there is death in the pot? 2 Kings 4:40 .
(11) For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. (5) For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. (6) But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things. (7) Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? (8) I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. (9) And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. (10) As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. (11) Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. (12) But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. (13) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. (14) And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (15) Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
In the opening of this paragraph, in which , Paul speaks of one coming, and preaching another Jesus, or another Spirit, or Gospel, to which he adds, ye might well bear with him; the meaning at first sight, doth not seem so clear to be understood, In the margin of the Bible, the words bear with him, are rendered bear with me. And certain it is, that neither the one, nor the other, him, or me, are in the original. But it should seem, that as the Apostle was complaining of their late unkindness to his person, and the jealousy he felt, lest they should be led away, from his ministry; he put the issue of judgment upon this point: that if there was a preacher, that could hold forth another Jesus, more divine, more lovely? more powerful to save; and more easy of access, to commit their souls into his hands for Salvation, and happiness, than Paul had shewed them: or another Holy Ghost, more lovely and loving, more effectual to regenerate their fallen nature, and to lead them more effectually to Christ: or, in short, another Gospel, which contained more glad tidings, than he had preached; there might be a cause for suspending their attention to him. The Apostle stated the argument in this manner, by way of making it, the more manifest to their own hearts, how very weak, and childish it must have been in them, to pause for a moment over the reception of such a Gospel as he had brought for them, in proclaiming God's Christ, and God's Spirit, in all the fulness of grace, mercy, and salvation.
I pause, at what the Apostle saith concerning the transformation of Satan into an angel of light, to make a short observation, which may not be improper, Satan hath no power, to act as an angel of light; for by his apostacy, he is become an angel of darkness, Jude 1:6 . But in his temptations, as in his first lie to Eve, he put on the appearance of meaning good, when the most desperate evil he intended; so in all his after temptations on our nature, his devilish sagacity will assume sometimes the most specious appearances of light, like the shining bogs of the earth, to decoy the incautious traveler into utter darkness; when his whole design is ruin, and destruction, And the Apostle explains what he saith in allusion to Satan, by exemplifying it in the conduct of his ministers. Who more zealous, more apparently earnest for the divine glory, than those who hold forth the importance of a good life, as they call it? What volumes upon volumes have been published, and sermons upon sermons preached, in insisting upon good works, as among the means of salvation? What multitudes of studied compositions have been, still are, and must continue to be, as long as men untaught and unsent of God, minister in holy things, sent forth into the world, which like the heathen moralist descant upon the loveliness of virtue, and recommend men to follow after it in order to obtain the favor of God? And indeed, if such preachers of virtue and moral goodness, as they call it, had hearers of pure and virtuous hearts, able to the performance; (though even in this case, it would be totally, foreign to the Gospel of Christ;) there would be nothing cruel or offensive in such preaching and doctrine. But when it be considered, that all men are guilty, sinful, and stand, condemned before God; that none of the sons, or daughters of Adam, have any power of themselves to any one act of goodness; such Preachers are like the Physicians Job speaks of: forgers of lies, and physicians of no value, Job 13:4 . How different are all such to Paul's preaching. And I brethren, (said he,) when I came unto you declaring the testimony of God; determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified: 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 . This was Paul's Gospel. And elsewhere he saith: If any man preach any other gospel, let him be accursed, Galatians 1:9 .
(16) I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. (17) That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. (18) Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. (19) For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. (20) For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. (21) I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, I (speak foolishly,) I am bold also. (22) Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. (23) Are they ministers of Christ? I (speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. (24) Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. (25) Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; (26) In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; (27) In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (28) Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. (29) Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? (30) If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. (31) The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed forevermore, knoweth that I lie not.
I would pass over all personal considerations concerning Paul himself, in the catalogue of sufferings his Apostleship brought upon him, in order to make the subject more generally profitable both to myself and Reader, in gathering from the whole suitable improvement respecting the special exercises of the faithful, during the present time-state of the Church.
That the Lord hath been pleased, for wise and gracious purposes, to bring his chosen people into peculiar exercises, is a truth, too well confirmed in the scriptures of God, to need being insisted upon. That there is a needs be in them, both for the trial of those graces which the Lord gives them, and for their improvement under them, is most evident. This is spoken of in the book of the revelation twice with peculiar emphasis. Here is the patience and faith of the saints, Revelation 13:10 . See also Revelation 14:12 , likewise 1 Peter 1:6 . And there is not only conformity to the Lord Jesus in the appointments of this nature; but among other great objects intended from them, they minister, to shew the unceasing need we have of Christ. Reader! depend upon it, so deep and deep-rooted is the plague of the heart, by reason of the fall, that no man, and in the largest discoveries, hath ever compleatly learnt the whole of it during the whole life of grace, while here below. We must enter upon our eternal state, before that we shall have suitable and perfect apprehensions; either of our own desperate circumstances, by reason of sin, or of the infinite preciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, as alone suited to bring his people out of them. Job appears to have had ideas in exact correspondence to these things, respecting the use and appoint, rent of soul exercises. He knew that there was a depth of sin in the human heart, deeper than he himself could fathom. And he considered his exercises, as directed to help a poor sinner to this discovery, through divine teaching. Under those impressions, he cried cut, If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me. If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul. I would despise my life. What a strength of expression is here, of a mind deeply sensible of deep-rooted sin and transgression? And with what earnestness doth the holy mourner seem to be looking for deliverance from the whole power and guilt of it, in a resource not his own. If the Reader will read to the close of this quotation from Job, he will see how vehemently the saint of God was panting for the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only Days-man, or Mediator, which could remedy the breach sin had made, sanctify all the afflictions arising out of sin, and restore perfect order among all the works of God, Job 9:20 to the end, compared with Job 19:25-27 .
That Paul's apprehensions were similar to those of Job, is not to be wondered at, seeing both were taught under the same divine Teacher. And what the Apostle saith, of glorying in his infirmities, does nor mean the infirmities of sin; in that a nature sunk and fallen, and the subject of sin, was exposed to the consequences of it in suffering, but that those very distresses which arose from sin, and which the Lord brought him through, had the sweet ministry to lead to the Lord Jesus. And the Apostle, in the close of the account, looks up to him who searcheth the heart, in testimony, that he spake the truth as it is in Jesus. Faithful servant of the Lord! how graciously the Lord taught thee to extract sweet from bitter, and to feel the preciousness of Jesus yet more, from having felt in sin the greater need of Jesus!
(32) In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: (33) And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
We have an account of this gracious deliverance of the Apostle out of the hands of his enemies; Acts 9:23-25 . Paul's history is not given to us in one continued relation, but in fragments in the word of God. We know that he, was in his way to Damascus when the Lord Jesus called to him from heaven. And his immediate preaching Christ, brought upon him the indignation of the Jews. But the many escapes Paul experienced, some of which are recorded in the preceding part of this chapter, may serve to teach us how this faithful servant of the Lord went about in his ministry, with his life always as in his hand. But how blessed to hear him say; as he did to the elders of the Church of Ephesus: None of those things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God, Acts 20:24 .
READER! who can behold the warmth and zeal of the Apostle in his godly jealousy over the Corinthian Church, in their espousals to Christ, without feeling an anxiety and jealousy over our own hearts, in relation to our own? Shall not you and I be very earnest to know ourselves betrothed as chaste virgins to Christ? Hath Jesus indeed, notwithstanding all our poverty, loathsomeness by sin, and all the reproached state of the fall, married our persons, taken an interest in all our concerns, nourished us, cherished us, and with all the tenderness and love of the bridegroom, provides for all our wants, and forever doing the part of the most affectionate husband; and shall we not feel our attachment to One who hath so loved us, as to give himself for us? Shall Satan beguile our hearts as he did Eve? Shall any temptation lead away from the beautiful simplicity that is in Christ?. Oh! thou glorious and all-sufficient Savior! In thee is a fulness and an all-sufficiency of the most complete salvation! In thee God is well pleased t. So Lord may be all thy people.
And if any come and preach another Jesus! if any speak of another Spirit, another Gospel, Oh! may the Lord silence all false teachers, all false Apostles. Lord, in compassion to the souls of men, stop the mouths of those, which run unsent of thee. And whatever specious garb they come under, though transformed as angels or light; yet, whatever tends not to honor Christ, let all thy faithful servants be kept from their delusion, and be enabled to resist their deceitful wiles. If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha! Oh! for grace to be kept from all evil, and all the malice of the foe, as Paul, let down by the wall, and escaping their hands. And, oh! for grace in spirituals, to be kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24