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AN APOSTLE DRIVEN AGAINST HIS WILL INTO A SEMBLANCE OF BOASTING.
An apology for the "foolishness" of boasting (2 Corinthians 11:1-4). He is not afraid of comparisons (2 Corinthians 11:5, 2 Corinthians 11:6). He will not recede from his despised practice of teaching gratuitously (2 Corinthians 11:7-15). A second apology, drawn from the outrageous conduct of his opponents (2 Corinthians 11:16-20). His privileges, life, and labours (vers, 21-33).
2 Corinthians 11:1
Would to God; rather, would that!. You could bear; rather, ye would bear. In my folly; rather, in a little foolishness. Namely, in this foolishness of boasting. "Fool" and "folly" are here haunting words (2Co 1:16, 2 Corinthians 1:17, 2 Corinthians 1:19, 2Co 1:21; 2 Corinthians 12:6, 2 Corinthians 12:11). The article (the i.e. my folly) is omitted in א, B, D, E. Bear with me. It is better to take this as an indicative. It would be meaningless to pass from an entreaty to a command. On the other hand, "Nay, ye do really bear with me" was a loving and delicate admission of inch kindness as he had received from them.
2 Corinthians 11:2
For. This gives the reason why they bore with him. It was due to a reciprocity of affection. I am jealous over you. The word implies both jealousy and zeal (2 Corinthians 7:7; 2 Corinthians 9:2). With a godly jealousy; literally, with a jealousy of God. My jealousy is not the poor earthly vice (Numbers 5:14; Ecclesiastes 9:1), but a heavenly zeal of love. For I have espoused you; rather, for I betrothed you; at your conversion. I acted as the paranymph, or "bridegroom's friend" (John 3:29), in bringing you to Christ, the Bridegroom. The metaphor is found alike in the Old and New Testaments (Isaiah 54:5; Ezekiel 23:1-49.; Hosea 2:19; Ephesians 5:25-27). To one husband (Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 16:15). Our Lord used an analogous metaphor in the parable of the king's wedding feast, the virgins, etc. That I may present you. The same word as in 2 Corinthians 4:14. The conversion of the Church was its betrothal to Christ, brought about by St. Paul as the paranymph; and, in the same capacity, at the final marriage feast, he would present their Church as a pure bride to Christ at his coming (Revelation 19:7-9).
2 Corinthians 11:3
I fear. Even now he would only contemplate their defection as a future dread, not as a present catastrophe. Lest by any means; lest haply (2 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 9:4). As the serpent beguiled Eve. St. Paul merely touches on the central moral fact of the temptation and the Fall (Genesis 3:1-6). He enters into no speculation about the symbols, though, doubtless, like St. John (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2), he would have identified the serpent with Satan. Through his subtlety. The word means "crafty wickedness." It is used in 2 Corinthians 12:16, and is found in 2 Corinthians 4:2; Luke 20:23. Your minds; literally, your thoughts (2 Corinthians 2:11). Should be corrupted (comp. Colossians 2:4-8; 1 Timothy 4:1). The simplicity. The apostles always insisted on this virtue, but especially St. Paul, in whose Epistles the word (ἁπλότης occurs seven times. That is in Christ; rather, that is towards (literally, into) Christ; as Cranmer rendered it, "The perfect fidelity Which looks to him above."
2 Corinthians 11:4
He that cometh. Apparently an allusion to some recent and rival teacher. Another Jesus. The intruder preaches, not a different Jesus (ἕτερον) or a different gospel (comp. Galatians 1:6-8), but ostensibly the same Jesus whom St. Paul had preached. Another spirit… another gospel; rather, a different spirit (ἕτερον)... a different gospel. The Jesus preached was the same; the gospel accepted, the Spirit received, were supposed to remain unaltered. Ye might well bear with him. This is not without a touch of irony. You are all set against me; and yet the newcomer does not profess to preach to you another Jesus, or impart a different Spirit! Had he done so, you might have had some excreta (καλῶς) for listening to him. Now there is none; for it was I who first preached Jesus to you, and from me you first received the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 11:5
For. It cannot be that you received this rival teacher as being so much superior to me; for, etc. I suppose. Again, like the Latin censeo or opinor, with a touch of irony. I was not a whit behind; in no respect have I come short of. The very chiefest apostles. The word used by St. Paul for "very chiefest" is one which, in its strangeness, marks the vehemence of his emotion. It involves an indignant sense that he had been most disparagingly compared with other apostles, as though he were hardly a genuine apostle at all. Yet he reckons himself to have done as much as the "above exceedingly"—or, as it might be expressed, the "out and out," "extra-super," or "super-apostolic," apostles. There is here no reflection whatever on the twelve; he merely means that, even if any with whom he was uufavourably contrasted were "apostles ten times over," he can claim to be in the front rank with them. This is no more than he has said with the utmost earnestness in 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:6. There is no self-assertion here; but, in consequence of the evil done by his detractors, St. Paul, with an utter sense of distaste, is forced to say the simple truth.
2 Corinthians 11:6
Rude in speech; literally, a laic in discourse; see 2 Corinthians 10:10 and 1 Corinthians 2:13; and, for the word idiotes, a private person, and so "one who is untrained," as contrasted with a professor, see the only other places where it occurs in the New Testament (Acts 4:13; 1Co 14:16, 1 Corinthians 14:23, 1 Corinthians 14:24). St. Paul did not profess to have the trained oratorical skill of Apollos. His eloquence, dependent on conviction and emotion, followed none of the rules of art. Yet not in knowledge. Spiritual knowledge was a primary requisite of an apostle, and St. Paul did claim to possess this (Ephesians 3:3, Ephesians 3:4). We have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things. This would be an appeal to the transparent openness and sincerity of all his dealings, as in 2Co 4:1-18 :20 and 2 Corinthians 12:12; but the best reading seems to be the active participle, phanerosantes (א, B, F, G), not the passive, phanerothentes. The rendering will then be, In everything making it (my knowledge) manifest among all men towards you.
2 Corinthians 11:7
Have I? literally, or have I? An ironical exception to his manifestation of knowledge; "unless you think that I committed a sin in refusing to accept maintenance at your hands." It is clear that even this noble generosity had been made the ground for a charge against the apostle. "If he had not been conscious," they said, "that he has no real claims, he would not have preached for nothing, when he had a perfect right to be supported by his converts" (1 Corinthians 9:1-15). Abasing myself. The trade of tentmaker was despised, tedious, and mechanical, and it did not suffice to provide even for Paul's small needs (Acts 18:3; Acts 20:34). That ye might be exalted; namely, by spiritual gifts (Ephesians 2:4-6). The gospel… freely. Some of them would feel the vast contrast between the words. The gospel was the most precious gift of God, and they had got it for nothing. Compare the fine lines of Lowell—
"For a cap and bells our lives we pay,
Bubbles we earn with our whole soul's tasking;
'Tis only God who is given away,
'Tis only heaven may be had for the asking."
To be a free and unpaid missionary was St. Paul's pride (2Co 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2Th 3:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Acts 20:33).
2 Corinthians 11:8
I robbed; literally, I ravaged, or plundered. The intensity of St. Paul's feelings, smarting under base calumny and ingratitude, reveals itself by the passionate expression which he here uses. Other Churches. The only Church of which we know as contributing to St. Paul's needs is that at Philippi (Philippians 4:15, Philippians 4:16). Taking wages. The expression is again impassioned. It is meant rather ironically than literally. Literally it means rations (1 Corinthians 9:7).
2 Corinthians 11:9
And wanted. The aorist shows that this sad condition of extreme poverty was a crisis rather than chronic. Yet even at that supreme moment of trial, when from illness or accident the scanty income of his trade failed him, he would not tell them that he was starving, but rather accepted help from the Philippians, who, as he knew, felt for him an unfeigned affection. It is needless to point out once more how strong is the argument in favour of the genuineness of the Acts and the Epistles from the numberless undesigned coincidences between them in such passages as those to which I have referred in the foregoing notes. I was chargeable to no man; literally, I did not benumb you. The word katenarkesa, which occurs only here and in 2 Corinthians 12:13, 2 Corinthians 12:14, is ranked by St. Jerome among St. Paul's cilicisms, i.e. the provincial expressions which he picked up during his long residence at Tarsus. Narke (whence our narcissus and narcotie) means "paralysis," and is also the name given to the gymnotus, or electric eel—in Latin, torpedo, the cramp-fish—which benumbs with the shock of its touch. "I did not," he indignantly says, "cramp you with my torpedo touch." Perhaps in a less vehement mood he would have chosen a less picturesque or technical and medical term. That which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied; rather, for the brethren, on their arrival from Macedonia; filled up my deficiency. This must have been the third present which St. Paul received from Philippi (Philippians 4:15, Philippians 4:16). These brethren from Macedonia accompanied Silas and Timotheus (Acts 18:5). And so will I keep myself (2 Corinthians 12:14).
2 Corinthians 11:10
As the truth of Christ is in me. The strength of St. Paul's feelings on the subject has already been expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:15. We have a similar appeal in Romans 9:1. The "as" is not in the original, but evidently the words are meant for a solemn asseveration—"The truth of Christ is in me, that," etc. No man shall stop me of this boasting; literally, this shall not be stopped as concerns me. The verb means literally, "shall be fenced," and with that tendency to over elaboration which is frequent in commentators, some suppose that St. Paul referred to the projected wall across the isthmus of Corinth, etc. But the same word is used for simply stopping the mouth in Romans 3:19; Hebrews 11:33. In the regions of Achaia. He would not apply the rule to Corinth only, but seems to have felt the need for the utmost circumspection, and for cutting off every handle for suspicion or slander among these subtle, loquacious, intellectual Greeks. He could act more freely among the more frank and generous Macedonians.
2 Corinthians 11:11
Wherefore? Be cannot tell them the real ultimate reason, which is their whole character and nature. Because I love you not? He has already assured them of his deep affection.
2 Corinthians 11:12
Occasion; rather, the occasion. Wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. "These new teachers boast to you how disinterested they are. Well, then, I have proved myself to be equally disinterested." But the words apparently involve a most stinging sarcasm. For these teachers were not in reality disinterested, though they boasted of being so; on the contrary, they were exacting, insolent, and tyrannical (2 Corinthians 11:20), and did not preach gratuitously (1 Corinthians 9:12), though they sneered at the apostle for doing so. Being radically false (2 Corinthians 11:12, 2 Corinthians 11:13), "while they were," as Theodoret says, "openly boasting, they were secretly taking money," and therefore were not "even as we."
2 Corinthians 11:13
For such are false apostles. This, with 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and Philippians 3:2, is one of St. Paul's most passionate outbursts of plain speaking. "Now at length" says Bengel, "he calls a spade a spade." They were "false apostles" (Revelation 2:2), because a true apostle delivers the message of another, while these cared only for self (Romans 16:18). Deceitful workers. Workmen who cheat their employers (2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:2). Transforming themselves. The verb is the same as in 1 Corinthians 4:6 and Philippians 3:21, and does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.
2 Corinthians 11:14
Even Satan .. angel of light. This is one of Satan's devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). The allusion may be to the temptation (Matthew 4:8, Matthew 4:9); or to the appearances of Satan with the angels before God in the Book of Job (Job 2:1); or perhaps to the Jewish hagadah, that the "angel" who wrestled with Jacob was in reality Satan.
2 Corinthians 11:15
Whose end shall be according to their works. Whatever their fashion (schema), they shall be judged, not by what they seem, but by what they are, as shown by their works.
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
Apology by contrast.
2 Corinthians 11:16
I say again. St. Paul evidently feels an almost invincible repugnance to begin to speak of his own works. He has twice swerved away from the task (2Co 10:8; 2 Corinthians 11:1, 2 Corinthians 11:6) to speak of collateral topics. Now at last he begins, but only (to our grievous loss) to break off abruptly in 2 Corinthians 11:33, before the story of his past sufferings has been much more than begun. A fool… boast. Here, again, we have the two haunting words of this section (see note on 2Co 11:1; 1 Corinthians 15:36; 1 Corinthians 13:3). "Boast" occurs sixteen times in these three chapters alone. That I; rather, that I also.
2 Corinthians 11:17
Not after the Lord. "Boasting," or what might be stigmatized as such, may become a sort of painful necessity, necessitated by human baseness; but in itself it cannot be "after the Lord." There is nothing Christ-like in it. It is human, not Divine; an earthly necessity, not a heavenly example; a sword of the giant Philistine, which yet David may be forced to use. Confidence; hypostasis, as in 2 Corinthians 9:4, where exactly the same phrase occurs.
2 Corinthians 11:18
After the flesh (see note 2 Corinthians 10:3; comp. Philippians 3:4). I will glory also. But, as Robertson admirably observes, he "does not glory in what he has done, but in what he has borne."
2 Corinthians 11:19
Seeing you yourselves are wise; ye gladly tolerate the senseless, being intellectual. The irony would be very scathing to those whose minds and consciences were sufficiently humble and delicate to feel it.
2 Corinthians 11:20
For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage. The verse gives us an unexpected and painful glimpse of the enslaving (Galatians 2:4), greed-loving (Matthew 23:1-39. Matthew 23:14; Romans 16:1-27;18), gain-hunting (1 Peter 5:2, 1 Peter 5:3), domineering (3 John 1:9). and even personally violent and insulting character of these teachers; whom yet, strange to say, the Corinthians seem to take at their own estimate, and to tolerate any extreme of insolence from them, while they were jealously suspicious of the disinterested, gentle, and humble apostle. If a man devour you. As the Pharisees "devoured" widows' houses (Matthew 23:14). Take of you; rather, seize you; makes you his captives. The verb is the same as "caught you," in 2 Corinthians 12:16. Smite you on the face. They must have brought their insolence with them from Jerusalem, where, as we see, not only from the details of our Lord's various mockeries, but from the accounts of the priests in Josephus and the Talmud, the priests made free use of their fists and staves! The fact that so many of the converts were downtrodden slaves and artisans would make them less likely to resent conduct to which they were daily accustomed among the heathen. Neither Greeks nor Orientals felt to anything like the same extent as ourselves the disgrace of a blow. That sense of disgrace rises flora the freedom which Christianity has gradually wrought for us, and the deep sense of the dignity of human nature, which it has inspired Christ had been so smitten, and so was Paul himself long afterwards (Acts 23:2), and he had to teach even Christian bishops that they must be "no strikers" (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). The "syllogism of violence" has, alas! been in familiar use among religious teachers in all ages (1 Kings 22:24; Nehemiah 13:25; Isaiah 58:4; Matthew 5:39; Luke 22:64; 1 Corinthians 4:11).
2 Corinthians 11:21
I steak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. The sense is uncertain, but if with the Revised Version we render it, "I speak by way of disparagement," the verse may be understood as an ironical admission that, if absence from these violent and self-assertive proceedings be a sign of weakness, he has been weak. He proceeds to correct the ironical admission in the next clause. The meaning can hardly be, "I admit the disgraces I have suffered", because he is speaking of the Corinthians, not of himself. I am bold also. If they derive their right to this audacious and overweening line of conduct from any privileges of theirs, there is not one of these privileges which I too may not claim.
2 Corinthians 11:22
Hebrews. In the strictest sense those who still understood and spoke Aramaic, not Hellenists of the dispersion, who no longer knew the sacred language. (For the use of the word, see Acts 6:1; Philippians 3:4.) Israelites. Jews, not only by nation, but in heart and feeling (see John 1:48; Acts 2:22, etc.; Romans 9:4; Romans 11:1). The seed of Abraham. Alike literally and spiritually (see John 8:33-53; Romans 9:7; Romans 11:1). It may seem strange that St. Paul should have found it necessary to make this statement; but his Tarsian birth and Roman franchise may have led to whispered innuendoes which took form long afterwards in the wild calumny that he was a Gentile who had only got himself circumcised in order that he might marry the high priest's daughter (Epiphan., 'Haer.,' 30:16).
2 Corinthians 11:23
I speak as a fool. Not merely as before aphron, but paraphronon," I speak as a madman." It is downright insanity on my part to enter into this contest of rival egotism. The verb does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament; the substantive is used of "downright infatuation" in 2 Peter 2:16. I am more. I may claim to be something beyond an ordinary servant of Christ. This is the "frantic" boast which he proceeds to justify in a fragment of biography which must ever be accounted as the most remarkable and unique in the world's history. And when St. Paul lived the life was, as Dean Stanley says, "hitherto without precedent in the history of the world." No subsequent life of saint or martyr has ever surpassed St. Paul's, as here sketched, in self-devotion; and no previous life even remotely resembled it. The figure of the Christian missionary was, until then, unknown. In labours more abundant; literally, more abundantly. The best comment is 1 Corinthians 15:10. In stripes above measure. The expression is partly explained in the next verse. In prisons. St. Clement of Rome says that St. Paul was imprisoned seven times. The only imprisonment up to this date recorded in the Acts is that at Philippi (Acts 16:23). The imprisonments in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome all took place later. He says later," The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city that bonds and imprisonment await me" (Acts 20:23). In deaths oft. He alludes to the incessant opposition, peril, and anguish which make him say in 1 Corinthians 15:31, "I die daily". With the whole passage we may compare 2 Corinthians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 6:5.
2 Corinthians 11:24
Five times. Not one of these Jewish scourgings—which yet were so severe that the sufferer often died under them—is mentioned in the Acts. This paragraph is the most striking proof of the complete fragmentariness of that narrative, marvellous as it is. On the circumstances which probably led to these Jewish scourgings, see 'Life of St. Paul,' exc. 11.; and comp. Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11; Matthew 23:34. The question arises—Was St. Luke entirely unaware of all these scenes of anguish and daily martyrdom? Had St. Paul, in his humble reticence, never cared to speak of them? or were the Acts only intended for a sketch which made no pretension to completeness, and only related certain scenes and events by way of specimen and example? Forty stripes save one (Deuteronomy 25:3). On this instance of Jewish scrupulosity, and for all that is known of the rationale of Jewish scourgings, see 'Life of St. Paul,' ubi supra.
2 Corinthians 11:25
Thrice was I beaten with rods. This alludes to scourgings inflicted by Gentile magistrates with the vitis, or vine stick, of soldiers, or with the fasces of lictors. Only one of these horrible scourgings, which likewise often ended in death, is narrated in the Acts (Acts 16:22). We do not know when the others were inflicted. In any case they were egregious violations of St. Paul's right of Roman citizenship; but this claim (as we see in Cicero's various orations) was often set at nought in the provinces. Once was I stoned. At Lystra (Acts 14:19). Thrice I suffered shipwreck. Not one of these shipwrecks is narrated in the Acts. The shipwreck of Acts 27:1-44, took place some years later. A night and a day I have been in the deep. An allusion, doubtless, to his escape from one of the shipwrecks by floating for twenty-four hours on a plank in the stormy sea. We have no right to assume that the deliverance was miraculous. The perfect tense shows St. Paul's vivid reminiscence of this special horror. "In the deep" means "floating on the deep waves." Theophylact explains the words ἐν βυθῷ to mean "in Bythos," and says that it was a place near Lystra, apparently like the Athenian Barathrum and the Spartan Caeadas—a place where the bodies of criminals were thrown. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.
2 Corinthians 11:26
In journeyings often. In those days and in those countries journeys were not only perilous and fatiguing, but also accompanied with many severe hardships and discomforts. In perils of waters; rather, of rivers. In all countries which, like parts of Greece and Asia Minor, abound in unbridged mountain torrents, journeys are constantly accompanied by deaths from drowning in the sudden rush of swollen streams. In perils of robbers. Then, as now, brigandage was exceedingly common in the mountains of Greece and Asia. In perils from mine own countrymen; literally, from my race. These are abundantly recorded in the New Testament (Acts 9:23, Acts 9:29; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:5, Acts 14:19; Acts 20:3, etc.; 1Th 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 2:16; Philippians 3:2) From the heathen. They were generally instigated by the Jews (Acts 16:19-39, Acts 17:5; Acts 19:23-34, etc.). In the city. As at Damascus, Jerusalem, Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Ephesus, etc.—"in every city" (Acts 20:23). In the wilderness. As, for instance, in travelling through the wild waste tracts of land between Perga and Antioch in Pisidia, or thence to Lystra and Derbe; or over the mountain chains of Taurus to the cities of Galatia. In the sea. Storms, leaks, pirates, mutinies, etc. Among false brethren. The word only occurs elsewhere in Galatians 2:4.
2 Corinthians 11:27
In weariness and painfulness; literally, in toil and travail (1 Thessalonians 2:9 2 Thessalonians 3:8). In watchings; literally, in spells of sleeplessness (Acts 20:34). In hunger and thirst (2Co 11:8; 1 Corinthians 4:11; Philippians 4:12). In fastings often. It is not clear whether this refers to voluntary fastings (2 Corinthians 6:5; Acts 27:9) or to general destitution short of the actual pangs of hunger. In cold and nakedness. St. Paul's ideal, like that of his Master Christ, was the very antithesis of that adopted by the wealthy, honoured, and full-fed Shammais and Hillels of Jewish rabbinism, who delighted in banquets, fine garments, pompous titles, domestic comforts, and stationary ease.
2 Corinthians 11:28
Those things that are without. The adverb thus rendered parektos only occurs in Matthew 5:32; Acts 26:29. It may either mean "trials that come to me from external and extraneous sources (quae extrinsecus accedunt) or things in addition to these (praeterea), which I here leave unmentioned.'' The latter meaning is (as St. Chrysostom saw) almost certainly the correct one. That which cometh upon me. The word thus rendered is either episustasis (J, K), which means "hostile attack" or "tumult," as we talk of "a rush of trouble or business;" or epistasis (א, B, D, E, F, G), which may imply "halting, lingering thoughts; "attention," and so "anxiety" (comp. Acts 24:12, where there is the same various reading). Of all the Churches. No doubt he is thinking of his own Churches, the Churches of the Gentiles (Colossians 2:1).
2 Corinthians 11:29
Who is weak, and I am not weak? See, by way of example, 1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 Corinthians 9:22; Romans 14:21. Instead of stiffly maintaining my own prejudices, I am always ready to make concessions to weak brethren. Who is offended, and I burn not! That is, "who is ever caused to stumble without my burning with indignation?" In other words, "Is not the intensity of my sympathy whenever any scandal occurs an addition to the trials of my life?"
2 Corinthians 11:30
If I must needs. If boasting is forced on me as a moral necessity (δεῖ). The things which concern mine infirmities. After all, St. Paul cannot keep up even for a few verses anything which can be regarded as "boasting after the flesh" (2 Corinthians 11:18). Practically his boasting has been only of those afflictions which to others might sound like a record of disgraces, but which left on him the marks of the Lord Jesus. His hairbreadth escapes were to him, as Bossuet said of the wounds of the Prince of Conde, "marks of the protection of Heaven."
2 Corinthians 11:31
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This solemn asseveration does not seem to be retrospective. It is used to preface what was perhaps intended to be a definite sketch of the most perilous incidents and trials of his life, which would have been to us of inestimable value. This awful attestation of his truthfulness was necessary,
(1) because even the very little which we do know shows us that the tale would have been "passing strange;" and
(2) because his base and shameless calumniators had evidently insinuated that he was not straightforward (2 Corinthians 12:16). (On the phrases used, see 2 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:3.)
2 Corinthians 11:32
In Damascus. (For the incident referred to, see Acts 9:22-25.) The governor; literally, the ethnarch. This is obviously the title given to the commandant of the city (whether an Arabian or a Jew), left in charge by Aretas. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, but is found in 1Ma 14:47; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 14:7, § 2. Under Aretas the king. Hareth, the Emir of Petra, father-in-law of Herod the Great. He had either seized the city during his war with Herod, to avenge the insult offered to his daughter by Herod's adultery with Herodias; or it may have been assigned to him by Caligula. His relations with Damascus are confirmed by coins (see 'Life of St. Paul,' exc. 8.). Kept… with a garrison; literally, was guarding. It is said in Acts 9:24 that the Jews did this; but they could not in any case have done it without leave from the ethnarch, and qui facit per alium, facit per se. Desirous to apprehend me. Both words are a little stronger in the Greek—"determining to seize me."
2 Corinthians 11:33
Through a window. A "little door," or lattice in some house which abutted on the wall. In a basket (comp. Joshua 2:15; 1 Samuel 19:12). The word used by St. Luke in Acts 9:25 is spuris, which is a general name for a large basket. The word here used is sargane, which is defined by Hesychius to be a basket of wickerwork, but which may also mean a rope basket. This particular incident, no doubt, seems to be less perilous and trying than many which St. Paul has already mentioned. We must, however, remember that escape from a window in the lofty wall of a city guarded by patrols was very perilous, and also that such a method of concealment was very trying to the dignity of an Oriental rabbi, such as St. Paul had been. Further, it is clear that St. Paul only mentions this as the earliest incident in along line of perils which it had been his original intention to recount. But at this point he was interrupted, and laid aside his task of dictation—an incident which has not unfrequently had its effect in literature. When next he resumed, the Epistle, he was no longer in the mood to break through his rule of reticence on these subjects. He had played "the fool" and "the madman," as he says of himself with indignant irony, enough; and he proceeds to speak of other personal claims which he regards as more Important and more Divine. Of all "chapters of unwritten history," not one is more deeply to be regretted than the one which we have them lost.
2 Corinthians 11:1-4 - Inviting men to Christ the supreme object of preaching.
"Would to God ye could bear with me a little," etc. The purpose and spirit of this chapter are the same as the preceding one. The apostle proceeds against the charges which they had brought against him and the same breeze of irony breathes through all. These verses seem to be his defence against the charge of his foolish boasting, "Would to God" or rather would that ye could "bear with me a little in my folly," or better, in a little foolishness. What I have said already you say is foolish boasting; be it so, bear with me whilst I proceed in the same strain of self-vindication; tolerate me a little further. It has been observed that no less than five times in this chapter does the expression "bearing with," or" burden," occur, and the word "folly" eight times; and the inference is that the expressions refer to something which he had heard of some of their remarks concerning him. Paul here seems to claim their continued attention on two grounds.
I. THE GREATNESS OF THE WORK HE HAD ACCOMPLISHED AMONGST THEM. "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." He had "espoused," or united them, to Christ, as the bride to the Bridegroom—a relationship the most sacred, close, tender, and lasting. To unite men in supreme affection and supreme purpose is the grand work of the Christian minister, and what work on earth is so sublimely beneficent and glorious as to make men one with Christ? It is impossible to make men one with a creed or a Church, and were it possible it would be to the last degree undesirable. But to make men one with Christ is at once most practical and urgent—practical because God has established an infallible method, and urgent because souls disconnected from Christ are in a guilty and ruined condition.
II. THE DREAD WHICH HE HAD LEST THAT WORK SHOULD BE UNDONE. "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety [craftiness], so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." It would seem from this that the union of souls to Christ is nor absolutely indissoluble, that a separation is possible; and, in truth, were it not so, man would with the union lose his freedom of action, and would become a mere instrument. Angels fell from their primitive holiness, our first parents from innocence, and Peter for a time from connection with Christ. The holiest creature in the universe is conscious of a power by which he could break away from his orbit of purity and obedience; otherwise he would have no sense of personal virtuousness. The apostle here seems to ascribe the possible dissolution of the marriage of souls to Christ to Satan, whom he here represents as the "serpent," implying his belief at once in the personality, moral maliciousness, and mighty spiritual influence of this superhuman intelligence. See how he does this.
1. By insidiously corrupting the mind. "I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." There can be no union between a soul morally corrupt and impure, and Christ. The moment those who are united to Christ become corrupted, the union is at an end; the letter branch falls from the trunk. So Satan's work is to "corrupt," and thus undo the grandest of all works. This he does insidiously, or craftily, just as he dealt with Eve (Genesis 3:1-24.). How craftily this huge enemy of souls pursues his soul-corrupting work! "Beware of his devices."
2. By the agency of false teachers. "For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, Which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." There is but one dissolute Christ, but as many subjective ones as call themselves Christians, and not a few of the subjective ones are pernicious caricatures of the true Jesus of Nazareth. These are preached, and the preaching of them corrupts souls and fulfils the purpose of the devil. There is as much difference between the Christ of the Gospels and the Christ of the creeds, as there is between the cedar growing in Lebanon and that cedar reduced to its primitive elements in the laboratory of the chemist; in the one form beautifully attractive, in the other hideously repulsive. Such Christs were preached in Corinth. Paul, perhaps, specially refers to some one who was preaching "another Jesus," and ironically he intimates that such preachers they tolerated. "Ye might well bear with him." As if he had said," Such men who are doing the work of the devil ye would tolerate?
2 Corinthians 11:5-12 - The highest knowledge and the noblest generosity.
"For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things. Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other Churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we." Few things in human life are more distasteful than egotism or vanity. There are those in society whose chief delight is to parade their own imaginary merits and distinctions. We are wrong, however, if we regard the man who sometimes speaks about himself as an egotist. When a man is denied virtues which he knows he possesses, and charged with faults of which his conscience tells him he is not guilty, he is bound by the laws of his nature to stand up in self-defence. Every man is justified in fighting for his moral reputation, which is to him more precious than gold, and dear to him as life itself. This is just what Paul does here and in many other places in his letters to the Corinthians. He had slanderers at Corinth. Here he says, "For I suppose [reckon] I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." Two facts are here indicated which warranted his boasting.
I. He felt that, though he had not rhetorical accomplishments, HE HAD THE HIGHEST KNOWLEDGE. "Though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge." He was not trained in all the rhetorical parts of Grecian oratory, his periods were not polished, his sentences were not tuneful, and, perhaps, his utterances lacked flow and his voice music. This he seems to have felt; but what of that? He had the highest "knowledge.'' What is the grandest oratory without true knowledge? Clouds of golden splendour without water for the thirsty land. Paul's knowledge was of the highest kind. He knew Christ; he knew what Christ was to him; what he had done for him, as well as what he was in himself and in his relation to the Father and the universe. This is the science of all sciences; the science of which all other sciences are to it the mere leaf, or stem, or branch, of which this is the root. "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."
II. He felt that, though he consecrated himself to their highest interests, he RECEIVED FROM THEM NO REMUNERATION. What trials he endured for them! what perils he braved for them! what labours he prosecuted for them (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-27)! All this was done and endured for what? Not for selfish ends, not for worldly gain. "Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?" Why did he not receive remuneration at their hands? Nay, why did he reject it?
(1) Not because he did not need such a recompense. "And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man." He was dependent upon such contributions for his subsistence. He had received them at Thessalonica before his first visit to Corinth.
(2) Not because he did not love them. "Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth." It would have been a gratification to those whom he had spiritually saved, to have made some secular recompense for his labours, but he denied them this gratification, not because he did not love them. Why, then, did he reject their secular help?
1. To furnish in his own life a proof of the benevolent terms of the gospel. "I preach to you the gospel of God freely." The gospel is a free gift of God, and I present it to you as a tree gift. The gospel should never be preached as a means of livelihood or for filthy lucre.
2. To silence the tongue of his slanderers. No doubt his enemies at Corinth sought in every way to degrade the apostle. The false apostles, no doubt, boasted that they did their work there as benefactors disinterestedly and without pay. Had Paul taken payment he would have given them some ground for boasting of their generosity.
3. To compel his enemies by his example to act from generous impulses. "That they may be found as we are." "Notice," says Mr. Beet, "the bitter irony of these words. Paul's opponents boasted their disinterestedness whilst making gain of the Corinthians, and eagerly watched him to detect self-enrichment, that they might boast of their own superiority. These have been the tactics of demagogues in all ages. But Paul resolved to refuse just recompense for real and great benefits, that thus by his example he may compel those who boasted their superiority to come up to his own level of working without pay, so that when his conduct and theirs are investigated, they may be found to be as disinterested as he was."
CONCLUSION. Truly that man might well exult who feels that, however deficient in mere verbal learning, he possesses the highest knowledge—the knowledge of Christ; and who also feels that he is rendering to men the highest service from kindly generous impulses without a desire for fee or reward, giving freely to men what God has given freely to all—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 - Self-misrepresentation.
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing it fits ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." Three thoughts are suggested by these words.
I. MAN HAS THE POWER OF MISREPRESENTING HIS CHARACTER TO OTHERS. Naturalists tell us of animals which have the power to appear what they really are not. Some feign sleep and death. Be this as it may, man has this power in an eminent degree—he can disguise himself and live in masquerade. Hence our Saviour speaks of "wolves in sheep's clothing." In fact, throughout all circles and populations those who appear to be what they really are have ever been in a miserable minority. As a rule men are not what they seem.
II. IN THE EXERCISE OF THIS POWER MAN CAN INVEST EVIL WITS THE HIGHEST FORMS OF GOOD. The "false apostles," to whom reference is here made, seem to have done so. Paul speaks of them as "deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." The worse a man is the stronger the temptation he has to assume the forms of goodness. Were corrupt men to show the state of their hearts to their contemporaries, they would recoil from them with horror and disgust, and they would be utterly unable to enjoy social intercourse or to transact their worldly business. As a rule, the worse a man is the more strenuous his efforts to assume the habiliments of virtue. Selfishness robes itself in the garbs of benevolence, error speaks in the language of truth. Hence it does not follow that a man is a true apostle or minister of Christ because he appears in the character. Some of the worst men on the earth have been deacons and priests, occupied pulpits and preached sermons. "No marvel," says the apostle; "for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." Hence it behoves us all to look well into the real moral character of those who set themselves up as the representatives of Christ and the teachers of religion. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
III. HE WHO EXERCISES THIS POWER IN THIS WAY RENDERS HIMSELF LIABLE TO TERRIBLE PUNISHMENT. "Whose end shall be according to their works." Of all characters the hypocrite is the most guilty and abhorrent. More terrible and more frequent were the denunciations Christ hurled against such than against the voluptuary, the gross sensualist, or the sordid worldling. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" etc. (see Matthew 23:13-33). As such are the greatest sinners, such will have the most terrible end; the "end shall be according to their works." They will reap the fruit of their own doings.
1. The duty of self-truthfulness. Let us seek to be such true men, so true to self, society, and God, that we may have no temptation whatever to play the hypocrite or to appear to others what we are not.
"To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
2. The duty of social caution. Do not let us estimate men by their appearances, ant take them into the circle of our confidence and friendship merely on account of what they appear to be. Often those whose outward garb is the most holy are inwardly the most corrupt, who outwardly move as angels of light are inwardly the greatest devils. Let us learn to take off the mask, to disrobe corruption of its external robes of purity, and to give neither our trust nor our sympathy until we are convinced that they have truth in the "inward parts."
2 Corinthians 11:16-19 - Man talking about himself, and the limitation of apostolic inspiration.
"I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise." Observe here—
I. MAN TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF. Paul had said a good many things about himself. Here again he takes up the subject, and his language suggests:
1. That the world is disposed to regard such talk as foolish. "Let no man think me a fool [or, 'foolish']." In this he recognizes the tendency of men to regard such self reference and self talk as weak and unwise. So in truth unsophisticated men do. When they hear a man talking about himself he impresses them with a sense of his folly. Inwardly they say, "What a fool that man is to be talking about himself!" It must be confessed that generally it is a very foolish thing—few things are more foolish.
2. That such conduct may become a duty. Paul felt it such an urgent obligation at this time that he begs them to bear with him. "Yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little." He was on his defence, and he felt that such self references as he made he owed to himself, to the Christians at Corinth, and to the cause of his Master. Hence he seems to say, "Though you regard me as a fool whilst I thus talk about myself, yet do hear me."
3. That to attention to such talk about himself the apostle had a special claim. "Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise." As if he had said, "The false apostles amongst you talk about themselves; they boast of their merits and achievements, and you listen to them. I have a special claim to your attention because of the proofs of my apostleship amongst you."
II. THE LIMITATION OF APOSTOLIC INSPIRATION. "That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting." As if he had said, "I do not talk of myself by 'commandment;' I have no special commission from Christ." How frequently does the apostle, in his communications to the Church at Corinth, guard against the impression that everything he wrote was divinely inspired! Indeed, in one case he indicates an imperfection of memory. "I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other" (1 Corinthians 1:16). "I know not." What, an inspired apostle not knowing what he had done, forgetting the religious ordinances he had celebrated! In his letter to Timothy he himself says, "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching," implying that all Scripture is not inspired. It is for us to find out which the inspired ones are, to separate the human from the Divine. Whatever agrees with the character and the teaching of the Spirit of Christ we may rest assured is inspired of God. Who but God himself can tell the enormous amount of injury that has been done to sacred truth by the dogma of verbal inspiration, regarding all the imprecations of David, all the reasonings of Job's three friends, and even the utterances of Satan himself, as inspired by Heaven? The Scriptures contain the word of God, but they are not the word of God; the casket is not the jewel, the shell is not the kernel. This by a devout and earnest study we must find out for ourselves.
CONCLUSION. The subject teaches:
1. That we must not shrink from the discharge of a duty, however painful. Paul, as a humble and modest man, felt it a very painful thing to talk about himself. His native modesty shrank from it; yet, though he would be considered a "fool," he did it.
2. That we must study the Scriptures with a discriminating judgment. We must penetrate through the "letter" that is human and reach the "spirit" that is Divine, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law."
2 Corinthians 11:20 - A picture of religious impostors.
"For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face." This verse suggests five things concerning religious impostors.
I. THEY ARE TYRANNIC. "For ye suffer [bear] if a man bring you into bondage." The reference is undoubtedly to those described in 2 Corinthians 11:13, who were false teachers in Corinth. They were enslaving the souls of men with their dogmas and rites. False teaching always makes men spiritual serfs. Heathens are slaves to their priest, fanatics are slaves to their leader, papists are slaves to their pope. True teaching makes men free men. Spiritual bondage is infinitely worse than physical or political. A man's body may be in chains, yet he may be free in spirit; but if his spirit is enslaved, he himself is in captivity. The work of a false teacher is always to subdue souls to himself; the work of the true, to win souls to Christ. Even conventional Christianity is enslaving.
II. THEY ARE RAPACIOUS. "If a man devour you." False teachers devour widows' houses. They teach for money, turn temples and churches into shops. They shear the sheep instead of feeding them. Greed is their inspiration.
III. THEY ARE CRAFTY. "If a man take of you [taketh you captive]." The expression "of you" is not in the original. The idea to me seems to be—if a man takes you in, deceives and entraps you. This is just what religious impostors do—they "take men in," they cajole men, and make them their dupes.
IV. THEY ARE ARROGANT. "If a man exalt himself." It is characteristic of false teachers that they assume great superiority. With this they endeavour to impress men by their costume, their bearing, and their pompous utterances. They arrogate a lordship over human souls.
V. THEY ARE INSOLENT. "If a man smite you on the face." This is the last form of outrage; no greater insult could be offered to a man. The religious impostor has no respect for the rights and dignities of man as man. With his absurd dogmas and arrogances he is everlastingly smiting men on "their face," on their reason, their consciences, and their self-respect.
2 Corinthians 11:21-33 - Paul's avowal of his advantages and his history of his trials.
"I speak as concerning reproach," etc. The two subjects for thought that stand out conspicuously in these verses are Paul's manly avowal of his distinguished advantages and his historic sketch of his extraordinary trials.
I. HIS MANLY AVOWAL OF HIS DISTINGUISHED ADVANTAGES, There are three advantages which he here touches upon.
1. His superior character. "I speak as concerning reproach [by way of disparagement], as though we had been weak." Hitherto I have spoken of myself as if all the disparaging things you have said of me were true. The idea of Paul's language here seems to be this: "I have been speaking of reproach or disgrace, as if I was weak, i.e. as if I was disposed to admit as true all that has been said of me, as reproachful or disgraceful, all that has been said of my want of qualifications for the office, of my want of talent, my dignity of character, my folly. In all this I have been speaking ironically. I am superior to all; I am not ignorant, but learned; I am not foolish, but wise; not greedy, but generous; not proud, but humble; not ignoble, but dignified." How far his character transcended that of his traducers, history shows.
2. His superior ancestry. "Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am His traducers, the false teachers, were, it would seem, Jews; probably boasted of their descent, and certainly implied that Paul was a mere Hellenistic Jew, born at Tarsus. If they gloried in their descent, so could he; the blood of Abraham quivered in his veins, he was a lineal descendant of the man who wrestled with Jehovah and prevailed, an Israelite.
3. His superior apostleship. "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more." They called themselves "ministers of Christ," and belonged, perhaps, to the party in the Corinthian Church who said they were "of Christ"—Christites. But he was more an apostle of Christ than they were. Of this he was conscious. In touching this Paul says, "I speak as a fool," or as one beside myself. Here his great soul seems to flash out in the fire of indignant irony. There is an egotism here, say some. True, but it is a just, manly, necessary egotism.
II. HIS HISTORIC SKETCH OF HIS EXTRAORDINARY TRIALS. He was scourged "five times," in "prisons frequent" and in "deaths oft," thrice "beaten with rods," once "stoned," "thrice suffered shipwrecks," in "perils in the sea" and on laud, midst foes and friends, in the "wilderness" and in cities, tried by "weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." Besides all this, he refers to the trials that came "daily" upon him in "the care of all the Churches." The Churches were dear to his heart, and all the dissensions, heresies, unchastities, immoralities, that appeared from time to time in the Churches would carry anguish into his heart. Why he should refer in the last Verse to the event that happened at Damascus, when he was let down "through a window in a basket," has been a puzzle to commentators. But as it was amongst his first trials as an apostle, it, perhaps, made the greatest impression on his mind. The trials here sketched indicate several things.
1. The mysteriousness of God's procedure with his servants. One might have thought that the man inspired with supreme love to God, and receiving a commission from him, involving the salvation of souls, would have had his way made clear and safe and even pleasant for him; that in his path no enemy should appear, no peril should threaten, no pain should be endured, that all things would be propitious; that he who embarked in such an enterprise as Paul's would sail in a bark absolutely secure, under a sky without a cloud, with every billow and every breeze propitious. But not so. The more important the Divine work entrusted to a man, and the more faithful he is in its discharge, the more trials will embarrass and distract him. For an explanation of this we must await the great explaining day.
2. The unconquerableness of Christly love in the soul. What stimulated Paul to embark in such an enterprise as this? What urged him on through innumerable difficulties and dangers? What bore him up under distressing and ever-thickening trials? Here is the answer: "The love of Christ constraineth me." This is the love that is unconquerable and all-conquering, the love that makes the true hero.
3. The indelibility of the impressions which trials produce. The trials in this long catalogue, so varied and tremendous, had long since transpired, but they were fresh in Paul's memory. Each one stood before the eye of his memory in living reality. It is a law in our nature that our trials make a deeper impression on us than our mercies. Why should this be so? Because they are the exceptions, not the rule.
4. The blessedness which the memory of trials rightly endured produces. In Paul's case it did two things.
(1) It generated sympathy with the woes of others. "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" No man can sympathize with the trials of others unless he has passed through trials himself. The sufferings that Christ endured qualified him to sympathize with the woes of the world. He who hungers for sympathy in his sufferings will go in vain to the man who has never suffered.
(2) It inspired the soul with true rejoicing. "If I must needs glory, I will glow of the things which concern mine infirmities." The reminiscence of the trials he had endured, the foes he had encountered, the perils he had braved, in the cause of Christ were now for him subjects for congratulation and glorifying. They had exerted such a beneficent influence on his character, and were endured in such a noble cause, that he rejoiced in them. In declaring all this Paul makes a solemn appeal for its truth. "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed forevermore, knoweth that I lie not?
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
2 Corinthians 11:1-6 - Relations of the apostle to the Corinthians; ground of anxiety.
How shall we read this chapter? To read it aright it is certain that we must do more than exercise the understanding on its contents; more than treat it as an argument intended to set forth a definite conclusion; and, especially, more than a defence, on any private grounds, of St. Paul's character and conduct. First of all, a general view of the situation is necessary. In this large, growing, and influential city, a bond of connection between Asia and Europe, a medium through which the most prominent agencies of the day operated over a very broad surface,—in this active and aspiring city a Christian Church had been founded by St. Paul on his first visit. It was an era in his apostleship. Of Greek intellect and habits, he had learned enough at least to give a special bias to his style of preaching. Thrown among a population of Jews, Romans, Greeks, and adventurers from every quarter of the globe, he found a degree of skill and prudence necessary in the management of his work that had not been required in any previous stage of his career. Shrewd money lovers were all around him; he would practise his trade and support himself. Aquila and Priscilla had stood faithfully by his side and cheered his toil. He preached in the synagogue, trouble came, and he transferred his work to the house of Justus. A vision from God assured him of help and protection, and one of its fulfilments occurred when Gallio drove the apostle's persecutors, the turbulent Jews, from "the judgment seat," and, in the subsequent tumult, "cared for none of these things." But it was more than an era in his ministry. It was an epoch in the history of the gospel. There had been something like a repetition of Pentecost. None of the outward symbols, and yet a mighty descent of the Holy Ghost in the number and variety of gifts. If the great Pentecost had been followed by sad lapses in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira, even by lying unto the Holy Ghost whose dispensation had just been inaugurated, could it be wondered at that disorder, misrule, heart burnings, strife, immoralities, had sprung up as tares among the wheat in this luxuriant harvest? It was Corinth out and out. It was the excitable emporium in one of those ferments, good and evil intermixed, which have happened at intervals in the history of the Church. To check the unhealthy excitement, to purify the Church from corruption, to suppress rivalries and animosities between parties, St. Paul had put forth all his wisdom, energy, and fidelity, and, in large measure, had succeeded. At this point, a closer view of the situation becomes necessary. Looking at St. Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles, we see at once the significance of his relation to the Corinthian Church. Humanly speaking, he had fought here his greatest battle and had won a grand victory. Where was there a Church potentially of such promise? Where such an array of brilliant endowments? Where such a manifoldness and plenitude of captivating gifts? Here, in the very city where the Jews had required a sign and the Greeks had sought after wisdom; here, in the very metropolis of Achaia, where learning and culture and Jewish traditions were so strongly entrenched behind wealth and social influence, he had chosen to lay a peculiar and profound stress on "the foolishness of preaching." And the Christ crucified had suddenly revealed himself as the Christ glorified, had refulfilled his promise of the Holy Ghost, and a glorious Pentecostal season had been granted to Corinth. It was the miracle of all the miracles in his career. How personal it was to him as the apostle to the Gentiles is obvious. It was akin to the demonstration made before Jerusalem and her Sanhedrim in behalf of the twelve; and if that event gave St. Peter a commanding attitude at once, only second to that, if indeed second, was this outpouring of the Holy Spirit as an attestation from Christ the Lord of the special ministry of St. Paul. Amid these signs and wonders dissension and bitter strife had appeared at Corinth. Most alarming of all, Judaizers had come from Jerusalem to assail St. Paul's authority and destroy his influence. They had been zealous, unscrupulous, persistent, malignant. At every point they had attacked him, and they had a sufficient following to make the apostle apprehend serious damage. The persecution, he had hoped, was checked if not ended. But it had broken out anew, and that, too, while writing this Second Epistle. It was a severe blow. He was not prepared for it. Could it be possible that his work here was to be undone, or, if not that, to be arrested by these unprincipled adversaries? Corinth was the key to the vast citadel of the West; should he lose it from his hand? It is in the light of these facts that we must read this eleventh chapter. And if we find him making a most vigorous and determined effort to reinstate his authority over the disaffected portion of the Corinthian Church, let us remember that it is not Paul as an individual, but St. Paul as an apostle—the apostle to the Gentiles—who pleaded for a cause far dearer to him than reputation, honour, or life itself. It was not a party, however strong, but the Church he needed in his future work. The opening verse of the chapter indicates his sense of the embarrassing position. "Would that ye could bear with me in a little foolishness, nay indeed bear with me." To commend himself to them by this frequent recital of his labours and sufferings must have been exceedingly painful to one of his sensibility. Only as a duty to his apostleship and to them could he do it, and hence he says, "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy." The figure introduced is expressive of love and purity: "For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." But what is the actual state of the Corinthian Church? Is it making ready for presentation as a bride to the Bridegroom when he shall appear in his glory? There is ground for his jealousy: "I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." Deception is plainly stated as the danger threatening them—no ordinary danger, for it had an infernal origin, one that had been successful even with Eve in Paradise; and as these new teachers were using just such insidious arts, he warns them lest they fall into the snare. The character to be maintained was virginal purity; the end to be kept in view was that Christ's betrothed Church might be worthy of her Lord at the marriage supper; the peril was the deceitfulness of agents who, under the mask of instructors and authoritative guides, were acting in the interest of Satan; and the enforcement of the warning was the success of the serpent as Satan's instrument in beguiling Eve. If Eve could be deceived in her purity, how great the danger to this chaste virgin! The "subtlety" had lost none of its persuasive arts; thorough the deception then, thorough would it be now, if they hearkened to these false teachers. To supplant the gospel by the Law, to sink the Christian Church in the Jewish Church, to rob him of his disciples and degrade them into the slaves of Pharisaic superstitions already in their dotage,—this was the mercenary aim of these emissaries of Satan. Such they were, as he would presently show. And what were the evidences of imminent danger? If this new preacher come to you preaching another Christ, another Spirit, another gospel, how would you receive him? Would you refuse to hear him? Nay; you would "bear with him," dallying with temptation, blinded, fascinated, opening your hearts to the "subtlety" of the "serpent." On this account he was unhappy. The chaste virgin should listen to no hints of another love. Aside from such conduct, as most evil in itself, what consistency had it with their relation to him as their apostle? He it was who had espoused them to Christ as the Bridegroom, and therefore his jealousy lest they should be "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." The passage is very difficult to understand, and we are by no means sure that we have caught the true meaning. But these seem to be the main points, viz.:
1. St. Paul claims that he has espoused them to Christ, and that he was anxious to present the Church as a chaste virgin to him.
2. There was great danger of their losing this virginal purity.
3. If this purity were lost, it would be through the subtlety of Satan acting by means of human agency.
4. This agency threatened the Corinthians even now, some of whom were inclined to reject his authority and become the disciples of these arrogant and self-sufficient teachers.
5. His authority was indisputable. "Not a whit" was he "behind the very chiefest apostles," and this had been demonstrated most signally by his apostolic labours in Corinth. "Rude in speech," according to the Grecian standard of rhetoric, but "not in knowledge;" so that if some of the Corinthians went after another preacher with a different Christ and Spirit and gospel, and would "bear with him" and "might well bear," it would be in contempt of him who had been "made thoroughly manifest" among them as "not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles," and that, too, "in all things." "Bear with him," the new teacher, weaning you away from your former love? Then "bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me." If you accede to his claims who comes to you with such a novel, presumptuous, and overbearing manner, then surely you can tolerate me in the little folly of lowering myself to a comparison with him. I condescend to it for your sakes and for my own. The equal of any apostle, I let myself down to this folly, and "would to God ye could bear with me" in it!—L.
2 Corinthians 11:7-12 - Questions asked and answered.
His enemies had charged that, if he were an apostle, he would have claimed a support from the Corinthians. Instead of that, he had worked at his trade as a tentmaker, and done what he could to gain a livelihood. It had been used against him. Was it, then, beneath the dignity of an apostle to labour with his own hands? What his right was to a maintenance he knew and they knew. But he had waived this right for reasons most satisfactory to himself. Had he committed a sin in this voluntary abasement that they might be exalted by his preaching gratuitously the gospel of God? Was this at variance with his statement that he had been "thoroughly made manifest" among them "in all things," and was not "a whit behind the very chiefest apostles"? In coming to Corinth, and while labouring there, he had "robbed other Churches," and what he lacked in sustaining himself had been supplied from Macedonia. This was done that he might not be "burdensome" unto them. Would his opponents say that he would claim remuneration for the future, or that he was running up a debt against them? Nay; the future shall be as the past. "So will I keep myself." Speaking in accordance with Christ's truth in him, he would avow a fixed determination that this boasting should never be denied him in Achaia. But would they misinterpret this language and accuse him of wanting kind feelings towards them? "God knoweth." To be suspected of such a motive would do him wrong, since he meant it to be a proof of the sincerity and earnestness of his ministry in their behalf. No one should charge him with selfishness; he would be disinterested in all the services rendered to Corinth, that he might "cut off occasion from them" who were always eager to find or make an "occasion" against his apostleship. Had he, then, descended from the ordinary level of the apostolic office, and abased himself, that the Corinthians might be exalted by a special proof of his disinterested love? Further than this, he would protect the Church against these money-loving partisans, who, while standing in a hostile attitude towards him and his work, were looking after their own sordid interest, and intent on making a gain of godliness. "Wherein they glory, they may be found even as we." It was the spiritual intelligence of love. It was the prudence of sanctified worldly experience; and the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove were never more happily blended.—L.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 - Character of these teachers.
Indications of a marked change in the apostle respecting these intruders at Corinth appear in the tenth chapter. Recent circumstances had aroused his attention to their acrid and persistent hostility as directed against him and the spiritual welfare of the Church. From the first he had not misjudged them. Under all their specious arts he had detected a low and carnal spirit, calculated to affect these volatile Corinthians and obstruct the progress of his ministry. Meantime they had increased in boldness and audacity, and assailed him with more impetuous virulence. Evidently, then, there was a growth in his convictions as to their mischief-making power, and of late these convictions had become very strong. The growth is apparent both in his thought and feeling, and in such a mind as St. Paul's it could not be long in reaching his will and shaping itself in a resolute purpose to put down the evil. So long as it was mainly a personal vexation, he had borne it patiently; but the hour had come when, while true to "the meekness and gentleness of Christ," he must show "the rod." Very clearly is the military attitude of his mind exhibited in the previous chapter, he speaks of "weapons," of their might to overthrow "strongholds" and "cast down imaginations," and of his readiness at the proper moment "to revenge all disobedience." This deepening intensity finds utterance in the paragraph now under consideration. Unable to repress his feelings any longer, he gives them expression in the most forcible form his language could assume as it regarded the religious pretensions of these men. They are "false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves [by their own act] into the apostles of Christ." Looking at the matter from St. Paul's point of view, nothing worse could be said of them. What his description involved quickly appears. "No marvel;" how could there be any room for surprise? It was characteristic of him, the great adversary, to send just such "apostles;" for "Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light." Perfectly natural; sender and sent are one; and the union is seen in the transforming power. No great thing if "his ministers" should so fashion themselves as to seem "ministers of righteousness." And having stated who and what they were, he announces their future doom: "whose end shall be according to their works." We see now why he mentioned his fear in the opening of the chapter, and referred to Eve as led into sin by the subtlety of the serpent, and we see also why he spoke of their bearing with these hypocrites. Hitherto some of the Church had been deceived by the plausible devices of these persons. But he had opened their eyes to the danger, and, if they continued to listen to these ministers of Satan, they themselves would be willing dupes and participants in their guilt "whose end shall be according to their works." The passage has a deep spiritual meaning. It shows us the great power of Satan in adapting himself to circumstances and using means suited to times and occasions. It shows him versatile, adroit, untiring in inventiveness as well as in energy, and able to impart to others this transforming or fashioning power which he pre-eminently possesses. Not only does the Pauline theology recognize the inherency of sin in our nature, but in addition thereunto it recognizes a mighty agent who employs the utmost skill and a prodigious strength of will and passion to call out and direct this indwelling evil. And it shows this Satanic agency working in the Church, and even counterfeiting the apostleship. The passage is full and explicit. Its force cannot be evaporated in rhetoric; its truth is the sternest reality in most earnest speech. A critical occasion had arisen, one of momentous interest in the history of Christianity, one that presented a turning point in St. Paul's career, and he met this occasion by exposing the diabolical source of their conduct. From his course of action we may learn a very useful lesson. His way of dealing with. sin looked to a personal agent beyond the sinner—one with the sinner and yet distinct and separate, and this agent exerting his tremendous ability in exciting all the latency of evil as unconscious to the sinner, and with it all his conscious susceptibility, so as to accomplish his eternal ruin. Too often with us this Satanic power in men is not duly estimated. In trying to save men, we should remember from whom we are delivering them, and what an awful hold Satan's tyranny has upon their souls. As a practical fact, this is a matter of vast importance. And, accordingly, we find the Lord Jesus impressing on the apostles that the Holy Ghost was not only to convince the world of "sin" and of "righteousness," but also of "judgment"—"because the prince of this world is judged." How else, indeed, could the work of conviction be consummated? Precisely here the Spirit perfects his gracious office as the Divine Convincer; and precisely here we must labour with all diligence and prayerfulness in order to convince men that they are by nature the subjects of this prince, and that only Christ, who has "judged" him, can deliver them from his bondage. No closeness of contact with man as mere man will meet the requirements of the case. It is man, the servant of sin because the slave of the devil, with whom the preacher of the gospel has to do, and unless he realize as far as may be the fearful import of Christ's words, "Ye are of your father the devil," it is not likely he will cooperate with the Holy Ghost in bringing men to that depth and thoroughness of repentance which go tar to determine the stability and worth of future Christian character. Depend upon it, our danger at this point is real and serious. What is the human nature with which we are struggling in the daily endeavours of thought and in special sabbath efforts, praying, wrestling, agonizing, that it may be rescued from unbelief and restored to its Father? Inspiration is never content to portray it as merely far gone from original righteousness, dead in trespasses and sins, but the very phraseology takes its deepest import from ideas and images originally associated with Satan. If detached from Satan, such terms as "subtlety," "blindness," "deceitfulness," "bewitched," "craftiness," "beguiled,'' "wiles," "snares," "captivity," "bondage," would lose the peculiar force which always accompanies them in the Scriptures. And with this use of language the spirit of the New Testament accords when its writers are setting forth human depravity in its special relations to Christ's mediatorial work. Is Judas about to negotiate for the betrayal of Jesus of Nazareth? "Satan entered into him." Is St. Peter over confident, proud of his devotion to Jesus, full of daring? "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." St. John: "he that committeth sin is of the devil." St. Peter: "Your adversary, the devil." St. James: "Resist the devil." St. Paul: "Recover themselves out of the snare of the devil." Surely, then, this uniform tenor of scriptural language, coupled with Christ's most emphatic declaration as to man's incapacity to see Satanic agency in its true light except through the convicting office of the Holy Ghost; surely, we say, this should impress us very deeply as to the urgent need of making prominent in our preaching and teaching the fact of Satan's enormous power over the human soul. Time was when this truth was felt far more profoundly than now, or at least when it filled a much larger space in pulpit thought and Christian literature. And the fruits of it appeared everywhere, not only in a higher order of religious sentiment, but in the amenability of folly and vice to that moral fear which no community can afford to lose. Wickedness abounded then, as now, and yet wickedness was open to the probing of its conscience and to the disturbance of its sensibilities, nor did it commonly have the complacent hardness and the defiant attitude towards the solemn hereafter which it now wears as its familiar aspect. Communities had convictions then on moral and religious subjects, but only sections of communities (speaking generally) have such convictions now. Men of convictions were sure of an audience. Savonarola could not but be heard. Luther had an intense realization of an evil spirit; less of it would have made him less of a reformer. Milton and Bunyan, the two names that Englishmen would choose as the finest representatives of English genius and manhood in the literary spheres they filled, wrote as men who realized that Satan was something more in the affairs of the world than a subject for artistic treatment. We have come to the closing quarter of the nineteenth century, and within the century the land of Luther has given us 'Faust' with Mephistopheles, and the England of Milton and Bunyan has gives us 'Festus' with Lucifer. Insensibly to itself, the pulpit has caught the effeminate spirit of the age, and it discusses sin much more than it grapples with Satan in sin. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." If the most tender and loving soul among inspired thinkers could lay such an emphasis on this truth, assuredly there is a way for this doctrine to be strenuously preached, free from every taint of extravagance and morbid imagination. Depend upon it, when we throw this doctrine into the background of set purpose, or when we let it lapse from our grasp by casual infirmity, we have nothing left but a fragmentary Christ and a depleted ethical Christianity.—L.
2 Corinthians 11:16-20 - Comparison of himself with his opponents.
The weapons of his warfare were not carnal, and yet he must use, under protest and with undissembled humiliation, the weapons of his enemies. Boasting was their favourite art. Would they think him a fool? Let him not be so considered. If, however, they would regard him in this light, nevertheless he must "boast a little." Only he would pray to be heard by the Corinthians, but, at the same time, he wished it understood that he was speaking as a man, not as an apostle. "That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting." St. Paul is careful to state when he speaks from his own mind, and he is equally concerned to let his readers know that, if others boasted from mean and selfish motives, he boasted in a very different spirit from theirs. "Many glory after the flesh," referring to his adversaries, and "I will glory also," but not as they do. "After the Lord" and "after the flesh" are contrasted, and yet in doing this (boasting), if he imitated the manner of these "false apostles, deceitful workers," there was nothing false or deceitful in his conduct. What he boasted of was matter of fact; and then he remarks, continuing the ironical vein in which he had been arguing, that the Corinthians were well able to bear with his foolishness, since they suffered fools gladly, seeing that they were wise. "Wise," verily. Then he cites what they had endured from these new teachers. Where was their freedom? They had been brought into "bondage"—moral and ecclesiastical: submission to tyrannical rulers. Where was their self protection against imposition and craftiness, their discernment of men and motives? They had been taken in, captured, devoured, by these designing men. Where was their self-respect? These "fools," whom they suffered "gladly," had exalted themselves and humiliated a Church abounding in special endowments. Where, finally, was their manliness? They had borne insolence, personal ill treatment—had been smitten on the face. Such was his arraignment of these "false apostles," such his indictment of those Corinthians who had allowed themselves to be dominated by these insulting pretenders. Such, too, was the background for a vivid picture now to be sketched.—L.
2 Corinthians 11:21-33 - What St. Paul was and what he had suffered as an apostle of Christ.
If, indeed, the standard of strength which the deceiving ministers of Satan had set up among them were a correct one, then he must say that he had been weak in his intercourse with them on his visit to Corinth. He had not abused them as slaves, nor been avaricious, nor offered them insults. Yes; he must admit that they were strong and he weak, they wise and he foolish, and he confesses the shame he felt. The sharp irony is now dropped, and he proceeds to show what reasons he had for genuine boasting. If he had to vindicate his claims against these men who had transformed themselves into "ministers of righteousness," it was extremely abasing, but he would be bold (boastful), since there was no escape from the painful task. And, as we shall see, he would do it with great deliberation, item by item, the points clearly made, and only such points as were capable of easy verification.
I. AS TO NATIONALITY. These Judaizers, seeking to prop up a sinking theocracy by means of a perverted Christianity, and putting a most inordinate and carnal estimate on their prerogatives as members of an elect race, had made on this score a very earnest appeal to the Corinthians, and especially to the converted Jews. "Are they Hebrews?" By this general race title the chosen people had been early known, and it was still in vogue. If they are Hebrews, St. Paul says, "so am I." Again, "Are they Israelites?" That name was derived from Israel, the name given to Jacob after wrestling with the angel at Peniel, and designated, originally, the union of the tribes as one community under Jehovah's rule, and set apart to bear witness against all idolatry. "Israelite" carried in its import a reference to the nation as representative of the Divine unity, and was, therefore, distinctively religious. St. Paul responds again, "So am I." Finally, as to nationality. "Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I." One by one the honourable distinctions are mentioned, closing with the highest—a son of Abraham, and in them he claims equality with these pretentious teachers. There was an evident reason for this mode of procedure. No one suspected his devotion to the Gentiles and his zeal in behalf of the apostleship of the uncircumcision. But there were prejudices, strong and bitter, against him on his supposed want of fealty to his nation, and hence his anxiety to show on all occasions that he prized his blood and loved his people. We see from our standpoint that he was an ideal Jew, the truest and most sagacious Jew of his age; and yet it was a memorable part of his discipline, anti a main factor in his fortunes, to be subjected to all sorts of vexations and persecutions on the ground of disloyalty to his nation. Other uses he subsequently made of these and similar facts, giving them an enlarged application (Philippians 3:1-21.), and directing them with exclusive intent to objects then engaging his thought; but, at present, he only individualizes far enough to prove that the "false apostles" had no advantage over him as to national ties.
II. AS TO THE MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS. Do these men claim to be Christ's ministers? Whatever they might assume to be in this regard, he (speaking as one beside himself) "was more." And what evidence shall he give of the fact that he was more? Shall he point to his wonderful successes? "He proceeds to mention, as the reason for his pre-eminence, no illustrious achievements or wonderful results he had accomplished, but difficulties, troubles, conflicts, perils" (Kling). Could more be condensed in the same number of words than he compresses in one short verse? The "more" means "in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft." But he will furnish particular illustrations of the statement just made. His own countrymen head the list, for "of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one," thrice was he "beaten with rods," once stoned, thrice ship wrecked, "a night and a day in the deep." Yet this is only a partial account, and he offers other instances of his superior devotion as a minister of Christ. There were his frequent journeys, and what a history of perils!—perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils by his own countrymen, perils by the heathen, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea; did not this enumeration exhaust the sad experience? Nay; one pictures him pausing at this point and falling into a mood. of most touching reflection. To one who loved the name of brother in Christ as he did, who recalled how Ananias had come to him at Damascus and addressed him as "Brother Saul," and who remembered how often it had cheered him to be recognized and honoured as a brother in the ministry, what could be more oppressive to his spirit than to write at the last, "perils among false brethren"? Thus closes the account of perils. Have his sorrows all been catalogued? The outward sufferings have been generalized in classes of peril and in forms of physical torture. Enough has been said to make good his claim to pre-eminence in affliction for the cause of Christ. Outside of the duties he was discharging as the Lord's servant, not one of these evils had befallen him. It was the cross of Christ, and only the cross, which had brought all these upon him. But he had more to say. A man of feeble health, of acute nervous sensibility, struggling with disease and infirmity; who among us can enter into all he meant by "weariness and painfulness, watchings often, hunger and thirst, lastings often, cold and nakedness''? It is only a rude outline; imagine the details. But what were details to him? The rapid summation shows why he writes. Artistic effect offers him no temptation. Literary motives are impossible to his imagination and tastes. The eagerness of his spirit, approaching a topic most dear to his soul, hurries him to "the care of all the Churches." Ah! that was something transcendent. Daily it came upon him amidst weariness, painfulness, and other ills, and daily it came as a crowd pressing upon him with anxieties beyond utterance. Sympathy is incapable of complete expression. It cannot make itself known. It can only make itself felt, and therefore contents itself with hints. "Who is weak," sympathy asks, "and I am not weak?" And who is overcome by temptation (made to stumble), and I burn not? The sympathetic man is now deeply moved, and his heart breaks forth, "If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities [my weakness]."
III. THE TRUE NATURE OF HIS BOASTING. Examine this fragment of St. Paul's biography, and what do you find as the shaping thought? It is the idea of suffering as expressive of human infirmity. Suffering for a moral purpose is continually kept before the mind, and, agreeably to that end, it is suffering that not only humbles its subject in a spiritual point of view, but humiliates him in the eyes of the world. Hence the conclusion to which he brings the mournful narration, "If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my weakness." No doubt it seemed very strange to many that he should boast of these things, but this was its justification. Had it not appeared as "folly," it would not have vindicated him against the malicious taunts of his adversaries; for it is exactly such a "folly" as identifies his life and experience with the "foolishness" of the gospel, the preaching of Christ crucified, on which, at the outset, he had laid a very distinctive stress. Boast he must to meet the low state of intellect and spirituality in those of the Church who had fallen under the influence of these self-aggrandizing "apostles." Boast he would in defence of himself, of his motives and intentions. Yet, while stooping to such a worldly method, he would do so in no carnal spirit, but as one who had a profound sense of his own unworthiness. What did the Jewish world think of his apostleship? Let the five times "forty stripes save one" answer. What did the Roman world think of it? The thrice "beaten with rods" was the reply. No allusion is made to his having been a "blasphemer" and "persecutor," for this had no bearing on the question at issue. It is a contrast throughout of himself with the "deceitful workers." And, finally, to make the contrast as perfect as possible, he refers to "the care of all the Churches" among the Gentiles. This point reached, he shows why he had made these concessions to the folly of certain Corinthians, and his true heart exclaims, "If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my weakness." Here, then, we have the first distinct appearance of one among those great thoughts that we find frequently in various forms in his subsequent writings—the idea of glorying in his infirmities. Not enough is it for him to accept it as a burden and tolerate it as a thing providentially ordained to be borne. From this hour he enters on a higher experience, for he has learned to cherish a sentiment as well as find a duty and a principle in his infirmities. He will welcome them, he will press them to his heart as a treasure, he will "glory" in them. And if, hereafter, we shall often listen to his exultation when he rejoices in tribulation and glories in the cross, we can revert to the time and circumstances that first made this experience an era in his career. No wonder that he appeals with such solemnity to God for the truths asserted. It is a moment of impassioned thought which brings the past most vividly before his eye, and lo! the opening scene in a long series of afflictions for the gospel. There it was—the far-off Syrian city of the Damascenes, and the beginning of that persecution which the Jews had continued so unrelentingly. And there, too, it had been announced to Ananias in a vision that the Lord had made Saul of Tarsus "a chosen vessel" unto himself, and would show him "how great things he must suffer." Straightway the revelation of sorrow began, for the stay at Damascus was interrupted by a conspiracy of the Jews, and he sought refuge in Arabia. All the intervening years had been years of suffering, the first link of the unbroken chain forged by the hatred of the Jews at Damascus, the last up to this period forged by the same hands at Corinth, and the issue of his experience was that he had learned to glory in his weakness.—L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
2 Corinthians 11:4 - A different gospel.
That the apostle was pained, distressed, and mortified by the partial success with which the false teachers, his opponents, had met at Corinth, is very obvious from his bitter and sarcastic language. He reproached the Corinthians that, indebted as they were to his labours, and grateful as they had shown themselves for the benefits conferred upon them through him, they were nevertheless ready to forget the lessons they had learned and the teacher they had revered, and to allow themselves to be led away into false and delusive doctrines.
I. THAT IS A DIFFERENT GOSPEL WHICH PROCLAIMS ANOTHER JESUS. The Judaizing teachers acknowledged that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, but they seem to have represented him as merely human, as merely a prophet, as destitute of Divine claims upon the faith and reverence of men. The form of error changes, whilst the substance remains. In our own day there are public teachers who commend Jesus to the admiration and the imitation of men, but who ridicule or despise the notion that he is the one Saviour, that he is the rightful Lord, of humanity.
II. THAT IS A DIFFERENT GOSPEL WHICH BREATHES ANOTHER SPIRIT THAN THAT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. The Judaizers taught the doctrine of the letter, the doctrine of bondage to the Law. In this their religion was contradictory to the religion of Jesus, of Paul, of John, who upheld the religion of liberty, who taught that the heart inflamed with Divine love will itself prompt to deeds of obedience, who discountenanced the merely formal and mechanical compliance with the letter of the Law, as altogether insufficient. In our own day there are those who lay all stress upon the form, upon that which is external and bodily; these proclaim a "different gospel."
III. THAT IS A DIFFERENT GOSPEL WHICH NEGLECTS TO OFFER THE FREE SALVATION OF GOD TO SINFUL MAN. Whether this be the consequence of a defective view of man's sinful condition, or of a failure to enter into the glorious counsels of Divine compassion, or of an unworthy desire to retain a priestly power in their own hands, the result is that, if there be anything that can be called a gospel, it is a different gospel. In truth, there is but one gospel—that which is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, a gospel which is worthy of all love and of all acceptation.—T.
2 Corinthians 11:7 - Gratuitous ministry.
It has been usual for all communities who possess religious ordinances and organizations to set apart an order of men to officiate as the representatives of the people generally, and to maintain them either by voluntary offerings or by public provision. The Lord Jesus sanctioned the maintenance of the Christian ministry by his general principle, "The labourer is worthy of his hire." And no one has more vigorously vindicated the right of spiritual teachers and preachers to live at the expense of those whom they benefit than has the Apostle Paul. Yet for himself, as the text and context prove, he was determined to waive this right, and to preach the gospel of God for nought. Why was this?
I. THE PRINCIPLE OF GRATUITOUS MINISTRY IS THE BENEVOLENCE AND SACRIFICE OF CHRIST. Of our Lord Jesus we know that, though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, that he had not where to lay his head, that he had no possessions in this world which was yet his own. The spirit of the Master has in a greater or less measure penetrated the disciples. They have felt the force of the appeal, "Freely ye have received, freely give." No other religion has a supernatural power mighty enough to overcome the selfishness and self-seeking so characteristic of human nature.
II. THE AIM OF GRATUITOUS MINISTRY IS THE SALVATION OF MEN. It is not expected that men should labour without fee or reward in order to supply the ordinary bodily and social wants of their fellow men. The apostle preached at Corinth amidst weakness, weariness, discouragement, and ingratitude, because he sought the spiritual welfare of the population of that wealthy, intellectual, but profligate city. His heart was moved by the spectacle of vice and idolatry which encumbered him on every side, and, being in possession of the true and only remedy, he sought to bring it within the reach and urge it upon the acceptance of all.
III. THE SPECIAL PURPOSE OF GRATUITOUS MINISTRY IS TO REMOVE THE MINISTRY ABOVE THE SUSPICION OF INTERESTED MOTIVES. It is upon this that the Apostle Paul in this passage lays such stress. There were professing Christians who were ready enough to bring the charge of covetousness against the apostle of the Gentiles, and so to undermine his credit and authority. There was one way in which such designs might be surely and conclusively defeated, and, although this was a way involving self-denial to himself, Paul adopted it. He laboured with his hands, he accepted help from the poor Christians of Macedonia, so that he might hold himself altogether flee from any suspicion of working at Corinth for the sake of anything he might receive from the Corinthians. Herein he exemplified his own axiom, "All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient."
1. Learn the wonderful and unique power of the Christian religion, which alone is capable of vanquishing the sinful selfishness of human nature.
2. Learn the importance of so acting as not to leave room even for suspicion or calumny to injure Christian character and cripple Christian usefulness.—T.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 - Hypocrisy.
Like his Divine Master, the Apostle Paul, although compassionate to the penitent, was severe with the hypocritical. The vehement language he here uses with reference to his opponents and detractors is not to be attributed to personal resentment, but to a stern and righteous indignation against those who sought to undermine his just influence, and so to hinder the progress of his gospel.
I. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF HYPOCRISY.
1. What these hypocrites professed to be: "ministers of righteousness," and "apostles of Christ." They posed as such, and with many of the guileless and unwary they passed as such. As far as profession, pretension, and language went, all was well.
2. What they really were: "false apostles," and "deceitful workers." They had no real grasp of Christian truth; they gave no real evidence of Christian principle; they consequently could do no real spiritual work for the good of the people.
II. THE MOTIVE OF HYPOCRISY. Some characters seem to find a pleasure in dissimulation and deception for their own sake; but usually the motive is
(1) to gain influence over others, and enjoy their respect and support; and
(2) in this way to exalt themselves and secure their own selfish ends.
III. THE GREAT PROTOTYPE OF HYPOCRISY. This is to be found in Satan himself, who "fashioneth himself into an angel of light." It is the wont of the tempter, the adversary of souls, to proceed by fraud, to invent specious pretexts for sin, and to give to vice the semblance of virtue. It is wise to bear in mind that, whilst we have sometimes to resist the devil and his open assaults, we have at other times to be wise as serpents, that we may "not be ignorant of his devices."
IV. THE DISCOMFITURE AND EXPOSURE OF HYPOCRISY. Hypocritical teachers of religion and pretenders to authority may for a time escape detection by their fellow men, and may for a time be suffered by an overruling Providence to lead astray, if possible, the very elect. But the day is coming which shall test every man and shall try every man's work. The earthly course of the hypocrites may be according to their words, according to appearances. But their "end shall be according to their works." By these they must be judged, and, since these are evil, by these they shall be condemned.—T.
2 Corinthians 11:23 - Ministers of Christ.
It was not congenial to St. Paul's nature to beast. He would have preferred to keep himself in the background, that his Lord might be prominent and might attract the attention and the admiration of all men. But his apostolic authority and consequently the value of his life work, the credibility of his doctrines, the soundness of the Churches he had founded, were all at stake. As to his national position, that was comparatively immaterial. But the great question was this—Was he, or was he not, a true minister of Christ? His adversaries made great pretensions; he had no choice but to overwhelm them with his own unrivalled credentials: "Are they ministers of Christ?… I more!"
I. TRUE MINISTERS ARE APPOINTED BY CHRIST. Whatever be the human, the ecclesiastical agency by which men are summoned to, prepared for, employed in, the ministry of the gospel, all true Christians are agreed that the real appointment is by the Divine Head of the Church. It is he who, from the throne of his glory, places one minister in this position, and another in that, holding the stars in his right hand.
II. TRUE MINISTERS ARE WITNESSES TO CHRIST. It was Paul's justifiable boast "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord." His ministry had for its one great theme the character, the life, the sacrifice, the redemption of the Divine Saviour. A ministry which, professing to be Christian, is concerned with anything rather than with Christ, discredits and condemns itself. Inadequate as is all human witness to our Lord, it is required to be sincere and outspoken.
III. TRUE MINISTERS ARE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST. Upon this the apostle lays great stress. His own ministry was, in many of its circumstances, a copy of his Lord's. His labours, privations, and sufferings were all akin to those of the Lord whose spirit he shared, and in whose steps he trod. The outward circumstances of the ministerial life may vary, but the temper, and aim must ever be those of the Divine Master.
IV. TRUE MINISTERS LOOK FOR THEIR REWARD TO CHRIST. Had the apostle expected an earthly recompense for all he undertook and underwent, bitter indeed would have been his disappointment. But he and every faithful minister must have one supreme desire and aim—to receive the approval and the acceptance of the Divine Lord himself.—T.
2 Corinthians 11:23 - Labours and prisons.
This is one of those passages which enable us to institute a comparison between the Book of the Acts and the apostolic Epistles. It is true that some of the circumstances alluded to in the context have nothing corresponding with them in St. Luke's narrative. But this exception proves the independence of the documents, whilst the coincidences, which are numerous and striking, confirm our faith in the authority and validity of both.
I. THE VARIOUS ENDURANCES INVOLVED IN THE APOSTOLIC LIFE.
1. Labours abounded, both of body and of mind; almost incessant toil was continued throughout long years. Journeyings, preaching, writing, were a constant strain upon his whole nature.
2. Hardships, sufferings, perils, and persecutions were even more painful to endure. There are many, especially in the prime of life, to whom toil and effort are congenial; but none can do other than shrink from pains and imprisonments. Paul's enumeration of his privations and afflictions shows how deep an impression they had made upon his nature.
II. THE AIM OF THE APOSTOLIC LIFE IN VIEW OF WHICH THESE EXPERIENCES WERE CHEERFULLY ACCEPTED. His purpose was, not his own exaltation, but the spread of the gospel and the salvation of his fellow men. His benevolent heart found in the extension of that kingdom, which is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," an object worthy of all his devotion and all his endurance.
III. THE MOTIVE OF THE APOSTOLIC LIFE. If it be asked—How came St. Paul to voluntarily engage in a service which involved experiences so bitter? there is but one solution of the problem, but that is a sufficient and satisfactory one: "The love of Christ constrained" him. No inferior motive can be relied upon for the production of such results.
IV. THE PRACTICAL ADVANTAGES ACCRUING TO MANKIND FROM THIS APOSTOLIC LIFE.
1. It has an evidential value. Why should such a man as Saul of Tarsus have lived a life of obloquy, poverty, and suffering? Is any other explanation credible than this—that he knew and felt that he was witnessing to the truth?
2. It has a moral value, both in the beneficent results of the ministry and in the illustration afforded of the power of the gospel and of the Spirit of Christ to raise a true Christian above the control of influences and interests merely earthly and human.—T.
2 Corinthians 11:28 - Anxiety for the Churches.
Bodily labour and even suffering are sometimes felt to be less oppressive than mental anxiety and care. The Apostle Paul was familiar with all alike; and in his case a peculiarly sensitive and sympathetic nature caused him to feel more keenly and constantly than others might have done the pressure of daily anxiety for the welfare of the converts he had made and the Churches he had founded.
I. THE REASONS FOR ANXIETY WITH REGARD TO THE CHURCHES.
1. Their immaturity. They had been in existence but a few years, and were subject to the natural disadvantages of youth and inexperience. They needed diligent watching and tender, fostering care.
2. Their exposure to the insidious efforts of false teachers. Some of these sought to lead the Christians of the first age back into Judaism, others strove to introduce licence and lawlessness.
3. Their constantly recurring needs. Some needed the visits of evangelists or the appointment of pastors. Others needed the instructions or counsels which circumstances might render appropriate.
II. THE PRACTICAL PROMPTINGS OF APOSTOLIC ANXIETY. We see the evidences of Paul's sincere solicitude for the Churches in:
1. His frequent visits, by which he brought his personal influence to bear upon those whose welfare he sought and who naturally looked to him for help.
2. His Epistles, full of clear statement, convincing reasoning, earnest persuasion, and faithful warning.
3. His selection and appointment of devoted fellow labourers to assist him in the superintendence and edification of the youthful communities.
4. His fervent prayers, which abounded on behalf of all in whose spiritual well being he was interested.
III. THE PROFITABLE LESSONS OF APOSTOLIC ANXIETY.
1. A general lesson of mutual interest and sympathy. Who can read this language without feeling to what an extent it enforces the scriptural precept?—"Look not every man upon his own things, but every man also upon the things of others."
2. A special lesson of mutual helpfulness as the duty and privilege of all who occupy positions of influence and authority in Christ's Church. Some forms of Church government tend rather to isolate Christian communities than to draw them together. This tendency may be happily counteracted by compliance with the precept implicitly contained in this declaration of the apostle.—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
2 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Corinthians 11:3 - Pastoral anxiety.
How little understood by most believers! What strange notions many form of ministerial experience! To not a few the pastor appears a monarch with a minimum of duties and cares, and whose lot has thus fallen in singularly easy and pleasant places. But what a heavy burden is carried by the most prosperous minister! He who seems to be surrounded by all that can make his ministry cheering and his life happy is agitated by a host of disquieting thoughts and pressed upon by innumerable anxieties. So was it with that amazingly successful minister, the Apostle Paul Following his line of thought, we may gain some knowledge of a true pastor's experience.
I. THE PASTOR'S EARNEST DESIRE.
1. That his testimony may not be ineffective. Sorely burdened is that pastor's heart whose words seem to fall to the ground. He has a great object in his earnest appeals; if these fail, his strength has been spent for nought, his life fails. To preach on and on, and yet to see no spiritual result, strains his heartstrings till they threaten to snap. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, and, if the people of his charge are merely interested or amused by his preaching, he cries, "Woe is me!"
2. That those to whom he preaches may be truly converted. He desires that they may be united to Christ as a bride to her husband (2 Corinthians 11:2). He is not satisfied with their thinking or speaking well of Christianity, or with their outward observance of religious duties; his longing is for their real redemption and for their thorough consecration to Christ. If he be faithful, he aims to attach them, not to himself, but to his Master. His joy is full only when they are married to Christ, and live as those who are no longer their own. For this he longs, prays, labours, agonizes.
3. That at last they may appear in holiness before Christ. "That I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). The true pastor desires, not only that his people should start in the Christian race, but that they should continue, and at last attain to the "crown of righteousness." Flash-in-the-pan conversions please none but fools. Pastoral anxiety is largely the anxiety of watching development. The man of God has the toil and care of building up spiritual life. He counts that labour lost, so far as the objects of it are concerned, which has no abiding effects. The merest flash of thought will reveal the multitude of disappointments certain to crowd upon his soul.
II. THE PASTOR'S CONSTANT DREAD. This dread is lest his converts should fall away. Lest it should be made evident that the good seed has, after all, fallen upon the wayside, or into stony places, or amongst destructive thorns. He remembers:
1. The power of the tempter. Perhaps, like Paul, he calls to mind the fall of Eve, and remembers how much the children are like their mother. He feels the power of temptation in himself; he sees others fall; he wonders whether his own converts will yield. They are his crown of rejoicing when they stand fast; his crown of thorns when they fall.
2. The weakness of the human heart. He remembers the old nature still within them—their infirmities, their tendencies to trust to their own strength. They seem to be easy prey for the devil.
3. The subtlety of false human teachers. So many other gospels besides the true will be preached to them—adroitly contrived, it may be, to pander to the carnality still remaining within them. Called by seductive names—bearing the name of Christ possibly, and yet inimical to his kingdom and person. Philosophies falsely so called, and philosophers as full of confidence and conceit as of emptiness, and yet presenting to shallow judgments the appearance of the fulness of wisdom.
III. THE PASTOR'S JEALOUSY.
1. A watchful jealousy. He will have to give account of the souls entrusted to his care, so dares not be careless. He loves his flock, and therefore watches over it. He watches for the approach of peril, if peradventure he may avert it. tie jealously scrutinizes all influences affecting his charge. His Master is the shepherd; he is the watch-dog.
2. A warning jealousy. His keen feelings lead to solemn admonitions when needed. He barks, and, when occasion arises, even bites; faithful are the wounds of such a friend. A short shrift is the desert of a pastor who is but a dumb dog. Pity it is if our feelings are so fine that we cannot rebuke men to save them from perdition. Silver bells are all very well for seasons of festivity, but when the fire blazes forth we must swing lustily the rough alarm bell in the turret. He is a poor surgeon who is too tender hearted to use the knife, if we love people very much we shall be willing to hurt them that we may heal them. An unwarning jealousy is not worth a farthing a bushel, it is a poor sham.
3. A godly jealousy. (2 Corinthians 11:2.)
(1) Jealousy which centres in the welfare of others rather than in gratification at their attachment to the minister of Christ.
(2) Jealousy which is concerned pre-eminently with the honour of God. The falls of professed Christians bring dishonour upon the cause of Christ.
(3) Jealousy wrought in the heart by God himself. A right feeling, since God has given it place in the pastor's heart.
(4) Jealousy which allies with God. Leading to prayer, communion with God, dependence upon him in every strait.—H.
2 Corinthians 11:7-12 - Misinterpretation.
I. OUR BEST ACTS MAY BE MISINTERPRETED. Acts of the greatest nobility and unselfishness have often been. The world's greatest benefactors have tasted the bitterness of being misunderstood.
1. We should not judge of our acts by man's estimate of them.
2. We should not be surprised by any interpretation put on them.
3. We should not be dismayed by any interpretation.
4. We should rejoice that we have a higher, wiser, and more impartial tribunal than the human. Our Master said, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you!" (Luke 6:26)—a pregnant warning to those who live upon the approval of men!
II. MISINTERPRETATION SHOULD NOT HINDER US FROM CONTINUING IN A RIGHT COURSE.
1. We have not to give account to men, but to God.
2. To change our conduct might not avoid misinterpretation, but rather give occasion for it (verse 12).
III. MISINTERPRETATION MAY BE MET AT SUITABLE TIMES BY EXPLANATION AND JUSTIFICATION OF CONDUCT.
1. It is well to take away occasion for misinterpretation. Misinterpretation, like martyrdom, should not be courted. Both should be borne heroically when they meet us in the path of duty.
2. It is often well to show that misinterpretation is misinterpretation. We should not forget that misinterpretation may
(1) injure our usefulness;
(2) injure those who misinterpret us;
(3) bring dishonour upon Christ.
In this matter we have need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.—H.
2 Corinthians 11:14 - A very beautiful angel.
I. A STARTLING FACT. We learn from Paul that the most sable of Ethiopians can change his skin and the fiercest beast of prey throw off his warning garb. The blackest devil can appear as the brightest angel. This is, indeed, a transfiguration, the most marvellous of transformation scenes. As an angel of wisdom Satan appeared to Eve; as an angel versed in theology, to Christ, glibly crying, "It is written." Satan was an angel of light. He thus knows well how to play the angel. Herein is he to be feared. It is not the ugly devil we need dread so much as the pretty devil. The old Scotchman's comment on the horned and hoofed Satan of a celebrated picture of "The Temptation" is full of point: "If that chiel cam' to me in sic an ugly shape, I think he wud hae a teuch job wi' me too."
II. AN EXPLANATION OF SOME MYSTERIES.
1. The power of temptation. Men frequently fall before white temptations rather than black ones. Satan is an adept at whitewashing the sepulchre. The voice that calls us to sin sounds often more like the voice of an angel than the voice of a devil. The great adversary transforms his temptations as well as himself.
2. That wrong often seems much like right. Satan is a clever editor.
3. That folly often seems wisdom. A most dexterous counsel is the devil; as we listen to him, folly is evidently wisdom, and wisdom certainly folly. His splendid intellect overmasters ours when we cope with him alone.
III. AN IMPRESSIVE WARNING.
1. To ever be on our guard. We need have our wits about us whilst we have such an enemy about us. To be careless in such peril would be suicidal. Our guard should be severe; none should be admitted within the gates but proved friends.
2. Not to judge by appearances. Our tendency is to do so, and therefore the devil transforms himself. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). We must get below the surface of things. We must take pains to ascertain the right and the good. Every trap is baited, and the fool who concludes that there can be no difference between a bait and a meal, is soon caught.
3. To seek true wisdom and discernment. Conceit in our own unaided powers is just what delights the devil, and he often preaches to us an angelic discourse upon the pleasing theme of our wonderful faculties, before demonstrating our unutterable folly and weakness. We need know that we are know nothings. Self-distrust baulks Satan. When a man is on the pinnacle of pride he can easily deal with him, but when he is in the valley of humility and self-abnegation the enemy gets sorely perplexed. Let us empty ourselves of the wind of conceit and self-sufficiency, that God may fill us with his own wisdom.
4. To ever abide with Christ. Thus alone can we be truly safe. Here alone shall we secure the victory. Christ overcame the devil when he spake least like a devil, and, if we are truly with Christ, no disguise of Satan shall deceive us, and no might of his shall overthrow us. The cress of Christ is Ithuriel's spear, which, touching the tempter, reveals him in his true character.—H.
2 Corinthians 11:23-33 - Apostolic experiences on earth.
I. THESE EXPERIENCES, AS NARRATED HERE, ASSUME A GLOOMY CHARACTER.
(1) Bodily suffering. Excessive toil, prison privations, scourgings, stoning, shipwrecks, a night and day in the deep, sleeplessness, coldness, foodlessness, nakedness.
(2) Mental suffering.
(a) Persecution from Jews as well as Gentiles. His "own countrymen" hated him more fiercely than any.
(b) Hostility of false brethren. Peculiarly painful to such a noble nature as Paul's.
(c) Anxieties respecting the numerous Churches.
(d) Acute sympathy with the weak and hindered ones (2 Corinthians 11:29).
2. Perilous. What a catalogue of perils in 2 Corinthians 11:26. how extreme the one instanced in 2 Corinthians 11:32, 2 Corinthians 11:33! how pathetic and suggestive the expression, "in deaths oft" (2 Corinthians 11:23)! Paul lived on the margin of the next world. Of him was it peculiarly true that he knew not what a day would bring forth.
II. MUCH OF THE PAINFUL AND PERILOUS EXPERIENCE OF THE APOSTLE AROSE FROM HIS MARVELLOUS ZEAL AND ENTERPRISE. He might bare avoided not a little by:
1. Being only moderately active. That delightful "mean" coveted by so many—it was too mean for Paul!
2. Being more compliant. If he bad been a man of expediency, and not, as he was, a man of principle. If he had bent to the storm; but he intended that the storm should bend to him, or rather to those God-truths which he proclaimed.
3. Placing God's honour in the second place. The servant was persecuted so vindictively because he would talk so much of his Master. It was not Paul that Jew and Gentile hated so much, but Christ; but where Paul was there men could hear of nothing but the contemned Nazarene;
4. Loving himself more than a perishing world. It was a question which should suffer, Paul or the world; Paul said, "I will." In his sphere he thus imitated his Lord, who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor.
III. NO SUFFERING OR PERIL SUCCEEDED IN DAMPING THE APOSTOLIC ARDOUR. How keen must have been his love for Christ and for his fellow men! Ever before him he had the future exaltation of Christ and the "saving some." We haste here a marvellous triumph of mind over matter, and a still more marvellous one of spirituality over carnality. The life of the apostle was so vigorous that he could bear to die daily. What little aches and pains stop us! An avalanche of grief and trial failed to arrest Paul!
IV. IT WAS ONLY WHEN SUBJECTED TO GREAT PRESSURE, AND THEN ONLY UNDER PROTEST, THAT THE APOSTLE ALLOWED HIMSELF TO DWELL UPON THIS PERPETUAL MARTYRDOM. He rejoiced in it; yet he did not like to speak about it. He almost calls himself a fool for doing so. The martyr has sometimes sullied his crown by pride; but the apostolic affliction seemed strangely sanctified to him. Some are not great enough to suffer much for Christ. God does not allow it. It would make them so intolerable that prayer would ascend on all hands for their transference to a world where they would have a humble opinion of themselves. Paul went through all the privation, anguish, peril, catalogued here, and came out from it with the spirit of a little child.—H.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
2 Corinthians 11:3 - The simplicity in Christ.
"So your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." Some manuscripts read, "simplicity and chastity." By the term "simplicity" is first meant "singleness of affection," "single-minded devotion to Christ," and the word is used in connection with the marriage figure of 2 Corinthians 11:1, 2 Corinthians 11:2. It should be remembered that, in the East, the time of espousal is regarded as sacred, and any infidelities during the time of espousal are treated as adulteries are after marriage. In St. Paul's conception the Church is the espoused bride of Christ, and he had been the means of arranging the espousal in the case of the Church at Corinth. "What the apostle now urges is that it is as natural for him to be jealous for the purity of the Church which owes its birth to him, as it is for a father to be jealous for the chastity of the daughter whom he has betrothed as to a kingly bridegroom." The older theocratic figure of idolatry as adultery, which so often appears in the books of the prophets, should be compared with this. The term "simplicity" may, however, be more full and suggestive to us, and mean singleness of devotion to Christ, entireness of service to him, unmixed love for him. F.W. Robertson says that the expression, "the simplicity of the gospel," is constantly mistaken. "People suppose simplicity means what a child or a ploughman can understand. Now, if this be simplicity, evidently the simplicity of the gospel was corrupted by St. Paul himself; for he is not simple. Who understands his deep writings? Does one in a thousand? St. Peter says there are things hard to be understood in St. Paul's Epistles. We often hear it alleged as a charge against a book, a lecture, or a sermon, that it is not simple. If we are told that what we are to preach must be on a level with the most inferior intellect, so that without attention or thought it may be plain to all, we are bound to disclaim any obligation to do this; if it is supposed that the mysteries of God, of which we are the stewards, can be made as easy of comprehension as an article in a newspaper or a novel, we say that such simplicity can only be attained by shallowness. There must be earnestness, candour, patience, and a certain degree of intelligence, as well as a sort of sympathy between the minds of the preacher and his hearers, and there must be a determination to believe that no man who endeavours to preach the gospel will deliberately and expressly say what he knows to be false or wrong. 'Simple' means, according to St. Paul, unmixed or unadulterated."
I. THE PLACE OF CHRISTIAN THE CHURCH. It is as unique as that of the husband in relation to the wife. A place that can know no rivalry. Christ is Head, Lord, Husband. "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." The old testimony is renewed for the Christian spheres, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord." "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." No earthly teachers may push into his place. No claim of Judaic ceremonies may spoil the trust in and devotion to him. "Him first, him midst, him last, him all in all." The bride has but one Husband, even Christ.
II. THE SPIRIT OF THE CHURCH TOWARDS CHRIST. It is that full loyalty which follows upon setting our whole affection on Christ, and which finds expression in all loving submissions and obediences. It is precisely set before us by the great apostle when he says, "To me to live in Christ." "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
III. THE TEMPTATIONS TO WHICH THE CHURCH IS EXPOSED. Answering to the disloyalty of a wife. And such temptations may take forms of subtlety, like those presented by the serpent to Eve. In every age there are things which tend to take the mind and heart from Christ. Nowadays it is worldliness, self-indulgence, the beautiful in art, and the fascination of scientific knowledge. We want now to love and serve so many things much and Christ a little, and still the old message sounds forth, "If a man forsake not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." St. Paul counted "all things loss for Christ," and would have nothing—Mosaic rite, human philosophy, or aught else—come between him and his one Lord.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 11:4 - One Jesus, one Spirit, one gospel.
Evidently St. Paul recognized a vital distinction between the Christ whom he preached and the Christ preached by the teachers of the Judaic party. The Christ whom he preached was the "Friend and Brother of mankind, who had died for all men that he might reconcile them to God." The Christ whom they preached was the "head of a Jewish kingdom, requiring circumcision and all the ordinances of the Law as a condition of admission to it." St. Paul could see no gospel, no good news, in such a Christ as that. By "another Jesus" we may understand Jesus otherwise presented; "another spirit" is something opposed to the spirit of liberty in Christ from Mosaic ordinances; and by "another gospel" the apostle means something different from the good news of God reconciled to faith. "His gospel was one of pardon through faith working by love; theirs was based on the old Pharisaic lines of works, ritual, ceremonial and moral precepts, standing in their teaching on the same footing." Here St. Paul makes distinct claim to be the authorized teacher of the truth, and we consider this claim.
I. THE SENSE IN WHICH APOSTOLIC TEACHING WAS FINAL. In relation to this modern opinion differs from the older opinion, and therefore the subject needs to be treated with extreme care and prudence. When the generally received doctrine of inspiration was that known as the verbal theory, which affirmed the direct communication from God of every word of Scripture, the apostles were regarded as inspired forevery detail of Gospels and Epistles, and appeal to their expressions was regarded as final. We now more clearly see that they were inspired to guide men's thoughts, but not to fetter them, or force them into precise moulds. The apostles do fix the lines along which Christian thought may safely run, but they leave full room for the diversities and idiosyncrasies of men to find free expression. They make a firm stand, and plainly show the boundaries of Christian thinking, but within the lines they leave us free. We properly use our own cultured Christian judgment—in the leadings of the Holy Ghost—upon the value of their arguments, and the precise applications of their counsels. And this appears to us quite consistent with a becoming reverence for these divinely endowed men, and necessary to that personal leading of the Holy Ghost, which we are permitted to realize as well as they. God's truth for the race can be set within no permanent bonds, even though men may call them apostolic.
II. THE LIMITS WITHIN WHICH DIVERSITY CAN BE PERMITTED.
1. There can be no dispute with regard to the great Christian facts.
2. There can be no attempt to alter the supreme position of Christ in his Church and relation to his Church. There is nothing so essentially Christian as the truth of the direct relation of the soul to Christ, a relation that is independent of doctrine, creed, ceremonial, or priesthood, though these all have their place.
3. There are great foundation truths and principles which may be stated in simple and comprehensive terms, but outside of which, or contrary to which, Christian thought cannot safely run. None may take from us our "liberty in Christ," but we may wisely "hold fast the form of sound words."
III. THE WAYS IN WHICH APOSTOLIC TEACHING MIGHT BE IMPERILLED. Unfold and illustrate the following ways.
1. By overloading it with the old.
2. By overstraining it to tit the new.
3. By applying it in a spirit that is out of harmony with its principles.
4. By the pressure of the peculiarities of men who are strongly self-willed.
5. By translating the claims into the things we should like to do, rather than into the things which we ought to do.
6. By permitting the common philosophy and sociology of men to give tone to the Christian revelation, rather than to make Christianity tone them.
IV. THE TESTS BY WHICH SUCH PERVERSIONS OF APOSTOLIC TEACHINGS MIGHT BE DISCOVERED. The all-sufficing tests of any teaching, under the influence of which we may come—whether it be teachings of the pulpit or of the press—are these.
1. Is it in harmony with the first truth of the Christian revelation—the fatherhood of God?
2. Does it uphold the honour, and the supreme administrative rights in souls, of the Lord Jesus Christ?
3. And does it practically tend towards the things that are pure, and true, and holy, and good? Everything, godly is helpful to godliness. In conclusion, argue this point—Can we still safely receive truth upon the authority of men? and if so, are there any limitations under which such reception is properly placed? And are we still open and exposed to the persuasions of self-interested or self-deluded teachers? We have to find out for these times in which we live what is the scorer of "holding fast the faith once delivered to the saints."—R.T.
2 Corinthians 11:10, 2 Corinthians 11:21-30 - Apostolic boastings.
This is a most reproachful passage, and the intensity of St. Paul's feeling can only be accounted for by some knowledge of the bitter and shameful treatment he was receiving from the antagonistic Jewish party at Corinth. Archdeacon Farter, in a very vivid and forcible manner, presents the kind of things that were being freely said at Corinth about the apostle. "He had shown feebleness in his change of plan; his personal appearance, feeble and infirm, did not match the authoritative tone of his letters; his speech had nothing in it to command admiration; he threatened supernatural punishments, but he did not dare to put his threats to the proof. What right had he to claim the authority of an apostle, when he had never seen the Christ in the flesh? Was it certain that he was a Hebrew, a Jew of the pure blood of Palestine, or even that he was of the seed of Abraham? Who was this Paul, who came without credentials, and expected to be received on the strength of his everlasting self-assertions? Was there not a touch of madness in his visions and revelations? Could he claim more than the tolerance which men were ready to extend to the insane?" "Conceive all these barbed arrows of sarcasm falling on the ears, and through them piercing the very soul, of a man of singularly sensitive nature, passionately craving for affection, and proportionately feeling the bitterness of loving with no adequate return; and we may form some estimate of the whirl and storm of emotion in which St. Paul began to dictate the Epistle." As a rule, boastings are only evil both for him who boasts and for those who hear the boasting; but no rule is without exception, and there are times when a man is absolutely driven to boasting—it is the one thing that he can do, and that he ought to do. It becomes the plain duty of the hour. A man may never boast until he is thus driven to it, and then his boastings will have their foundation in his humility. The apostle's boastings had direct reference to the accusations made against him.
I. THERE WERE BOASTINGS OF HIS JEWISH BIRTH AND RIGHTS. These had been assailed. He was a foreign-born Jew, and the Palestine Jews rather looked down upon all such. It was easy to raise prejudice against the apostle on this ground. He therefore pleads the facts of his pure birth, his Pharisaic relationships, his Jerusalem training, and his manifest Jewish sympathies. He was proud of the fact that no Jew could plead superior Jewish birthrights to his. So far he did but boast of facts of his life that were beyond his own control
II. THERE WERE BOASTINGS OF SUFFERINGS BORNE IN MINISTERING FOR CHRIST. See 2 Corinthians 11:21-30, the most amazing catalogue of woes ever written. One wonders how so frail a body could have endured them all. But even this record we feel is holy boasting, for one can but feel that, under all the intensity of the utterance, there is a great sadness of heart in being thus compelled to speak of such things. He never would have said one word about them had it not been that attacks upon his apostleship meant dishonour to Christ, and mischievous hindrance to Christ's work. St. Paul never would have boasted if he had not thus been compelled to boast for Christ's sake. And this is the one law for us. Never put self in the front unless so putting self will glorify our Master. We may even boast if it is clear that our boasting will serve him.—R.T.
2 Corinthians 11:14 - Satanic subtleties.
"Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." This expression suggests that the Judaic party at Corinth laid claim to some angel manifestations or revelations, and set these off against St. Paul's claim of apostolic inspiration and authority. He really asserts here that they are deluded. It is not Divine revelations which they have received. These things in which they boast are Satanic subtleties and transformations, by which they are deceived and ensnared. There may, however, be a reference to what was so evidently in St. Paul's mind—the serpent's deception of Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3). The mode in which reference is made to the incident in the garden of Eden suggests to us that St. Paul thought the serpent put on some form of beauty, or that he, in a very subtle way, explained his superior wisdom and intelligence by the fact that he fed on the fruit of that forbidden tree.
I. THE SATANIC POWER OF DISGUISE. Illustrate the very various ways in which evil is made attractive. Apply to the temptations of vice and self-indulgence, to mental error, to religious wanderings and backslidings. He said a great thing, who, knowing much of the evils of Christian and Church life, exclaimed, "We are not ignorant of his [Satan's] devices."
II. SUCH POWER ILLUSTRATED IN RELIGIOUS LEADERS. Such as Joe Smith, the Mormon leader. All who seek to delude men for self-seeking ends are really Satanic; they are doing Satan's work. According to the standpoint of the preacher, it may be shown that the methods by which men are deluded still are
Therefore we have the very earnest advice, "Prove [test and try] all things; hold fast that which is good."—R.T.
2 Corinthians 11:23-30 - The evidential value of sufferings borne for Christ's sake.
Recall Paley's use of the labours and sufferings of the early Christians as an argument for the truth of Christianity. Carefully observe under what limitations such an argument must be set. There have been martyrs of all sorts of opinions. Men intense on any subject are usually willing to bear much for its sake; and the enthusiast or fanatic does not shrink from giving his life for his faith, though his faith may be unreasonable or absurd. We can only go so far as to say that willingness to bear suffering proves—
I. PERSONAL SINCERITY. Men's hearts must be in that which they will maintain at cost of toil, sorrow, disability, and pain. Christianity must be true to the man who can die for it; but it is not therefore proved to be absolutely true.
II. A DIVINE CALL OR COMMISSION. It is one of the indications of such a call. Not sufficient if it stands alone, but very helpful as a buttress to other arguments and considerations.
III. THAT THERE IS A FINE MORAL STRENGTH CULTURED BY CHRISTIANITY. This, perhaps, is its chief value. The noble endurance illustrates Christianity, and shows what the almighty grace in it can do. That must be worthy, and it may be Divine, which nerves men to such heroic labour, such patient submission, and such triumphs over ills and death. So, when kept within due limits and carefully combined with other considerations, the sufferings and martyrdoms of the Christian saints become an evidence of the Divine origin of Christianity.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30