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With this chapter begins the last great section of the Epistle (verse 1-2 Corinthians 13:10), which contains an impassioned vindication of the apostle's position as compared with that of his opponents. It is so much more vehement and severe than the former part of the Epistle, and the whole style and tone of the Epistle at this point change so completely, that many have supposed that this is in reality another letter, and some have even identified it with the letter alluded to in 2 Corinthians 7:8-12. There is no trace of external evidence in favour of this view. It is much more probable that St. Paul would here have ended his letter but for fresh information given him by Titus, or the arrival of some new messenger from Corinth, from whom he learnt the bitter way in which his enemies spoke of him. The most flagrant offender seems to have been one teacher from Jerusalem (verses 7, 10, 11, 12, 18; 2 Corinthians 11:4). This man and his abettors and other party opponents spoke of St. Paul as mean in aspect (verses 1, 10), untutored in speech (2 Corinthians 11:6), bold at a distance and cowardly when present, a man of mere human motives (verse 2), and not quite sound in intellect (2 Corinthians 11:16, 2 Corinthians 11:17, 2 Corinthians 11:19). They had been introducing new teaching (2 Corinthians 11:4), and had shown themselves boastful (verse 7), insolent, rapacious, violent (2 Corinthians 11:20, 2 Corinthians 11:21), intrusive (verse 15), and generally dangerous in their influence (2 Corinthians 11:3), which had succeeded in alienating from St. Paul the minds of many (verse 18; 2 Corinthians 11:8, 2 Corinthians 11:20; 2 Corinthians 12:13, 2 Corinthians 12:14). Such accusations and such conduct now roused the deep indignation of St. Paul, and his Apologia pro vita sua is mainly given in these chapters.
Plunging at once into his subject, with a solemn appeal, he declares his apostolic power (verses 1-8), and that he will exercise it in person as well as by letters, in answer to the taunt of his opponents (verses 9-11). He then shows that his estimate of himself is formed on very different methods from those of his adversaries (verses 12-16), and that he referred all grounds of boasting solely to the judgment of God (verses 17, 18).
2 Corinthians 10:1
Now I Paul myself. The words, as Theodoret says, express the emphasis of apostolic dignity. He is going to speak of himself and for himself. "I, the very Paul, with whose name you make so free." The conjecture may not even be impossible that this portion of the letter may have been written with his own hand. Perhaps he began without any intention of writing more than a few concluding words, but he was carried away by his feelings, and the subject grew under his hands (comp. Galatians 5:2; Ephesians 3:1; Philemon 1:19). Beseech; rather, exhort. By the meekness and gentleness of Christ. The conduct which he is obliged to threaten might seem incompatible with this meekness and gentleness (Matthew 11:29, Matthew 11:30). It was not really so, because even Christ had been compelled at times "to burst into plain thunderings and lightnings." Still, severity and indignation were not in themselves after the inmost heart and will of Christ, though human perversity might compel love itself to assume such tones. He entreats them, however, not to force him to stern measures. Gentleness. The word epiekeia means "fairness, forbearance, sympathetic consideration for others," or, as Mr. Matthew Arnold prefers to render it, "sweet reasonableness" (see Acts 24:4; Philippians 4:5; James 3:17; 1 Peter 2:18). Who in presence, etc. Here, and in many similar passages of this section, he is evidently adopting or quoting the actual taunts of his adversaries. In modern times the words would be enclosed in inverted commas. Base; rather, humble (see note on 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 12:7). Being absent am bold. The charge, if true, would have been the mark of a coward; and it naturally awakens an indignant echo in the language of St. Paul.
2 Corinthians 10:2
I beseech you. The "beseech" is here right (deomai). The "you" is not in the Greek, but is rightly supplied. It rests with them to avert the necessity of personal severity, and he entreats them to do so. Against some. He leaves these undefined till the vehement outburst of 2 Corinthians 11:13, 2 Corinthians 11:14. As if we walked according to the flesh (see note on 2 Corinthians 5:16). To say this of St. Paul was to charge him with being insincere and not disinterested.
2 Corinthians 10:3
We walk in the flesh. St. Paul does not disclaim the possession of human infirmities, but maintains that such trials and temptations were not the guiding force of his life. We do not war after the flesh. His campaigns (Luke 3:14) were fought with spiritual weapons. The metaphor is a constant one with St. Paul (2 Corinthians 2:14-16; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Ephesians 6:10-17, etc.).
2 Corinthians 10:4
Weapons (see 2 Corinthians 6:7; Romans 6:13). Not carnal. He did not rely on the mere "arm of flesh," or on earthly sword or panoply. Mighty through God; literally, powerful for God; i.e. either
(1) powerful for the cause of God, or
(2) powerful in his estimate.
To the pulling down of strongholds. The word for "pulling down," which implies the entire clearance of an obstacle, is only found in the New Testament in this Epistle (2Co 10:4, 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:10). The word for "strongholds" is found here alone. These "fortresses" were the opposition aroused by factious and hostile partisans, and he hoped to subdue them by the strong exercise of apostolic authority (lCo 4:21; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5). Dean Stanley suggests a reminiscence of the hundred and twenty Cilician fortresses pulled down by Pompey; but I think that these general allusions are often pressed too far.
2 Corinthians 10:5
Casting down. This agrees with "we" understood, not with "weapons." Imaginations; rather, disputations, or reasonings. Every high thing that exalteth itself; rather, every height that is exalted. Against the knowledge of God (see 1 Corinthians 15:34). There, however, we have passive ignorance, here active opposition. Bringing into captivity. When the fortresses are razed, their defenders will be taken prisoners, but for a beneficent end. Every thought. Even intellectual result. The word (noema) is not common in the New Testament. It occurs five times in this Epistle (2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 3:14; 2Co 4:4; 2 Corinthians 10:5; 2 Corinthians 11:3), but elsewhere only in Philippians 4:7.
2 Corinthians 10:6
Being in a readiness; i.e. being quite prepared. My sternness of purpose is ready, but my hope is that it may not be called into action. To revenge; rather, to do justice upon. In any case, in this infliction of justice, whatever form it might take, he would only be an agent of God (Romans 12:19). When your obedience is fulfilled. St. Paul is confident that he will overcome the mazes of those opposed to him, and win them to Christ's obedience; but if there were any who should obstinately refuse to submit, they must be reduced to submission by action, not by words.
2 Corinthians 10:7
Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? Like many clauses in this section, the words are capable of different interpretations. They might mean,
(1) as in the Authorized Version, "Do you judge by mere externals?" or,
(2) "You judge by things which merely lie on the surface!" or,
(3) "Consider the personal aspect of the question." The Authorized Version is probably right (comp. John 7:24). If any man. Perhaps alluding to some party ringleader. That he is Christ's. If a man holds this in an exclusive and partisan sense (1 Corinthians 1:12). Some manuscripts (D, E, F, G) read, "a slave of Christ." Of himself. The true reading is probably ἐφ ), not ἀφ ), but in either ease the meaning is, "by his own fair judgment." Even so are we Christ's. In a true and real sense, not by external knowledge and connection (which he has already disclaimed), but by inward union. This he proceeds to prove by the fact that he was the founder of their Church (2 Corinthians 10:13-18); that he had always acted with absolute disinterestedness (2 Corinthians 11:1-15); that he had lived a life of toil and suffering (2 Corinthians 11:21-33), and that he had received special revelations from God (2 Corinthians 12:1-6).
2 Corinthians 10:8-11
Assertion of his intentions.
2 Corinthians 10:8
Should boast. In this section St. Paul is thoroughly haunted by this word. The fact that a word could thus possess and dominate over his style and imagination shows how deeply he was moved. The Corinthian Church, with its inflated factions and their fuglemen, recked with beasting, and St. Paul is driven, with utter distaste, to adopt in self-defence language which, to the uncandid and indiscriminating, might seem to wear the same aspect. The word, which is unfrequent in other Epistles, occurs eighteen times in these chapters alone. Other haunting words are "tolerate," "bear with" (2 Corinthians 11:1-33 :l, 4, 19, 20), and "senseless," "fool" (2Co 11:16, 2 Corinthians 11:19; 2 Corinthians 12:6, 2 Corinthians 12:11); see note on 2 Corinthians 1:3. Somewhat more; something more abundantly. For edification, and not for your destruction; for building you up, not pulling you down. The word kathairesin is from the same root as the verb in 2 Corinthians 1:5. I should not be ashamed; rather, I shall not be ashamed. No shame shall ever accrue to me from my "boast" being proved false.
2 Corinthians 10:9
By letters; rather, by the letters. He had certainly addressed two letters to them (1 Corinthians 5:9).
2 Corinthians 10:10
Say they; literally, says he. The phrase may, indeed, imply "it is said" (on dit); but it may refer to one main critic and opponent. Perhaps it would have been wiser and kinder if no one had reported to St. Paul all these subterranean calumnies and innuendoes. Weighty and strong. This could not be denied, considering the immense effect which had been produced by his first letter (2 Corinthians 7:7). His bodily presence is weak. This is usually taken to mean that St. Paul's personal appearance was unprepossessing (Galatians 4:1). This, indeed, we should infer from many other passages (1Co 2:1-16 :34; Galatians 4:13, Galatians 4:14), and as a natural result of his "stake in the flesh." It is, too, the consistent though late tradition respecting him (see my 'Life of St. Paul,' 2:628). Here, however, the words may mean no more than that "he adds nothing to his cause by being present in person, since he shows vacillation and want of energy." Contemptible; rather, despised (see 1 Corinthians 2:3, 1 Corinthians 2:4).
2 Corinthians 10:11
Such a one. A formula used to avoid mentioning a special name (see note on 2 Corinthians 2:7). Such will we be; rather, such are we. The verb is not expressed, but it would have been if the future tense had been intended. In this verse St. Paul is not saying what he would do hereafter, but is rebutting with calmness and dignity the false charge that he was in any way different when absent from what he was when present.
2 Corinthians 10:12
We dare not. They are in this respect of self-praise much bolder than I. Make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves; literally, judge ourselves among or judge ourselves with. There is a play on the words, like the Latin, inferre or conferre, or the German, zurechnen oder gleichrechnen. That commend themselves. The verb rendered "commend" is that from which is derived "the commendatory letters" (2 Corinthians 3:1) at the arrogant and intrusive use of which he had glanced already. St. Paul is once more rebutting the charge of self-commendation (2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 6:11). But they measuring themselves…are not wise. The clause is difficult; for
(1) to compare ourselves with others in order to learn what we can and cannot do is usually accounted wise;
(2) some manuscripts and editions, omitting οὐ συνιοῦσιν ἡμεῖς δὲ, render, "But we ourselves (αὐτοὶ), measuring ourselves by ourselves, and comparing ourselves with ourselves, will not boast above measure;"
(3) some, for συνιοῦσιν (they are not wise) read συνίουσιν (with ourselves, who are not wise). The reading, however, of the Authorized Version is undoubtedly right, and most probably the rendering also. The meaning is that the little cliques of factious religionists, never looking outside their own narrow circles, became inflated with a sense of importance which would have been annihilated if they had looked at higher standards. Hence they thought themselves at liberty to intrude and lay down the law and usurp a claim to infallibility which there was nothing to justify. Such conduct is the reverse of wise. It is a mixture of selfishness, Pharisaism, and conceit, and there have been abundant examples of it among religious parties in all ages. St. Paul, on the other hand, keeps within his own measure, because he has learnt to adopt larger and loftier standards.
2 Corinthians 10:13
Will not boast of things without our measure. This might be rendered, "will not indulge in these immeasurable boastings;" but 2 Corinthians 10:15 points to the sense, "we will not glory beyond our measure." Of the rule; i.e. of the measuring line. I will keep to the province and limit which God has assigned to me in my proper mea- sure. St. Paul declines the favourite office of being "other people's bishop ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος)" (1 Peter 4:15). Hath distributed; rather, apportioned.
2 Corinthians 10:14
As though we reached not unto you. In including you within the reach of our measuring line, we are guilty neither of presumption nor of intrusion. Your Church is a part of our legitimate province and range of work (Acts 18:1, Acts 18:4). We are come as far as to you; rather, we anticipated others in coming to you; "we were the first to come as far as unto you." To St. Paul belonged the undisputed glory of having first introduced the gospel into the regions of Macedonia and Achaia.
2 Corinthians 10:15
That is, of other men's labours. Not to thrust himself obtrusively into spheres of labour which legitimately belonged to others was a part of St. Paul's scrupulously chivalrous rule (2 Corinthians 3:10; Galatians 2:9; Romans 15:20). It contrasted with the usurping arrogance of these Jerusalem emissaries. When your faith is increased; rather, increases or grows. He delicately implies that their lack of faith prevents the extension of his labours. He could not leave in his rear an unstormed fortress of opposition to the gospel. The spread of the gospel depends on them. We shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly. The Revised Version renders it more clearly, "We shall be magnified in you according to our province unto further abundance."
2 Corinthians 10:16
In the regions beyond you. Even to Rome and Spain (Romans 15:19, Romans 15:24, Romans 15:28).
2 Corinthians 10:17
But he that glorieth, etc.; literally, he that boasteth, etc. (see note on 1 Corinthians 1:31; Jeremiah 9:24).
2 Corinthians 10:18
But whom the Lord commendeth.
2 Corinthians 10:1, 2 Corinthians 10:2 - Self-vindication.
"Now I Paul myself beseech you," etc. Paul, as we have frequently intimated, had detractors in the Corinthian Church, men who sought to gain power by calumniating him. We are not in possession of all the calumnies. Paul knew them all. Throughout these two Epistles we find him constantly on the defensive; here again we find him standing up for himself. In his defence he manifests—
I. A STRONG DESIRE TO DEAL WITH THEM IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. "Now I Paul myself beseech [entreat] you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ." He seems to shrink from the idea of so defending himself as to act contrary to the mild and gentle spirit of Christ. Whatever I say in my defence, I would say in the spirit of him "who, when he was reviled, reviled not again." Thus we should always act, even in reproving others and defending ourselves; in all we should be actuated and controlled by the spirit of Jesus Christ. No reproof will go so thoroughly home to the heart of the offender as that which breathes and echoes his spirit.
II. A KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONTEMPTUOUSNESS WITH WHICH HIS DETRACTORS REGARDED HIM. "Who in presence am base [lowly] among you, but being absent am bold [of good courage] toward you." This does not seem to be the estimate he forms of himself, but the character which his slanderers had given him. In 2 Corinthians 10:10 it is so stated: "For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." It would seem that they spoke somewhat thus—flow bold and courageous this man is in his "letters;" but how mean and contemptible in his appearance and conduct! He here intimates that when he comes amongst them he would be "bold" and courageous. They shall know that I am no coward, and with indomitable fearlessness I shall administer the necessary rebuke.
III. A DREAD OF EXERCISING SEVERITY TOWARDS THEM. "But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh." It is the characteristic of a great soul, especially of a great soul inspired with the spirit of Christ, to shrink from inflicting pain on any heart. Yet when duty calls it must be done.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 - The true soldiership.
"For though," etc. The passage leads us to notice the weapons and victories of a true soldiership.
I. THE WEAPONS OF TRUE SOLDIERSHIP. The apostle states two things concerning these weapons.
1. They are not carnal. The word "carnal" here may be regarded as standing in contradiction to three things.
(1) To miraculous agency. Miracles, though employed at first, are not the regular weapons by which Christianity fights her battles.
(2) To all coercive instrumentality. The civil magistrate now for fifteen centuries has sought by exactions and penalties to force Christianity upon the consciences of men. Such weapons disgrace and misrepresent it.
(3) To all crafty inventions. In nothing, perhaps, has the craftiness of men appeared more than in connection with the profession of extending Christianity. What are the tricks of rhetoric, the assumptions of priests, and the claptrap of sects but craft?
2. Though not carnal, they are mighty. "Mighty through God."
(1) They are mighty through God because they are his productions. Gospel truths, the weapons of which the apostle speaks, are God's ideas, and those ideas are mighty—mighty with truth and love.
(2) They are mighty through God because they are his instruments. God goes with his ideas and works by them.
II. THE VICTORIES OF TRUE SOLDIERSHIP. What are the victories?
1. They are mental. Paul is speaking about imaginations and things pertaining to mind. They are not over body. There is not any glory in destroying the bodily life of man. The lion, the bear, a poisonous gust of air, will excel man in this. The victories of a true soldiership are over mind. And indeed you do not conquer the man unless you conquer his mind. If there be a future world, then the men you slay upon the battlefield may hate you in the great eternity with a profounder hatred than ever.
2. They are corrective. These victories do not involve the destruction of the mind nor any of its native faculties, but certain evils that pertain to it. What are they?
(1) The evil fortifications of the mind. "The pulling down of strongholds." What are they? Prejudices, worldly maxims, associations, passions, habits; behind these "strongholds" the mind entrenches itself against God.
(2) The corrupt thinking of the mind. "Casting down imaginations." The word "thinking" comprehends this, for the faculty which we call imagination thinks as well as the intellect. It is against evil thinkings, therefore.
(3) The antitheistic impulses of the mind. "And every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God." Every feeling and passion that rises against God. These are the victories of true soldiership.
3. They are Christian. They "bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Thought is everything to man. Now, the work of a true soldier is to bring this fontal force into entire subjection to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:7 - Paul's special power.
"Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?" These words point to two evils.
I. JUDGING FROM ATTENDANTS. "Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?'' or that "are before your face." The teachers at Corinth who were opposed to the apostle prided themselves on their external advantages, and regarded themselves as superior in appearance, rank, and manners to Paul. They judged from appearance, This judgment led them to regard Paul as their inferior. But was he inferior? Was he not, in all that is intrinsically excellent, in mental capacity, in spiritual knowledge, in Christly enthusiasm, and supernatural power, their superior, the very prince of the apostles? Men judged Christ by the "outward appearance," and how false, wicked, and pernicious their judgment turned out to be! The only true test is the fruit. "By their fruits ye shall know them;" fruits, not actions—which often misrepresent the character of the soul—but productions that are the natural, complete, and spontaneous outgrowth and expression of the leading moral principles of man's life. Because men judge from "the outward appearance," wolves in society pass for sheep, paupers for princes, devils for saints, churls for philanthropists, etc.
II. ARROGATING SUPERIOR CHRISTLINESS. "If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's." Whilst there were those in the Corinthian Church who said some of them were of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, there were some who said they were of Christ. They wished to be regarded as superior to all, as knowing more of Christ, being more intimate with him, having a stronger claim upon him. It might be that some of the members of this party had (not like Paul) been with Christ while on earth, had talked with him, walked with him, feasted with him, and of this they would boast. But thousands could boast of this who had no vital fellowship with Christ. There always have been men in Churches who have arrogated superior piety. I have known not a few, not distinguished by any spiritual nobleness, who were accustomed to speak of him as "my Christ," "my Saviour." "my Redeemer," implying that he was more to them than to others.
2 Corinthians 10:8-10 - God's gift of special power to man.
"For though I should boast," etc. These verses present to our attention God's gift of special Power to man. The "authority" of which the apostle here speaks was, in all probability, a supernatural endowment. Such an endowment be both claimed and manifested (see Acts 13:8-11; Acts 14:8-10; Acts 15:9-12). Having this power he was superior even to the ablest of his censors in Corinth, and he felt that should he "boast somewhat" of this there was no reason for him to be ashamed. The words suggest three remarks concerning such special gift of power to man.
I. IT IS UNDER MAN'S CONTROL. Paul's language seems to imply that he might or might not use his "authority" or power; it did not coerce him; it did not make him a mere instrument; it did not overbear his will or infringe in any way his freedom of action. God has given exceptional power to some men—to Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Peter, etc.; but in all cases it seemed to leave them free—free to use it or not, to use it in this direction or in that. The Maker and Manager of the universe respects evermore the free agency with which he has endowed his rational and moral offspring. We may enslave ourselves, but he will not. He will always treat us as responsible for all we do.
II. ITS GREAT DESIGN IS USEFULNESS. "The Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction." He gives power to men, not to pull down, but to build up. Usefulness is the grand end of our existence. We are formed, not to injure, but to bless our fellow creatures. Whatever endowments we have, be they ordinary or transcendent, all are given by our Maker to promote truth and virtue and human happiness through the world. Alas! how extensively men pervert these high gifts of Heaven!
III. IT IS NO PROTECTION FROM MALICE. Though Paul was thus so distinguished by signal endowments, he was nevertheless the subject of bitter envy and cruel slander. "For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible," Did the supernatural power with which some of the old Hebrew prophets were endowed shield men from the malice of men? How were Moses, Elisha, and Elijah treated? The fact is, the higher gifts a man has the more he is exposed to the malice of others; the more distinguished a man is in gifts and graces, the more he will arouse among his contemporaries the spirit of detraction and hate. It was so with Christ himself.
2 Corinthians 10:11-13 - The false and true method of estimating men.
"Let such a one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you." In these verses we have two subjects worthy of notice.
I. THE FALSE AND TRUE METHOD OF ESTIMATING THE CHARACTER OF OTHERS. "Let such a one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters," etc.
1. To judge by public report is a wrong method. It would almost seem that there was a general impression in Corinth that not only was Paul's "bodily presence" somewhat contemptible, but that his letters were not a fair representation of himself, that they displayed an elevation and a heroism of which the writer was destitute, and from this general impression he was judged and considered to be something of a boaster and charlatan. How common it is for people to judge those they have never seen by general report! But a miserably false standard of judgment is this. Not unfrequently have I received impressions concerning a person whom I have never seen, which a subsequent personal acquaintance has completely dispelled. As a rule, the public estimate of men, both in Church and state, is most fallacious and unjust.
2. To judge by personal knowledge is the true method. "Let such a one think [reckon] this, that, such as we are in word by letters… such will we be also in deed when we are present." The meaning of this seems to be—Wait until I come amongst you, and you will find that I am true to the character of my letters, that I will act out their spirit. A man's own letters, even when rightly interpreted, will not give a free and a complete idea of the author. The author is greater than his book, the man greater than his productions. One hour with an author will give me a better idea of him than I could obtain from all the productions of his pen, however voluminous.
II. THE FALSE AND TRUE METHOD OF ESTIMATING OUR OWN CHARACTERS.
1. The false method is comparing our own character with the character of others. "Measuring themselves by themselves." This the Corinthians seem to have done, and this, perhaps, is the general tendency of mankind. We judge ourselves by the characters of others. When we are accused we are prone to say we are not worse than So-and-so. A false standard this, because:
(1) The mass of mankind are corrupt.
(2) The best of men are more or less imperfect.
(3) There is only One perfect character—Jesus Christ.
In these words Paul indicates:
(a) That it is a terrible thing thus to judge ourselves. "We dare not [are not bold enough to] make ourselves of the number." Truly it is a terrible thing, for it leads to fearful issues.
(b) That it is an unwise thing thus to judge ourselves. Those who compare themselves with others "are not wise," or are "without understanding."
2. The true method is judging ourselves by the will of God. "According to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us." Though the apostle by the expression, "rule which God hath distributed," primarily refers to the Divine limits of his apostolic work, as will appear again, the "rule" applies also to his personal character, God's will is the standard or canon by which all characters are to be determined.
CONCLUSION. "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
2 Corinthians 10:14-18 - The true sphere of human usefulness and the source of human glory.
"For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly. To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth." Here are two subjects for meditation.
I. THE TRUE SPHERE OF HUMAN USEFULNESS.
1. It is a sphere in which we are placed by Divine appointment. Paul teaches that his sphere of labour in Corinth was according to the Divine will. "We stretch not ourselves beyond our measure [overmuch], as though we reached not unto you." As if he had said, "I am not come to Corinth merely by my own inclinations, or as a matter of impulse or caprice, or as an intruder. I am come here by the will of God. I am licensed by him to this sphere."
2. The consciousness that we are in this sphere is a just reason for exultation. "Not boasting of things without our measure." As if Paul had said, "My boasting, or my exultation, is not that I have entered into the sphere of other men's labours, but that I am in the sphere to which I have been divinely commissioned." The opponents of Paul, in Corinth, boasted of the influence they had gained in the Church which he himself had founded by his self-sacrificing labours, and whose members owed, either directly or indirectly, their conversion to him; whereas his rejoicing was that he was doing the work of God in the sphere to which he had been sent.
3. It is a sphere which widens with our usefulness. Although Paul felt that Corinth was the sphere to which he had been sent, he knew that the field would be widened according to his spiritual success. "Having hope, when your faith is increased [that as your faith groweth], that we shall be enlarged [magnified] by you according to our rule [province] abundantly." The increase of their faith would lead to an enlargement of his sphere of labour. The true method of extending the sphere of labour to which we have been sent is by the multiplication of our converts. Each soul which a minister bring to Christ enlarges the field of his usefulness, enables him to break up new ground still further on.
II. THE TRUE SOURCE OF HUMAN EXULTATION. In what did Paul exult or "boast"?
1. Not in crediting himself with the labours of other men. He did not "boast in another man's line [province] of things made ready to our hand." How common it is for men to credit themselves with the labours of others! We find this in every department of labour. In literature there are plagiarists, in scientific discoveries and artistic inventions there are unjust claimants, and even in religion one minister is often found to claim the good that others have accomplished. Paul was above this. The genius of Christianity condemns this mean and miserable dishonesty.
2. Not in self-commendation. "For not he that commendeth himself is approved" That conscience approves of our conduct, though at all times a source of pleasure, is not a true source of exultation; for conscience is not infallible. Conscience sometimes deceives. What, then, was his true source Of exultation? "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross."
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
2 Corinthians 10:1-7 - Change in the Epistle; spirit of his defense.
No one can fail to notice the change in the tone of the Epistle which appears in this chapter. Every thoughtful reader of St. Paul knows how abrupt his transitions frequently are, and how rapidly he digresses from his main point to something incidental to his topic. His mental associations are governed by two distinct laws—first, by ideas exciting feelings which lead him to diverge from his main line; and next, by emotions arising from some occult source that vary his action of intellect. In this instance there may have been a pause in writing after he had finished the subject of the collection. Naturally a reaction would set in. One of his excitable temperament could not have been relieved of oppressive solicitude, as he had been by the return of Titus, nor given such an expression to his joy as we have in ch. 8. and 9. without subsequent exhaustion of nervous energy. If, meantime, news came to him of the renewal of Judaizing zeal at Corinth, and of some sudden accession of strength to the party so inflamed against him, we can readily see why his indignation should be aroused. To have his hopes dashed in this way, in such a conjuncture and by such unscrupulous opponents, would put a terrible strain on a nature organized as sensitively as his, all the more so since a new era seemed about dawning in the history of the gospel. Europe and Asia appeared ready to join hands most heartily in the work of evangelizing the world, and just at this most auspicious period, to witness a fresh outbreak of discord was the severest of trials that could have befallen him. Whatever the cause, it was a sad thing for this noble spirit to be sorely chafed in an hour when it was rallying from an unusual depression and girding itself for special endeavours to cement the Asiatic and European Churches closer together. Here, in the very heart of Achaia, were agents from the Judaizing party at Jerusalem, who appear to have become more jealous than ever of his growing influence, and were heated to fiercer hostility against the apostle because of the recent triumph of his authority. While he was exerting every nerve to help the Church in Jerusalem, men from that very community were working in Corinth to disparage his ministry and undermine his personal character. It was shocking ingratitude. In itself it was rankling jealousy; in its connections, base partisanship. At that moment the interests of Christianity hung on the precise work he was doing. The liberal gospel he was preaching, the gospel of free grace and of equal honour and privilege to Jew and Gentile, was attesting its Divine excellence in the "exceeding grace of God" manifested by means of the abounding charity of Macedonia and Achaia. And yet all the promise and hope of this inspiring movement were thrown into the utmost peril by these fanatical zealots. Had he not felt this wrong keenly and resisted it courageously, he would have shown a want of manliness; for no character can have force that lacks indignation when its own integrity and a great cause identified with that integrity are ruthlessly assailed. It is under such circumstances that the true man appears in the way his sense of injustice operates. Quite as plainly the wise leader will display himself in the perception of what the emergency requires and in the decision with which his measures are executed. Now, the apostle is before us again as a study in this particular aspect of his character and ministry. Much as we have learned of him, something remains to be seen, and we may feel assured that the additional insight will amply reward us. The first utterance of his soul enkindles our admiration. Wronged, vilified, St. Paul appeals to the Corinthians "by the meekness and gentleness of Christ." It is not "we" but "I Paul," for he was the person singled out for these malicious attacks and he would reply from his own heart. It is not that sort of "meekness and gentleness" which craft and conventionality often assume to hide their art and malignity. It is the spirit of Christ, the meekness which acts by turning inwardly upon the mind and soothing its faculties, and the gentleness that exhibits itself in outward tranquillity. St. Paul cannot speak of these except as Christ's virtues. They are his; they have his life; they take their power and beauty from him. "I Paul myself"—his individuality emphasized in an unusual manner—"beseech you," at the instant when the lion was more likely to show itself in human nature than the lamb, that it may not be necessary for me to exercise my authority over these offenders. If, as my enemies say, I am base in presence among you and bold only when absent, I pray you not to let this matter go to such an extremity that I shall have to use "the rod." When one's courage has been challenged and his heroism derided, it is extremely hard for a brave man like St. Paul to forbear. But had he not said, "Love suffereth long and is kind"? Words were things to him and here was the proof of love, side by side with the irony that was not to be concealed. Would he announce an inflexible determination to punish? No; further discipline might be needful for him, further forbearance might be desirable in the case of his assailants; and all he ventured to affirm was, "I think to be bold against some." Who were the "some"? Evidently those who impeached his motives and openly reviled his ministry. How does he describe them? By the thoughts they entertained of him as an apostle. "They think of us as if we walked according to the flesh," referring to a course of conduct "determined by the fear of men or the desire of pleasing men, and hence a personal bearing disgraced by cowardice or servility. The human nature referred to was therefore one enfeebled, not merely from the want of Divine support, but from sin" (Lange's 'Commentary'). Such an opinion respecting the apostle indicates clearly enough the evil source whence it sprang. It happens often that the judgments we pronounce on others are most true in application to ourselves, and, unawares, we have disclosed what our own hearts are in estimating outside parties. A politician who is always charging other politicians with being demagogues is generally a demagogue himself, and the man who never hesitates to apply the epithet of a liar to others is quite sure to be a liar himself. But how does St. Paul meet the charge of being carnally minded in his high office? "Though we walk in the flesh [live a corporeal life], we do not war after the flesh," or "according to the flesh," the contrast being in the words "in" and "according." And forthwith he proceeds to show the difference between walking in the flesh and warring according to the flesh. A warrior he is, an open and avowed warrior—a warrior who was to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; a warrior too who would punish these Judaizers if they continued their disorganizing work; but a prudent and considerate warrior, deferring the avenging blow till "I am assured of your submission" (Stanley) "that I may not confound the innocent with the guilty, the dupes with the deceivers." What kind of a preacher he was he had shown long before; what kind of an apostle he was among apostles as to independence, self-support, and resignation of official rights in earthly matters, he had also shown; further yet, what kind of a sufferer and martyr he was had been portrayed. Step by step he had gone on with this faithful unfolding of himself, giving the most unique spiritual biography in the world of literature, and that too on no preconceived plan. How many aspects of his character had been sketched! The man as ambassador, representing the majesty of a glorified King, and labouring to reconcile a world to his Divine sceptre; the man as coworker with all the blessed ministries of earth and heaven; the man as philanthropist sharing the poverty of his countrymen in a far off city; and now the man as warrior, leading on his hosts to battle against alien spirits;—what a wide activity, how minute, how full, how varied, how comprehensive. At no point does this personal narrative draw its interest from self alone. Self is always subordinate. The biography interweaves with a history that infinitely transcends all private fortunes and all earthly affairs, and is nothing less than the history of providence in the development of Christian doctrine coincident with the work of the Holy Ghost in glorifying the ascended Christ of the Father. "Casting down imaginations." The reference is to reasoning or disputings of the natural man in the pride of his intellectual power. Yet they are imaginations, the products of the imaging faculty, the fond conceits of creative ingenuity. All these were religious beliefs or connected in some way with them, so that what the apostle said at Athens was true elsewhere: "I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious." Men who held these beliefs were earnest supporters of them and were always ready to defend their tenets. No matter in what province or city he preached the gospel, these disputants appeared. It was a battle on all occasions, and hence a battle figure, "casting down," or the destruction of bulwarks. Philosophy, art, manufactures, trade, husbandry, seamanship, military life, domestic life, statesmanship, were all intimately associated with these religious beliefs. Paganism occupied the ground. Or, if Judaism had found lodgment over the empire at every prominent centre of industry, it was the Judaism that had crucified Jesus of Nazareth. So then there was battle everywhere. The "wisdom of the world" and of "the princes of the world," backed by social influence and civil authority, was arrayed against the gospel. In the land of its birth, Christianity had nothing to show but a few Galilean fishermen, with a community of poor disciples, and behind these a malefactor's cross. In the lands to which it came on its mission of grace, it summoned men to repent of sin, to practise self-denial, to become new creatures, to abandon idolatries that were in league with lust and cruelty, and, in lieu thereof, accept a faith which demanded a pure heart and a holy morality. It could only make its way by "casting down imaginations," by telling men that they were deluded by sophistries, and further by destroying "every high thing" that exalted itself against the knowledge of God communicated to man by the revelation of the gospel. No compromise could be allowed; every thought was to be brought into" captivity" to the "obedience of Christ." What captivity meant they fully understood. It was a military word, and he uses such terms that they might have clear and vivid ideas of Christianity as a war, and nothing less than an exterminating war, on whatever stood opposed "to the obedience of Christ." The "weapons" he used were not "carnal." All the world knew his weapons. He made no disguise of them. Boldly, constantly, in every place, he proclaimed Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, nor had a mob occurred, nor had perils gathered about him, nor had Roman officers interfered for his protection, except on the single issue of preaching Christ crucified. No heathen would charge him with using carnal weapons. Philosophers of Athens, inhabitants of Lycaonia, Demetrius and his workmen at Ephesus, would make no such accusation against his ministry. Only the Judaizers had done this thing. Let them understand that these weapons were "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." Neither a false Judaism nor a colossal idolatry could offer any effective resistance to the gospel. Let these Judaizers know that his weapons were "mighty through God," and that in due time he would show "a readiness to revenge all disobedience." And let the Corinthian Church look deeper than the "outward appearance." To construe his manner of "meekness and gentleness" into imbecility and cowardice was not truth, but falsehood. And whence came this evil way of judging? Not from themselves, but from some wrong teacher who professed to have external advantages in favour of his teaching. Let that conceited man know that, if he is Christ's, so also am I.—L.
2 Corinthians 10:8-11 - Continuation of his defence.
What he had just claimed was no more than other apostles claimed. If he were to boast in stronger terms of the authority the Lord had conferred upon him, there would be no risk of personal shame by his overstating the matter. Power had been given, not for their destruction, but for their edification. It is his favourite figure once more—edification, building up, and that power should be used for this object. To terrify them by letters was not his aim; edification, not destruction, led him to write. By the admission of his enemies, the letters from him were "weighty and powerful." On the other hand, his "bodily presence" was "weak," and his "speech contemptible." This is the only notice we have in the New Testament of an apostle's personal appearance. Had it occurred in the case of St. Peter or St. John, we should have been surprised, but it falls in naturally with the order of events and the play of circumstances connected with St. Paul's apostleship. His call, position, and career were singular; the individuality gives a colouring to the minutest details of his life; and accordingly, as he was subjected to an exceptional kind and degree of criticism, even his bodily infirmities came under inspection and were made matters of public notoriety. By itself, this reference to his appearance would not attract more than a passing notice. Yet it has a broader meaning, since it serves to illustrate the fact that nothing about him escaped the closest scrutiny. Enemies in the Church, enemies out of the Church, officials, centurions, proconsuls, procurators, find something in the man to study, and their opinions of him come into the public thought of the day. The plan of Providence, we may infer, was that St. Paul should be well known, thoroughly well known, and that we should hear from both sides—friends and foes—all that could be known of him, even to his "presence" and "speech." He thought the matter of sufficient importance to recognize it so far as to say that, what he was in his letters, he would be in his deeds. Beyond this he has no concern about it.—L.
2 Corinthians 10:12-18 - Limits and labours.
Was the apostle a great letter writer only? So his enemies had declared; but he would not put himself among those who had no higher standard of what they ought to be than what they were, nor would he compare himself with such men. Instead of measuring themselves by a Divine rule, these persons thought it enough to measure themselves by themselves or by others; and this mode of judgment, originating in self and ending with self, was without understanding. Yet there was a measure, and he acknowledged it whenever ha thought or spoke of himself. If he referred to his labours, if he enumerated his sacrifices, if he cited his sufferings, it was not with any human standard in view, but in the sight of God and with respect solely to the sphere of activity to which God had appointed him as an apostle. Had he come to Corinth? Corinth had been given him of God as a field of apostolic effort. "The surveyor's chain" had laid off the territory, and he had traversed Macedonia and Achaia only because Providence had assigned the ground to him, and the Holy Spirit had inspired him to undertake the task. "As far as to you;" so far in the warfare of the West the campaign had extended, so far had he gone in the great fight of pulling down strongholds, and in demonstrating that the weapons were not carnal, but mighty through God. If he had reached Corinth as a place within the boundaries of his province, would he pause there? Was this the outer line of the vast battlefield? He hoped not. There he was only waiting till another territory had been marked out, and he should hear the signal to arise and possess the land. Was he looking across the sea of Adria and wondering when he should visit Rome? And when would that glad opportunity come? But one thing was clear to him just then, and this was that, if the faith of the Corinthians were increased, he would have his own heart enlarged, and be further endowed and qualified for apostolic labour. One moment, a glance at the Judaizers and their presumptuous occupancy of fields delegated of God to him (2 Corinthians 10:15), "not boasting of things without measure, that is, of other men's labours;" the next moment, a thought of new work so soon as the Church at Corinth should recover from its troubles and he should find it safe to leave them. Already his heart was burning to preach the gospel in the regions beyond Corinth, and "not to glory in another's province in regard to things ready to our hand." Observe how often this last idea recurs: 2 Corinthians 10:13, "We will not boast of things without our measure;" 2 Corinthians 10:14, "We stretch not ourselves beyond our measure;" 2 Corinthians 10:15, "Not boasting of things without our measure;" 2 Corinthians 10:16, "Not to boast in another man's line of things [see Revised Version, above] made ready to our hand." Two things here are noteworthy.
1. The apostle is willing and ready to wage the holy war in new territories. He is not tired of fighting the Lord's battles. Nor is he afraid of greater and more numerous enemies. Probably his eye was on Rome. If God will, he shall go further West. His weapons have been tried and proved. He himself has been tested. Grace has been sufficient. Cast down, he has not been destroyed. Dying, he has lived. The promises of God have been Yea and Amen to his soul, nor could any experience happen that would not bring the strength and consolation of Christ to his heart. How much he had lived and how rapidly! What years had been compressed into each year! Before the dilating eye of intellect, what vistas had spread afar in the light that brightened towards the perfect day! And then the blessed realizations, ability increasing perpetually, and capacity growing even faster so as to supply fully the expanding spheres of ability, consciousness of self enlarging as self in Christ, deep opening into deep, wonder springing afresh from wonder, and, with every victory gained by the weapons of his warfare, a larger assurance that, if he had been "mighty through God" at Ephesus and Corinth, he should be mightier still "in the regions beyond." Here is a most useful lesson to teach us what we are slow to learn, namely, that no natural endowments, no amount of culture, no inspiration of knowledge, no miracles wrought in his behalf, can set aside the necessity of Christian experience, a personal work of grace in the soul, a profound sense of that work as from the Holy Spirit, in the ease of one called to the highest office of ministration.
2. We see how we are, am Christians, "members one of another." Although St. Paul was so highly endowed and so remarkably successful in the apostleship, yet he depends on the Church at Corinth for his enlargement to the work opening before him in Europe. "We shall be enlarged by you." This was conditioned on their conduct. If their divisions were healed, their false teachers silenced, their energies set free from exhausting strife and concentrated on building up Christ's kingdom, would Corinth and Achaia be the only gainers? Nay; he himself would be liberated from restraints that clogged his feet. A fresh impulse would be given his apostleship. A new current of life would flow from their hearts into his heart, for it was not his working nor any other apostle's working, but the coworking, the hearty union of Church and apostles, the cooperation of the "diversities of gifts," the oneness of the mystical body of Christ, by which the world was to be evangelized. The schism that had been threatened between the Asiatic and European Churches was in a fair way to be arrested. Jewish and Gentile believers were getting reconciled to the peculiarities of each other; the collection for the mother Church at Jerusalem was doing much to effect this most important unity. Yet this is not before him now. Nor does he allude to the singular advantages of Corinth as to geographical location and commercial opportunities. Situated on a narrow strip of land between northern and southern Greece, and connected with two seas by its harbours of Lechaeum and Cenchreae, it was a great emporium of trade for the East and West, and hence offered extraordinary facilities for the diffusion of Christianity. No doubt St. Paul felt that it was a centre of commanding influence. But he was extremely cautious as to using local motives, and in the present case he made no allusion to them. What occupied his whole thought was the increase of grace among them as a Christian community, and to this he looked for a happy furtherance in his contemplated missionary, tour. If they were revived and consecrated anew to Christ, he knew well that, when obstacles were thrown in his future pathway, when persecutions even fiercer than those already undergone came upon him, they would afford him sympathy and assistance while getting foothold in "the regions beyond." Obviously a prevailing idea in his mind was that Christianity must have a central home in every great section of country, and thence draw its human supplies during its conquests of outlying territory. And he longed for the Corinthian brethren to attain a richer experience of grace, so that they might magnify his office. Instead of being independent of their fraternal support, the stronger he felt himself the more he leaned on their sympathies. Heaven never gets so close to a man that earth does not get closer also. How the blessed Jesus leaned on his friends in the Passion week! How he needed the chosen among them to watch with him in the garden for one hour! The weary days of the apostle had not yet come, and his soul was having glorious visions of apostolic work, but amid it all, the pressure of uncertainty was upon his hope, and he would gladly hasten away from the present scene of anxiety just as soon as Providence permitted. We can enter into his solicitudes. We can imagine how Kirke White felt when he wrote the closing lines of the 'Christiad':—
"O thou who visitest the sons of men,
Thou who dost listen when the humble pray,
One little space prolong my mournful day
One little lapse suspend thy last decree!"
And we can realize Dr. Arnold's emotions when he made the last entry in his diary: "Still there are works which, with God's permission, I would do before the night cometh; especially that great work, if I might be permitted to take part in it." So too we can form some conception of St. Paul's anxiety to widen the field of his ministrations, But he could not go alone; the heart of the Corinthian Church must go with him; and he must wait till they were sufficiently "increased" in "faith" to enter on the future enterprises of his universal apostleship. How humble in his greatness! Not what St. Paul accomplished, but what God accomplished in him, was his boast and commendation. This was his strength and glory, and therefore, "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."—L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
2 Corinthians 10:4 - Spiritual weapons.
The Apostle Paul was naturally of a combative, soldier-like disposition. Before his conversion this temperament displayed itself in opposition to the cause of truth, to the Church of Christ. After his conversion his warfare was directed against the error, sin, and evil that afflicted and cursed mankind. As a soldier of Christ he fought a good fight and gained an honourable reputation. In the text we have, upon his own authority, the acknowledgment and explanation of his victories.
1. THE NATURE OF THE WEAPONS CHRISTIANITY EMPLOYS AND SANCTIONS. It is evident from this and other passages that Paul did not place his main reliance upon the miraculous and supernatural powers which he possessed, and sometimes wielded.
1. Carnal weapons are disclaimed; e.g. the appeal to force of arms or of law; the appeal to the superstitious fears of men; the address to interest and selfishness, in the use of worldly policy and craft.
2. Spiritual weapons are relied upon. The truth of God, the gospel of Christ,—this was the arm in which inspired apostles were wont to trust.
3. These weapons are mighty. In fact, there are no means of combating error and sin, of promoting the cause of truth and righteousness, so powerful as those which are taken from the armoury of the New Testament. They are "mighty through God," i.e. their power is of Divine origin, the Holy Spirit accompanying them to the souls of men.
II. THE EFFICACY OF THE WEAPONS WHICH CHRISTIANITY EMPLOYS AND SANCTIONS.
1. They are mighty to demolish. As in warfare fortresses and cities are taken by a victorious army, and are then demolished, razed to the ground, so when the religion of Jesus went forth, conquering and to conquer, it attacked and brought low every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. Thus sin, ignorance, error, superstition, vice, crime, bigotry, malice, were again and again vanquished by the victorious energy of the gospel.
2. They are mighty to subjugate. Captivity was the common lot of the conquered foe. And as thoughts are the motive power of life, the gospel attacked these; and rebellious, disobedient, indifferent, ungrateful thoughts were captured, and, by the gentle but mighty force of Divine truth, were brought into subjection to Christ, whom to obey is liberty, peace, and joy.—T.
2 Corinthians 10:5 - The captivity of the thoughts.
Spiritual warfare is represented as leading to spiritual victory, and this as involving spiritual captivity. As the Roman general, having vanquished his foe and taken multitudes of prisoners, reserved his captives to grace his triumph, so the apostle, commissioned by Christ, regards himself as contending with all lawless and rebellious forces, and as resolved with Divine help to bring all such forces into subjection to his great Commander and Lord.
I. THE FORCES WHICH ARE BROUGHT INTO CAPTIVITY. Christianity does not contend with physical powers, does not aim at the mere regulation of outward and bodily acts. It strikes at antagonists far more powerful than any which are dealt with by the powers of this world. Thoughts, i.e. the desires and purposes of the souls of men,—these are the foes with which the spiritual religion of the Lord Jesus contends. Disobedient thoughts, selfish thoughts, worldly thoughts, murmuring thoughts,—these it is that the religion of the Lord Jesus assails. These are the source and spring of all the outward evils that afflict and curse mankind. If these can be mastered, society may be regenerated and the world may be saved.
II. THE SUBJECTION AND SUBMISSION INTO WHICH THESE FORCES ARE TO BE BROUGHT.
1. It is to the obedience of Christ, the rightful Lord of thoughts and of hearts, that the spiritual forces of humanity are to be rendered subject. A grand future is in this view opened up before humanity. The Son of man is King of man; and he will then ascend his royal throne when men's hearts bow loyally before him, acknowledge his unique spiritual authority, and offer to him their grateful and cheerful allegiance.
2. It is a willing captivity into which human thoughts will be led. In this it is utterly unlike the subjection from which the metaphor is taken. Not brute force, but the convincing authority of reason, the sweet constraint of love, the admired majesty of moral excellence, secure the submission of man's nature to the control of the Divine Lord
3. It is a lasting captivity, not temporary and brief. Whom Christ governs he governs forevermore. Time and earth cannot limit his empire. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.—T.
2 Corinthians 10:8 - Apostolic authority.
Paul had to contend with difficulties, not only from without, but also from within, the Churches. There were rivals to his authority and claims. It happened that sometimes these rivals met with a certain measure of success. And this drove the apostle into the assertion of his rightful position and demands.
I. THE SOURCE OF APOSTOLIC POWER AND AUTHORITY.
1. It was not in himself, in any personal gifts and qualifications, that this power lay. Paul was indeed by nature a highly gifted man; but he laid no stress upon his abilities. He was by education a man of learning and culture; but he did not rely upon his knowledge for his influence.
2. It was not in any human commission that Paul confided. A king commissions an ambassador; a university confers a degree and right to teach; a Church licenses and authorizes a ministry. But the apostles were forward to declare that they had not received their commission from man.
3. It was by the Lord Jesus himself that the apostles were empowered and appointed to fulfil their high office. If Paul was the latest thus to be commissioned, none the less did he receive his authorization from the Divine Lord himself.
II. THE SCOPE AND PURPOSE OF APOSTOLIC POWER AND AUTHORITY,
1. As negatively described, it was not for casting down, for destruction. The power of the warrior is too often employed for this end. And even religious leaders and rulers—popes, defenders of the faith, and others—have too often bent their energies rather to destroy than to save. The apostle had occasion sometimes to threaten that he would put forth his power to silence and crush the rebellious. But he had no delight in "casting down," neither did he regard this as the ultimate end of his ministry.
2. As positively described, it was for edification. We must understand by this the rearing of the structure of Christian doctrine, and at the same time the building up of Church life. And as doctrine is intended to produce results in character, and as every true Church is built up of renewed natures and holy lives, obviously edification is a moral and personal process.
APPLICATION. Apostolic power and authority give an assured basis for the faith of a Christian believer and for the teaching of a Christian minister. For the foundation is laid, not by human ignorance, but by Divine wisdom.—T.
2 Corinthians 10:10 - Letters, weighty and strong.
In this passage St. Paul records the impression which, according to his adversaries, was made by his personal presence and by his epistolary writings. Although the reference is to the feeling at Corinth as a result of his First Epistle to the Church in that city, the language applies to the apostle generally as a minister discharging his ministry by the pen. There was nothing commanding in Paul's appearance, and there were in his delivery some drawbacks to the impressiveness of his speech; but with regard to his letters, there was no room for difference of opinion. They were masterpieces, and their effectiveness was undeniable. In what does this effectiveness consist?
I. ST. PAUL'S EPISTLES ABOUND IN VIGOROUS REASONING. It is sufficient to refer to the First Epistle to the Corinthians in order to establish this assertion. On a doctrinal question such as the resurrection of the dead, on a practical question such as that connected with the sacrificial feasts, he proved himself a master of argument. As Christianity is a religion appealing to the intelligence, it has been wisely ordered that in its authoritative documents there should be much reasoning which commends itself to the wisest understanding and the soundest judgment.
II. ST. PAUL'S EPISTLES ABOUND IN MANIFESTATIONS OF THE FINEST FEELING. Far from sentimental, the apostle was yet a man of tender affections, of emotional susceptibilities. Take, for example, the panegyric of charity in his First Epistle to these Corinthians. Take the personal references to his friends and fellow labourers, to be found in most of his letters. Many readers or hearers, who were not capable of appreciating his argumentative power, would feel deeply the appeals to their best and purest sentiments. If we feel thus now, at this distance of time, and when imagination is necessary in order to throw ourselves into the circumstances in which these letters were written and read, how much more must this have been the case when all was fresh and recent!
III. PAUL'S EPISTLES HAVE PROVED THEIR POWER BY THE PRACTICAL RESULTS THEY HAVE PRODUCED. They were not written to be approved and admired, but to convince, to persuade, to induce to prompt and cheerful action in compliance with their counsels. And this result followed these documents when first perused. And every age attests their moral authority, and proves that their weight and power are still undiminished.—T.
2 Corinthians 10:17 - Glorying in the Lord.
Boasting is universally denounced as a petty and a vulgar fault. Yet it is a fault not uncommon. It imposes upon the unthinking and the unwary, but it awakens the suspicion and the distrust of those who have a larger experience of life. But in the region of spiritual service, boastfulness is a serious offence, not only against society, but against God himself. The apostle protests against it, and in this verse exhibits the true remedy.
I. MEN ARE TEMPTED TO GLORY IN THEMSELVES. What men have they are in danger of over estimating, and thus taking credit to themselves when no credit is due. Some glory in natural endowments, strength of body, or mental ability. Some in the accidents of birth or of fortune. Some in their position in society, etc.
II. FROM THIS TEMPTATION TO BOASTFULNESS SPIRITUAL LABOURERS ARE NOT FREE. Some religious teachers, preachers, writers, officials, pride themselves upon their "gifts," and the esteem in which they are held; boast of their credentials, their learning, their acceptance. If the persons to whom the apostle referred were the first, they were certainly not the last, of this order of men.
III. THE ONLY ADMISSIBLE GLORYING IS GLORYING IN THE LORD.
1. Christians may glory in the Divine grace to which they owe their spiritual position. This they do when they ask—What have we that we did not receive? Who hath made us to differ?
2. Christian ministers may glory in opportunity of service and in the Divine bestowal of ability for its fulfilment. The apostle felt that the Head of the Church had put honour upon him in commissioning him as the messenger of life to the Gentiles, and in qualifying him for a mission so sacred and glorious. Every bishop, pastor, and evangelist may well acknowledge the condescension of the Eternal in counting him faithful and putting him into the ministry.
3. All true labourers may glory in their success by attributing it to the Divine Author. Paul had abundant reason of this kind for glorying. He needed no letters of commendation; his own converts were epistles witnessing to his faithfulness and zeal, known and read of all men. Joy and thanksgiving, glorying and congratulation, may justly follow when Heaven has smiled upon the labourer's toil, and has suffered him not only to sow, but also to reap.—T.
2 Corinthians 10:18 - Commendation, human and Divine.
A good man's difficulties do not always come from avowed adversaries. It sometimes happens that those who are professedly upon his side trouble and harass him. So the Apostle Paul found it, for he had to complain of perils among false brethren, and he frequently had to contend with the undermining influence of those who disparaged his ability and authority, and asserted and praised themselves.
I. THE VANITY OF SELF-COMMENDATION ON THE PART OF CHRISTIAN LABOURERS.
1. Such a habit is a flaw in personal character. True dignity and self-respect dictate modesty in estimating one's self and reticence in speaking of one's self.
2. It has an injurious effect upon the ministry. They who commend themselves in words are not likely to commend themselves in deeds. The estimation in which others hold them is probably in inverse ratio to that in which they hold themselves.
3. It is displeasing to the Lord and Judge of all, who regards the lowly and meek and raises them up in due time.
II. THE LORD HIMSELF COMMENDS AND WILL COMMEND HIS FAITHFUL SERVANTS. He is not unjust; he is not ungenerous; he is not unmindful.
"All works are good, and each is best
As most it pleases thee;
Each worker pleases when the rest
He serves in charity;
And neither man nor work unblest
Wilt thou permit to be."
1. This commendation is bestowed here and now. In the success of the labourer is evidence of the approbation of the Master.
2. Hereafter shall be a public and pronounced commendation. In the day of account those who have done their Lord's will shall be accepted. "Then shall every man have praise of God."
III. IT IS NOT THE SELF-COMMENDED, BUT THE COMMENDED OF THE LORD, WHO ENDURE THE TEST AND COME OUT FROM IT APPROVED. Work is put to the proof; and not only the work, but the workman, is thus submitted to a decisive trial. If it be asked—Who stand the test, and are brought out with honour and acceptance? the answer is—Not the boastful, the self-confident, those who are loud in their own praise; but those who, by patient continuance in well doing, by diligent devotion to the service of the Lord, secure his commendation. Such shall abide in the judgment, and shall receive the recompense of reward.—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
2 Corinthians 10:1 - "The meekness and gentleness of Christ."
How different was Christ to
(1) the anticipations of the chosen people!
(2) the heathen conceptions of deity!
I. THE MEEKNESS OF CHRIST. Illustrated in:
1. His lowly birth. The manger prefigured the whole life.
2. His humble station. Highest in heaven, lowliest on earth.
3. His obedience to Joseph and Mary. Obedience was new to him. He was the Ruler, and yet he submitted to be ruled.
4. His manual toil. The Jews looked for a conqueror and saw a carpenter.
5. His endurance of scorn and insult. Scorn and insult were much more to him than they ever can be to us. Remember he was the adored of heaven!
6. His earthly poverty. He possessed all things, and yet bad nothing—not even a place where to lay his head.
7. His bearing before the Sanhedrim, Pilate, Herod, the soldiers, etc. How little and mean they must have seemed to him! and yet he did not crush them.
8. His submission on the cross. The infinitude of meekness! Nothing could transcend this. This was the culmination of a meekness which shone throughout the marvellous earthly life.
"Ride on, ride on in majesty;
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
Bow thy meek head to mortal pain;
Then take, O Christ, thy power and reign."
9. His burial. He went, not only to death, but to the grave. He lay in a borrowed sepulchre.
II. THE GENTLENESS OF CHRIST. Exhibited in:
1. His treatment of children. How immortal have those words become! how typical they are of the Christ heart, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me" (Matthew 19:14)!
2. His conduct towards the poor, the sick, the bereaved, the penitent. What compassion and tenderness! "A bruised reed shall he not break" (Isaiah 42:3).
3. His words. "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street" (Isaiah 42:2). Well might they marvel at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
4. His forbearance towards his disciples. Few things illustrate his gentleness more strikingly than this. How much had he to bear from those nearest to him! How gentle he was to the impulsive, blundering, often almost insolent, Peter! How gentle even to Judas!
5. His dealing with sinners. Except to the hopelessly hardened, upon whom gentleness would have been thrown away, and to whom it would have been an evil rather than a good. His general attitude towards the sinful is expressed by those memorable words, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29).
6. His care of his mother. History has no more touching incident than that at the cross, "Woman, behold thy son!" (John 19:26).
III. THOUGH SO MEEK AND GENTLE, CHRIST WAS FULL OF POWER AND MAJESTY, NO student of his life can question this; enemies and friends alike confess it. Force and noise are not synonymous. Silent forces are often mighty. To be meek is not to be weak. Simplicity, tenderness, humility, are marks of the truly great. These flowers grow upon the top of the mountain. A man who is ever anxious to "assert himself" usually shows how very little he has to assert.
IV. THOSE WHO BEAR CHRIST'S NAME SHOULD PARTAKE OF CHRIST'S NATURE. It is for us to be meek and lowly followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. When the apostle would be most forceful to the Corinthians, he claimed for himself these attributes of his Master. We are strongest when we are most like Christ. We shall be better, live better, worship better, work better, if we possess the "meekness and gentleness of Christ."—H.
2 Corinthians 10:4 - "Our weapons."
I. THEY ARE FOR USE IN THE GREATEST OF ALL CONFLICTS
1. Not a physical conflict. These are poor, of comparative unimportance, often very contemptible, can effect little.
2. Not for the destruction of men. What labour, thought, skill, genius, are expended by man for man's destruction!
3. Not a mere mental conflict. Intellectual battles are not chief.
4. A spiritual conflict.
5. A conflict in which the honour and glory of the Eternal are contended for.
6. A conflict in which man's highest interests are sought.
7. A conflict against evil in every form.
II. THEY ARE HERE DESCRIBED.
1. Negatively. They are not carnal.
(1) They are not physical. Physical weapons have often been used in the cause of religion, but always by mistake. Peter's blunder in cutting off the ear of Malchus has had many repetitions.
(2) They are not carnal, for they are not of man. The apostle did not carry on his conflict by using
(a) cunning and trickery in order to secure converts. Some unwisely think that, if converts be obtained, it is no matter how. But Paul desired to "strive lawfully" (2 Timothy 2:5).
(b) Nor did he rely upon human eloquence. He came not with "wisdom of words" (1 Corinthians 1:17).
(c) Nor upon human reason. Philosophical subtleties he discarded. He had a revelation, and, whilst willing to demonstrate to human intelligence that this was a Divine revelation, he then employed it, and hoped for victory only as the Divine Spirit blessed his efforts. The apostle preached the gospel by his words, by his deeds, by his spirit, by his life; and using these weapons he relied pre-eminently upon that supreme weapon, Divine power, to secure the victory.
2. Positively. Carnal weapons seem strong. They impress men. Paul's weapons, which are ours, are apt to excite ridicule on the part of fleshly men, who judge by outward appearance. But the apostle contends that these weapons are mighty. They have done what all others have failed to do.
(1) They cast down strongholds. By these Satan is hurled from his seats, from his fastnesses in the hearts of men.
(2) They triumph over sceptical human philosophies and false religions (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is the conflict between truth and error. Truth has won. Truth will win. Though these are high things exalted against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5), they find something higher and mightier in the gospel and in the accompanying power of God. They are but Dagons; before the ark they must fall.
(3) They make captive human thought (2 Corinthians 10:5). Illustrated in a true conversion. Thought is then dominated by Christ—no more a boastful foe, but a servant, a captive. The wise man becomes a fool that he may be truly wise (1 Corinthians 3:18). Pride, boastful and arrogant in the realm of human thought, is smitten—smitten to the death.
(4) They are mighty before God. Through God, but also before God, i.e. in his judgment. They come from his armoury. They are specially fashioned by him for this strife.
III. WE SHOULD RELY ONLY UPON THESE WEAPONS IN THE GREAT CONFLICT. Our strength is here. There are many temptations to use others. The devil loves to furnish us with weapons wherewith to attack his kingdom! With what strange weapons has the Church fought! No wonder the strife has so often gone against her. With what weapons are we fighting?
IV. WE SHOULD SEEK SKILL IS THEIR USE, 'Tis not enough to have good weapons, we must know how to employ them. The best weapons are the worst in unwise hands. We must enter the military school of Christ.—H.
2 Corinthians 10:7 - Judging from appearances.
I. A VERY EASY WAY OF JUDGING. A sound judgment often involves hard labour. Many jump to conclusions because the jump is so easy and so soon over. But a judgment lightly got may generally be lightly valued. Few things are more difficult than terming accurate judgments. The importance of correct judgment is, however, so all important that we should spare no pains to secure it.
II. A VERY COMMON WAY OF JUDGING. Surface judgments are popular. Many people are fatally prejudiced by appearance, whether good or bad; of the former they will hear no blame, of the latter no praise. We need remember this when we estimate human judgments generally.
III. A VERY PERILOUS WAY OF JUDGING. It leads to constant errors and evils. Note one or two.
1. Gentleness is mistaken for weakness. This was the case with the apostle. That which was kindest and best in him was esteemed a fault.
2. The physical and external are over estimated. The voice, manner, appearance, language of a preacher are unduly regarded. The "outward appearance" often goes for much more than the inward grace and power.
3. The flashy and dazzling are more esteemed than the solid and weighty. Sensational religion triumphs in the realm of shallow judgment,
4. The religious life suffers in comparison with the worldly. The deep, quiet, permanent joys of the former are unconsidered. The pleasures of the latter are thought to be as great as they seem: a fatal blunder.
5. God's dealings with us are misunderstood. He is often kindest when he seems most unkind. God's "No" is often a far greater good than God's "Yes" could be; but a hasty superficial judgment does not perceive this. We often complain most when we have most cause to bless.
6. The more striking forms of Christian worship and work eclipse other and more important. The shallow judgments of Corinth were all for speaking with tongues. "Prophecy" was little accounted of. "Giving money" is often attractive when true charity is not. The grand choral service is more popular than quiet consistent living. To be a "great preacher" is the object of ambition rather than to be a real teacher of men.
7. Christ was rejected and is today by those who judge according to the outward appearance. He is "a root out of a dry ground" to such; they have no spiritual insight. The Gospels which speak of him are full of inconsistencies to those who will not examine them. Yea, the Bible itself, which is one revelation of him, must be rejected by these weak surface judges. But what said he? "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).—H.
2 Corinthians 10:12-18
Boasting, wrong and right.
I. WRONG BOASTING.
1. That we excel some others. We are very apt, like some at Corinth, to compare ourselves with certain around us. This is measuring by a false standard, and measuring by a false standard is likely to lead to enormously erroneous results. The question is not whether we excel others, but whether we have attained to the measure for which God created and endowed us. The true measuring rod is not found in the stature, physical mental, or moral, of our fellows; the true measuring rod is held in the hands of the Almighty. If a man were to judge of himself by comparing himself with a mouse or a molehill, we should say he was a fool; and the apostle says, "They themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding" (2 Corinthians 10:12). It has been said, "The one-eyed is easily king among the blind."
2. That we possess what we are destitute of, and that we have done what we have not done. Wrong boasting is the twin brother of downright lying. The false teachers at Corinth boasted of gifts which they did not possess, and took to themselves the credit of other men's labours. It is astonishing what powers of appropriation the boastful spirit possesses. When a man once gets addicted to vain glory it is useless to attempt to predict to what excesses he will be led. He clears the barriers of truth as though they were straws. What he is, is what he can persuade people to think him; what he has done is what he can by any means induce them to credit. The braggart knows no restraint. His parish is the world—the worlds of fact and fiction rolled into one, and he is as much at home in the one as in the other. His domain has only one boundary—the credulity of his listeners.
3. That the praise of our good actions is to be ascribed to us. This strikes at the root of wrong boasting. A boasting which robs God must be of the devil, The man who knows himself knows that there is no good thing in him. If he finds anything good he immediately concludes that it did not spring from himself, and he looks about for the originator and owner. It is only the very bad who think themselves very good. If we are disposed to take the praise of our good actions to ourselves it is strong evidence that these actions were not really good. "Good" actions cannot be done by those who are so utterly out of true relation to God.
II. RIGHT BOASTING. This is boasting or glorying in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17). We may boast of God, and the more boastful we are in this direction the better. There will be no danger of running to excess; after we have boasted to our utmost we shall have fallen far short of the truth. Alas! few things are more uncommon than this boasting in God. Fallen human nature finds it easier and more reasonable to boast of the mud puddle than of the crystal ocean—of the dim rushlight than of the glorious sun.
1. We may well boast of the Divine perfections. Here we shall find an inexhaustible subject. The glories of our God will exhaust our powers of glorying. Whilst carnal men applaud their little gods, the saints may well extol Jehovah. "Who is a God like unto our God?" we may proudly cry. Pride becomes one of the chiefest virtues when it is centred in God. Christians are not half boastful enough in the right direction, and twice too boastful in the wrong. Shame upon us that we boast so little of our God!
2. We may well boast of the great redemptive work of God. So loud should be our boasting as to make all men hear it. Here the perfection of God finds highest and most beautiful expression. Here each Person in the adorable Trinity works a matchless work of grace and power. Upon us especially, since we are the subjects of redemption, rests the burden of boasting respecting it. This is our peculiar province of glorying. Of all creatures in the universe we are bound to this service. If we were silent, surely the stones would cry out. As God has wrought this great thing for us, we must never let men or God hear the last of it! What a subject for boast! Where is there aught that can for a moment compare with it? Boast, ye Christians, of redeeming love till all your powers of boasting fail.
3. We may well boast of God's work in us and through us.
(1) In us. When we joyfully recognize that we are growing in grace we must exult in the God of all grace. This thing is not of us, but of him. To him must all the praise be accorded. The "old man" within us is the child of our fall and our folly; the "new man" is God's special creation. Clearly should we realize this, and concentrate all our boasting in him from whom this "unspeakable Gift" (which is "Christ in us") emanates. Humility and abasement in respect of ourselves; boastfulness in respect of him who has wrought the marvel in us.
(2) Through us. To depreciate what is accomplished through us is but lying humility. Paul was not guilty of it. It is professedly abasing ourselves and really abasing God. When the work accomplished is undoubted, the only right course is to glory to our utmost in the God who has accomplished it. We must reserve no praise for ourselves, since we have deserved none; all the praise must be his. We need care, however, when glorying in God for what he has accomplished through us, lest, whilst ostensibly praising him, we should be covertly praising ourselves. There is a mouth of hell which lies near the gate of heaven. We must guard against feeding conceit by supposing that we are of ourselves instruments so fit that God could not have so well performed the work through others; or that through personal merit we are favourites of God, and that therefore he has specially wrought his will through us; or that, having been so honoured, we may now hold our heads high. Whilst extolling God we must abase ourselves; whilst boasting in him we must refuse to glory in the least in the unworthy instrument. That he has so greatly distinguished what was so greatly unworthy should but deepen and intensify our humility.—H.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
2 Corinthians 10:4 - Holy weapons.
One style of weapon for one kind of conflict, another for another. For the common battlefield, cannon and rifle with their horrid din, the bayonet, and the sword. For contests of opinion, weapons of argument and intellectual precision—writings, lectures, and debates. For successes in the sphere of spiritual thought and life, spiritual weapons mighty through God. St. Paul was much addicted to the use of military metaphors. To him a zealous missionary was a good soldier of Christ; a well-equipped and disciplined Christian was a man armed in the panoply of God. His own course of service in combatting errors and publishing the truth of the gospel was as the march of a warrior, nay, of a victor, triumphing in every place. So be regarded both the ordering of things within the Church and the aggression of the Church on the world around as parts of his military duty, in which he was bound to war, but not according to the flesh. There is still need to make war. On every side are obstinate hindrances to the gospel of grace, and to the health and peace of the Church. The most formidable of these are in the region of thought and feeling; strongholds of prejudice and self-righteousness, and entrenchments of unbelief. And those who propagate the gospel, and guard the purity and peace of the Church, must surmount those obstacles, or pull down those strongholds, so as to lead away the convictions of the delivered ones as happy captives to the obedience of Christ.
I. NOT BY CARNAL WEAPONS OR ANY FORM OF PHYSICAL COACTION. Though St. Peter drew his sword to defend his heavenly Master, he was bidden at once restore it to its sheath. When Pontius Pilate interrogated our Lord about his being King of the Jews, he received for answer, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight." Extremists have inferred from this language that the followers of Christ may not, in any circumstances, wield a weapon of war; but this is mere folly. The subjects of the kingdom of Christ are also for the time subjects of an earthly kingdom also, or citizens in an earthly community, and have the same natural and civil rights as other men, and the same warrant and obligation to defend them. They may not delight in war; but even to that dire extremity they may proceed if there be no other way to keep order and secure justice and liberty. To do otherwise would be tamely to surrender the earth to the most unscrupulous and aggressive of its inhabitants. But weapons of worldly warfare do not advance that spiritual power which is the highest of all; nor is it permitted to use them for direct furtherance of Christ's kingdom of the truth. This, of course, condemns all forms of persecution; and when we say, "all forms," we mean, not merely imprisonment, pillage, and death, but the imposition of civil disabilities, or social and educational penalties, or any abridgment of political rights. On all such coercive measures the gospel frowns. Equally inadmissible is the use of misrepresentation. Those "pious frauds" which have been practised and propagated for the supposed glory of God have been very carnal weapons. So are all the misleading phrases and cajoleries by which it is still attempted to draw men into adherence to some form of religion without conviction of the understanding or real allegiance of the heart.
II. BUT BY WEAPONS THAT ARE AFTER THE MIND OF CHRIST. See the catalogue of such weapons as they had been used by St. Paul at Corinth: "In pureness, in knowledge," etc. (2 Corinthians 6:6, 2 Corinthians 6:7). Come honour or dishonour in this world, good report or evil, with such weapons must all the soldiers of Christ be content in the warfare to which they are called. The strongholds they assail may make a formidable resistance, but nothing is gained by changing the spiritual weapons for the carnal. They are mighty in God's sight and in God's strength. Paul knew them to be so. With them, though he was but one man and a man reproached and afflicted, he had pulled down many strongholds and won many victories. It is not a simple question of conversion. The truth has many a struggle in the heart after conversion as well as before. When Jericho fell, the holy war of Israel was well begun; but there still remained many holds and fenced cities to be taken. So, when the first opposition is surmounted, and a sinner yields to the power of the saving truth as it is in Jesus, much is gained, but not everything. The work of grace has to be pressed further ere every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Little worldly stir or eclat attends the warfare of which we speak, but it awakens in heaven and through all the heavenly kingdom the liveliest interest and the noblest joy. There are shouts and Te Deums there, when evil is defeated and pulled down in the world, in the Church, in the breast of the individual man; when sinners repent; when rebels submit to God; when thoughts that were lifted up in scorn are cast down at the feet of Jesus, and affections that sin had beguiled and the pride of life enchanted, are fixed on truth, on duty, and on the things which are above.—F.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
2 Corinthians 10:1 - "The meekness and gentleness of Christ."
It is important to notice that this chapter begins a new section of the Epistle. St. Paul has hitherto been addressing the better, the more spiritual, portion of the Corinthian Church; but now he turns to the section that impugned his authority, misrepresented his conduct, and spoke evil things of himself. Olshausen says, "Until now Paul has addressed himself preeminently to the better intentioned in the Christian Church; but henceforth he addresses himself to those who had sought to lower his dignity and weaken his authority by representing him as weak in personal influence," as well as in bodily strength and consistency of purpose, "although courageous and full of self-commendation in his letters." Dean Plumptre says, "The stinging words which Titus has reported to him vex his soul. He speaks in the tone of the suppressed indignation which shows itself in a keen incisive irony. The opening formula is one which he reserves as emphasizing an exceptionally strong emotion (see Galatians 5:2; Ephesians 3:1; Philemon 1:19)." Conybeare indicates that the party with which St. Paul now deals was the Christian section of the Judaizing party—a section which, throwing off all authority, even though it was apostolic, declared that they received Christ alone as their Head, and that he alone should communicate truth directly to them. There is some ground for the supposition that "they were headed by an emissary from Palestine, who had brought letters of commendation from some members of the Church at Jerusalem, and who boasted of his pure Hebrew descent, and his especial connection with Christ himself. St. Paul calls him a false apostle, a minister of Satan disguised as a minister of righteousness, and hints that he was actuated by corrupt motives. He seems to have behaved at Corinth with extreme arrogance, and to have succeeded, by his overbearing conduct, in impressing his partisans with a conviction of his importance and of the truth of his pretensions. They contrasted his confident bearing with the timidity and self-distrust which had been shown by St. Paul. And they even extolled his personal advantages over those of their first teacher; comparing his rhetoric with Paul's inartificial speech, his commanding appearance with the insignificance of Paul's 'bodily presence.'" Conybeare gives a translation of verses 1 and 2, which effectively expresses the spirit in which the apostle began his pleading with this malicious party. "Now I, Paul, myself exhort you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—(I, who am mean, forsooth, and lowly in outward presence, while I am among you, yet treat you boldly when I am absent)—I beseech you (I say), that you will not force me to show, when I am present, the bold confidence in my power, wherewith! reckon to deal with some who reckon me by the standard of the flesh." Archdeacon Farrar says, "There is (in these closing chapters) none of the tender effusiveness and earnest praise which we have been hearing, but a tone of suppressed indignation, in which tenderness, struggling with bitter irony, in some places renders the language laboured and obscure, like the words of one who with difficulty restrains himself from saying all that his emotion might suggest. Yet it is deeply interesting to observe that the 'meekness and gentleness of Christ' reigns throughout all this irony, and he utters no word of malediction like those of the psalmists." By the term "meekness" we are to understand the habit of putting self aside, which was so characteristic of Moses, and the supreme grace of the Lord Jesus. By the term "gentleness" is not meant "softness of manner," but "fairness," "considerateness of the feelings of others." It indicates the habit of mind that is engendered by the practice of regarding the rights of others as well as our own. Meekness and gentleness belong to those passive graces which it was a great part of our Lord's mission to exemplify, to set in prominent place, and to commend. Bushnell speaks of the sublime efficacy of those virtues which belong to the receiving, suffering, patient side of character. They are such as meekness, gentleness, forbearance, forgiveness, the endurance of wrong without anger and resentment, contentment, quietness, peace, and unambitious love. These all belong to the more passive side of character, and are included, or may be, in the general and comprehensive term, "patience." "These are never barren virtues, as some are apt to imagine, but are often the most efficient and most operative powers that a true Christian wields; inasmuch as they carry just that kind of influence which other men are least apt and least able to resist." Considering St. Paul's naturally sensitive and impulsive temperament, it must have cost him much effort and prayer so to restrain himself that he could speak, even to such active enemies, with the "meekness and gentleness of Christ."
I. THE MEEKNESS OF CHRIST IN ST. PAUL. The word seems unsuitable for him unless we give it the proper meaning, which is—not self-assertive, willing to bear quietly, more anxious for others than for self. St. Paul was not even anxious, first of all, for his own imperilled reputation. The honour of Christ was involved in his self-vindication, and for Christ's sake he undertook it.
II. THE GENTLENESS OF CHRIST IN ST. PAUL. Save to hardened scribes and Pharisees, our Lord ever spoke softly and persuasively, or, at most, reproachfully. He, in his considerateness for others, would not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax. And nothing is more striking in the Apostle Paul than the gentlemanly delicacy with which he considers the feelings of others. His hand trembles when it holds the rod, And the words of reproof and reproach break forth from a grieved and troubled heart. F.W. Robertson says, "He vindicated his authority because he had been meek, as Christ was meek; for not by menace, nor by force, did he conquer, but by the might of gentleness and the power of love. On that foundation St. Paul built; it was the example of Christ which he imitated in his moments of trial, when he was reproved and censured. Thus it happened that one of the apostle's 'mightiest weapons' was the meekness and lowliness of heart which he drew from the life of Christ. So it ever is; humility, after all, is the best defence. It disarms and conquers by the majesty of submission. To be humble and loving—that is true life."—R.T.
2 Corinthians 10:3 - In the flesh, but not of it.
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh." This expression recalls the corresponding words of our Lord, with which we may assume that St. Paul was familiar. Addressing his disciples during thorn closing hours of communion with them in the "upper room," Jesus had said, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." And, in his sublime high priestly prayer, Jesus spoke thus: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." The thought expressed m the passage now before us seems to have been a cherished one with the apostle. He enlarges upon it in writing to the Romans (Romans 8:4-9). He speaks of "us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." He explains that "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." And he firmly declares, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." By "living in the flesh" we are to understand, simply our possessing this fleshly, bodily nature, with its frailties, limitations, and infirmities. By "living, or warring, after the flesh," we are to understand neglecting the higher dictates of the higher spiritual nature, and living as though the desires of the body were the only ones that needed satisfying. But the precise thought of the apostle here may be that he will not be moved against the evil party at Corinth by those natural feelings of indignation which their conduct towards him had aroused, but will reprove and exhort only upon the great Christian principles, and only in the Christly spirit. Self shall not rule even his warfare with such unreasonable foes. Christ shall rule.
I. THE CHRISTIAN POSSIBILITIES OF OUR FLESHLY CONDITION. "We walk in the flesh." God is pleased to set us in this human body, to give us this vehicle of communication with other men and with the surrounding world; and it is possible for us to win this body for Christ, to possess and rule it so that all its powers shall be used, and all its relations sustained, only in Christly service. In fact, the work of human life may be spoken of as this—winning our bodies and our life spheres for Christ. Our bodies, our fleshly natures, include
(1) natural faculties, such as eating and drinking;
(2) passions, affecting the relationship of the sexes;
(3) mental emotions; and
(4) powers of acquiring knowledge.
It is possible to dominate the whole machinery of the body with the sanctified and Christly will.
II. THE LIMITATIONS OF OUR FLESHLY CONDITION. It is not a merely dead machine that we have to move by the force of the regenerate life. Nor is it a machine in full efficiency and repair. If the figure may be used, the body is a machine of too limited capacity for the work which the renewed soul wants done; and even taking it for what it is, it is sadly out of repair, rusted and worn, so that we have continually to complain that "we cannot do the things that we would." Illustrate in St. Paul's case. The body would have so affected him, if he had yielded to it, that he could not have been noble towards his traducers at Corinth. The body would have urged a passionate reply. So we find the body such a drag upon the high and holy aims, purposes, and endeavours of the soul, that we are often saying, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
III. THE CHRISTIAN MASTERY OF FLESHLY CONDITIONS. This is precisely the discipline of life. Christ wins our soul. Christ regenerates our will. Christ assures us of his own spiritual presence as our inspiration and strength; and then seems to say, "Go forth, win your flesh, your mind, your body, your associations, for me, so that henceforth no fleshly ends are sought, and no carnal, self-seeking tone rests on any of your doings and relations." It is inspiring to find how fully St. Paul could enter into Christ's thought for him, but it is comforting to observe how very near he was to failure in his endeavour to gain the mastery over self, again and again. Through much tribulation and conflict only can any one of us gain the mastery of the spirit over the flesh.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 10:5 - Captivity of thoughts for Christ.
Probably the apostle makes special reference to the confidence of Christians at Corinth in their learning and philosophizing; "to the efforts of human reason to deal with things beyond it, the best corrective of which is, and always will be, the simple proclamation of God's message to men." But our thoughts are the springs of action, as well as the means of acquiring knowledge; so they may be treated in a comprehensive way.
1. THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR THOUGHTS. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Note:
1. The defiling power of cherished evil thought.
2. The inspiring and ennobling power of cherished good thought.
3. The relation of thought to
Right thoughts make openness to God, give graciousness to our conversation, enable us to be considerate of and helpful to others. As we must keep the fountain pure, if the stream is to run sweet and clear, we must recognize the supreme importance of taking heed to our thoughts.
II. OUR RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR THOUGHTS. On this point a sentiment prevails which greatly needs correction. It is assumed that we cannot help thoughts coming up before us, and that they may be the suggestions of our soul's spiritual enemy, and so we cannot be held responsible for them. This is one of those half truths that are oftentimes more mischievous than downright error. We are not responsible for the mere passing of thoughts, as in a panorama, before our mental vision; but we are responsible for what we select of them for consideration; we are responsible for what we cherish. We are further responsible for the materials of our thought, and for the circumstances in which we place ourselves, so far as they may suggest thought. Therefore we have the counsel so earnestly given us, "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."
III. THE SECRET OF CONTROLLING OUR THOUGHTS. That secret is made up of parts. It includes:
1. The full surrender of our will to Christ, so that he may rule all our choices and preferences, even the very choices of our thoughts.
2. The cherished consciousness of Christ's living presence with us gives tone and harmony with him, to all cur preferences.
3. The culture of mind, disposition, and habits, which involves the resolute putting away from us of all associations and suggestions of evil.
4. The freeness of access to God in prayer for strength whenever temptation seems to have an overcoming rower.
5. The occupying of heart, thought, and life so fully with the things of Christ that there can be no room for evil. There is no more practical way of mastering doubting, sensual, corrupt thought than by turning at once to good reading or engaging at once in works of charity. While we pray to God to "cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit," we must also remember that the apostle teaches us to make personal efforts of watchfulness and good endeavour, and so "bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." In every age sincere hearts have prayed the psalmist's prayer: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."—R.T.
2 Corinthians 10:7 - Mistaken judgment by appearances.
"Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?" In the mind of the apostle was, no doubt, the evident disposition of the community at Corinth to "attach undue weight to the outward accidents of those who claimed their allegiance rather than to that which was of the essence of all true apostolic ministry." Bold and forward men, who make great boasting and pretension, whose appearance and manners are taking, often do incomparable mischief in Christian Churches. So easily are people carried away with the "outward appearance." The Divine teaching on this subject is given in connection with Samuel's visit to the house of Jesse, for the selection and anointing of Jehovah's new king. Samuel looked on the stately figure of Eliab, Jesse's firstborn, and said to himself, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before him. But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Plutarch says, "We ought to be candid enough to extol the merits of him Who speaks, but not suffer his address to lead into incaution; to regard his talents with pleasure, but investigate strictly the justness of his reasonings; not to be influenced by the authority of the speaker, but to scrutinize accurately the grounds of his argument; the orator's subject should be considered rather than his eloquence admired."
I. THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE OUGHT TO EXPRESS THE INWARD FACT. Outward and inward should be in perfect harmony. They should be related as are thought and word. A man's words should clearly, precisely, worthily, express to men his thought. And so his outward appearance should exactly correspond with his inward condition. Only then can a man be "sincere." We speak of a man as being "always the same." He can only be so if he will let what be really is find due expression in his life. The consciously sincere man makes no show. Without restraint he lets the life speak freely what message it pleases. The life of the Lord Jesus Christ is so sublimely attractive, because we feel that it was through and through true; and whatever were its appearances they were but manifestations of his life.
II. THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE IS OFTEN UNTRUE TO THE INWARD FACT. Of this the familiar illustration is taken from the usual description of the fruit grown near the Dead Sea, and called "apples of Sodom." Beautiful to all appearance, but dry and unpleasant to the taste. Hypocrisy is real "part acting," representing ourselves to be other than we are. It is a very subtle form of sin, especially in what are called "civilized times," when so much depends on "keeping up appearances." Illustrate in relation to house, dress, society; and show that it may even concern personal religion. The assumption and the show of piety are not always faithful transcripts of the heart's love and devotion. But sometimes the outward appearance is untrue by being below the reality. This seems to have been the case with St. Paul. His insignificant appearance, and his modesty and considerateness of manner, gave little indication of the force that was in him, or the bold and valiant defence of the truth which he could give upon occasion. So the outward appearance may be unworthy of the inward, without being wrongfully so; unworthy by reason of infirmity, and not of hypocrisy.
III. THEREFORE WE ARE ALWAYS BOUND TO TEST THE IMPRESSIONS MADE BY OUTWARD APPEARANCES. "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." The testings can often be done
(1) by patient waiting;
(2) by observing the whole of a man's conduct;
(3) by comparing our impressions with those made on others' minds;
(4) by the standards given us in Holy Scripture;
(5) by cultivating our own sensitiveness to that which is truly Christ-like.
In order to find unworthy men out, and in order to esteem aright good men, we must go beyond their form, feature, and outward show, and we must know them. St. Paul will bear thoroughly knowing.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 10:16 - The gospel for the regions beyond.
"To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you" (comp. Romans 15:19-24). The apostle, filled with the true missionary spirit, was longing to be free from the care of Churches already founded, so that he might be free to go again upon his journeyings, and preach the gospel in Western Greece, in Rome, and even away in distant Spain. St. Paul was first and chiefly a missionary. The genius of the missionary is a Divine restlessness, a constant impulse forward into new spheres, a passion for finding some one else to whom the gospel message might be told. The men who settle down in Churches situated in heathen districts are ministers and pastors and clergymen; they cannot properly be called missionaries, since these are men who are always hearing a call from "regions beyond," saying, "Come over and help us."
I. MISSIONARY WORK AS HERALDING A MESSAGE, The word for "preaching" properly means "heralding"—going forth to make a royal proclamation. Explain the work of the Eastern herald. He would go through the land, and, wherever he could find people, deliver the king's message. We need a fuller and worthier impression of the gospel, as the royal proclamation of the King of kings, entrusted to us for delivery to "all the world," to "every creature."
II. HERALDING WORK AS TEMPORARY. It is done when the message is declared and delivered. The herald—as a herald—has no more to do there; he must pass on his way. There is abundant work left behind for others to do; but his is over. And we are told that the gospel heralds will not have gone all over the world when the kingdom shall come. So we need fear no lack of work for missionaries and heralds.
III. HERALD'S DUTY TO FIND REGIONS BEYOND. A glance at the map of our world will show what vast masses of mankind have never heard of the true God, the redeeming Son, and the eternal life. We rejoice that, especially in Africa and China, the Christian Church is showing that it keeps the true missionary idea, and is ever reaching out to "regions beyond."—R.T.
2 Corinthians 10:17 - Man's only true glorying.
"But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." The apostle used the simpler and stronger word, "boasteth." Dean Plumptre complains of the besetting weakness for variation which characterized our English translators. And oftentimes force of utterance is gained by dwelling on a word, even at the peril of tautology. Reference is made, no doubt, to the boastings of this leader of the party at Corinth that was antagonistic to St. Paul, and also to the accusation which this man made against the apostle, that he was always boasting of his authority, his superior knowledge, and the great things he had done. St. Paul firmly urged the distinction between glorying in what a man is or in what a man has done, and glorying in what God has made a man to be and in what God has done by him. The first kind of boasting is wrong and dangerous. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." The other kind is right, is honouring to God, and may be our proper form of testifying for him. There is then a sin of boasting, against which we require to be duly warned. And there is a service of boasting which may, under certain circumstances, be our most effective mode of resisting evil and witnessing for God. On the whole, however, it may be fully urged that a man's life, rather than his lips, should do all his boastings for him. These distinctions may be further elaborated and illustrated.
I. GLORYING IN WHAT WE ARE IS ALWAYS A SIGN OF CHRISTIAN WEAKNESS. A man had better not even think about himself, but put all his effort into higher attainments in the Divine life. There is danger for us when we find that we have anything in ourselves to talk about or to glory in. All the finest and most delicate Christian graces are so fragile that they break with a touch, so sensitive that they fade if we only look on them. Do not even think about what you are; fill your thoughts with what you may be, what you may become, in the grace and strength of Christ. Christian progress stops as soon as we begin to boast. He that is satisfied with his attainments falls from the Christian ideal, which is this, "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12, Revised. Version). Show the peril that lies in habits of introspection and self-examination with a view to finding subjects of self-satisfaction. And also of meetings in which Christians are encouraged to boast of religious feelings and experiences. The text suggests an altogether "more excellent way." "Let him that glorieth glory in the Lord."
II. GLORYING IN WHAT WE HAVE DONE PUTS CHRISTIAN HUMILITY IN PERIL. Because it directs men's thoughts to us, sets them upon praising us, and so lifts up our minds, gives us undue notions of our own superiority and excellence. When he gains the applause of an unthinking multitude, Nebuchadnezzar can forget himself, and, in uttermost pride, cast God wholly away, and say, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have builded?" Boastfulness of our doings is always perilous. God does not need it, since he knows all about it. And man does not need it, for he can see the doings well enough without our telling. "Let thine own works praise thee." Let thine enemies praise thee. Let thy friends praise thee. But if you would keep fresh the great grace of humility, never praise yourself.
III. GLORYING IN WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US AND BY US IS ALWAYS INSPIRING AND HEALTHY. Such was the glorying of the apostle, and such are the narratives of labour given us by great missionaries. All true records of our life work should lead men to say, "What hath God wrought?"—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25