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The Apostle prosecutes the Subject of his Epistle in this Chapter. Very blessedly he speaks the inmost Feelings of his Soul, and finds cause to bless God, for causing him always to triumph in Christ.
(1) But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. (2) For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? (3) And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. (4) For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. (5) But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. (6) Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. (7) So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. (8) Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. (9) For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. (10) To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; (11) Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (12) Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, (13) I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
The greater part of the subject, connected with those verses, is of a personal nature, and hath reference to some events, which took place in the Church of Corinth, which the Apostle had thought it necessary to reprove. But with that tenderness which distinguished Paul's character, fearing he might have used more sharpness, than the persons conceived necessary, he here aims to soften all the former asperity, and to sooth their minds with love. Our great improvement from the passage will be to observe, how much grace, and wisdom it requires, in cases of Church government, to know how to temper suited firmness in reprehension, with tenderness and compassion; lest, as the Apostle saith, Satan should take advantage of the corruption of the mind, and stir up schism in the Church of God.
(14) Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. (15) For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: (16) To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? (17) For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
There is an infinite extent of subject, opened in these words. Triumph in Christ, and always to triumph in Christ, not only runs through the whole time-state of the Church; but reacheth into thee eternal world, and being always, the same source for triumph in Christ must be endless also. The Reader will indulge me I hope, with trespassing in some little portion upon his time, to speak of a few at least, of those very blessed and precious views, which arise therefrom.
And, first. Paul thanks God for those triumphs in Christ. And well he might: for very evidently, the whole Persons of the Godhead have concurred in affording cause for those holy joys in Christ, which are so great, so blessed, and so everlasting.
God the Father, in constituting Christ in his headship to the Church, hath opened a source of unspeakable delight, in all that Christ, as Christ is; in all that he hath done, is doing, and will to all eternity do, for his Church, and his people; and in all the relationships in which he stands, to his body the Church, being the fulness that filleth all in all. In the great office-character which the Scriptures represent, of God the Father, we contemplate Christ, as the gift of God; in whom the Church was chosen, and, to whom the Church was given, and by whom the Church is everlastingly blessed and sanctified. So that while the Church triumphs in Christ, and must forever triumph in Christ, it is truly delightful to eye the love of God the Father, in the appointment and blessing, and making happy the Church in Christ, through the whole time-state of the Church, , and to all eternity. And, it is one of the highest felicities in a life of faith, to be enabled by grace, to keep up, and maintain holy communion, and fellowship with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ; in eyeing God the Father's love in this Covenant-transaction, in, and through, and with Christ from everlasting. I have! said (said Jehovah) mercy shall be built up forever. How is this accomplished? The Lord adds: I have made a Covenant with my chosen, Psalms 89:2-3 .
In like manner, God the Holy Ghost, in his office-work, in Covenant-engagements, becomes an equal source, in causing the Church to triumph in Christ; both in his unction on the Person of Christ, and the anointing of his members. By his regenerating; illuminating, and quickening influences, in the souls of the people, gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. So that, when at any time, a child of God is triumphing in Christ, it is by the immediate work of God the Spirit. He takes of the things of Christ, and sheweth to us. His great work is to comfort the Lord's people; by giving then sweet, and precious apprehensions of Christ's fulness, suitableness, and all-sufficiency, and their interest therein. And thus, by opening to the Church's view, the love, and grace, and compleatness of Jesus and drawing out the soul, in acts of faith upon Christ's Person, and blood, and righteousness; he begets a joy and peace in believing, whereby the believer abounds in hope, and always triumphs in Christ.
And, with respect to God the Son in his gracious office of God-Man-Mediator; everything in Christ, and belonging to Christ, opens a source of continual triumph. The Church glories, in his Person, as God-Man-Mediator; glories in his Headship; and as her Husband, Surety, Brother, Redeemer, Advocate, Friend. Every act of Christ, every miracle of Christ, perfection of Christ, promise of Christ, word of Christ; in short, all of Christ, and in Christ, and from Christ, open unceasing causes of triumph, and joys. Hence, the Church in one of her hymns exults, and sings: I will love thee, 0 Lord my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, the horn of my salvation, and my high tower, Psalms 18:1-2 .
But, while we contemplate the security the Church hath, from all the Covenant-engagements of the whole Persons of the Godhead for unceasing triumphs in Christ; we must not overlook what Paul hath added, of making manifest the sweet savor of his Name in every place. This forms a beautiful and refreshing view of Jesus; and I beg the Reader's indulgence for a moment, to dwell upon it.
The Church felt the blessedness of this, when she said to her Lord: because of the savor of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth. Song of Solomon 1:3 . And very certain it is, that when at any time, from the grace and unction of the Holy Ghost, the Person of Jesus is made manifest to the souls of his people; the savor of this knowledge becomes more fragrant, and yields a richer perfume than all the spices of the East. everything in Christ becomes precious. His double nature, as Emmanuel, God and Man in one Person, the wonder of Heaven and of earth, hath such a blessedness in it, that whenever God the Holy Ghost maketh manifest the knowledge of it in the heart, it begets a joy unspeakable and full of glory. Reader! hath the Lord the Spirit made manifest the sweet savor of it to your soul? Yes! if so be, from a thorough conviction, wrought by the Lord, both of Christ's Godhead, and his Manhood, your apprehension of Him is such as to look up to him in the union of both, as the Lord your righteousness.
As God, the savor of such a knowledge enables you by faith to be well assured, that all he is, and all he hath done, and all he is now doing, and all he, stands engaged to do, is, and cannot but be effectual, because he is God. Hence his betrothing the Church from everlasting, is unalterable, unchangeable, and forever, Hosea 2:19 . The whole work, in the time-state, when he offered himself a sacrifice, must be effectual: for by that one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified, Hebrews 10:14 . His righteousness fully competent to justify his Church and people; his blood to cleanse them; his Person to bear them up, through all the time-state of their continuance on earth; and to bear them on, through all the swellings of Jordan; and bear them in, to his everlasting kingdom: because he is God.
And as he is man, there is an infinite sweetness in this nature united to his Godhead, which gives a savor of loveliness, and affection, to endear him to his people; that the souls of the redeemed find a confidence to go to him for all they stand in need of, since they go to one that is of their own nature, who knoweth their feelings by his own; and in the administration of mercy, doth it in such a way, that while it is the mercy of God, whereby it is everlasting, and cannot be exhausted, it is also the kindness and fellow feeling of the man, and such as one man might be supposed, if he knew all cases of need as Christ doth, to manifest to another. Reader! what are your views of this representation of Jesus? Can you express Paul's words from the same cause, and thank God, who always causeth you to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge, in your heart?
I pray the Reader to pause, over the scripture which follows, in the relation Paul gives of his ministry, that it became unto God a sweet savor in Christ in them that are saved, and in them that perish. As we read the solemn, but precious words, the people of God rejoice; but they rejoice with trembling. The sentence is like the pillar of the cloud in the camp of Israel. To God's people, light, and life, and joy. To the enemies of our God and of his Christ, darkness, death, and sorrow, Exodus 14:19-20 .
In them that are saved (saith the Apostle,) we are a sweet savor of Christ. Sweet indeed! For what can be so grateful to the children of God, chosen in Christ, when gathered out of the offences of a fallen, sinful, and loathsome nature; to have all the fragrant graces of the Spirit manifested to their consciences, and shed abroad in their hearts, to the acknowledgment of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge: and to behold their compleatness in Him ? Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:10 .
And I pray the Reader to remark, unto whom those that thus minister in divine things are said to be made this sweet savor. It is unto God. Yes! for their commission is from Him and their ministry is unto His glory. It is the Lord that makes them this sweet savor. For in themselves they are nothing. They have an unsavoriness of corruption by reason of sin, as well as those they minister unto. And, what they minister is not their own, but the Lord's. It is Jesus they hold forth to his people, to whom they are a sweet savor; because his suitableness, and all-sufficiency for salvation in his blood and righteousness, become very precious when the poor lost soul, through divine teaching discovers, that there is salvation in no other; neither is there any other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, Acts 4:12 .
But it is said also, that they are a sweet savor of Christ, not only in them that are saved, but in them that perish. Yes! For the sweet savor of Christ loseth nothing of its flagrancy because men despise it. God's justice, and wisdom, in redemption by Christ, are everlastingly displayed, and even upon sinners themselves, who reject such great salvation. For we are taught, that God's glory will be as compleatly manifested at the last day, in the destruction of sinners, as in the salvation of saints, Psalms 110:0 throughout; Ephesians 1:10 . And the sweet savor of Christ will then be fully manifested. It was with an eye to the same doctrine that Joshua said unto Achan in the moment of his destruction: My son! give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him, Joshua 7:19 . And most unquestionably, the divine glory is, and must be, as fully displayed in the administration of his justice, as in his mercy. Christ therefore is a sweet savor of Jehovah's wisdom, sovereignty, and rectitude, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. And well might Paul sum up the solemn account with demanding: who is sufficient for these things? Who indeed can be competent to form a single thought by way of explaining, how it is that some should have their spiritual senses called forth into exercise, so that Christ's name, Person, blood, righteousness; yea, all and everything in Christ, and belonging to Christ, become more precious, than thousands of gold and silver: whilst others hate his name, his people, and all the precious doctrines of salvation. Who is sufficient to discover the cause? And how shall it be accounted for, but by referring it unto the sovereign will, and pleasure of God! One line of our dear Lord's, sweetly settles the point, and, properly considered, silenceth every objection: Even so, Father! for so it seemed good in thy sight, Matthew 11:26 . But Reader! shall not you and I, if so be the Lord by his grace hath made Christ a sweet savor of life unto life, to our souls; shall not we find cause to cry out with the wondering Apostle, and say as he did: Lord! how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? John 14:22 .
READER! may the Lord give grace to fix our eyes, our hearts, our whole souls, upon the person of Jesus until like Paul we can, and do cry out, with the same full assurance of faith: Now, thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. Oh! the blessedness of having the sweet savor of his knowledge, always upon the mind! And do we not know, that from being secretly made one, in the members of his mystical body, the persons of all his redeemed are so secured, in all the blessed effects of his blood, and righteousness, that there is an everlasting cause to triumph in Him, amidst all the discouragements we meet with in ourselves.
And, oh! Almighty God and Father! when I consider, that it is unto thee, Christ is a sweet savor, in them that are saved, and in them that perish; oh! how refreshing to my soul is the blessed consideration, that all Christ is, and all our enjoyments in Christ are; thy love is in all. And God the Spirit, no less brings home my Lord, the Lord of life and glory to my affection, and gives me to rejoice, in hope of the glory of God. Again, again I say; nor shall the sweet words cease, until I come to see my God in glory: Now thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30