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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
2 Corinthians 12

 

 

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Verses 1-20

PAUL’S VISIONS AND REVELATIONS

1. Indeed it is not profitable to me to boast.” He indulges in it because constrained by his adversaries to defend his claims to the apostleship, and thus vindicate the Divine authenticity of his ministry. “I will come to Visions and revelations of the Lord.

2. I knew a man in Christ fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or out of the body, I know not, God knoweth): such an one having been caught up to the third Heaven.” In Oriental phraseology the atmosphere enveloping the globe is the first heaven; the astronomical worlds — sun, moon and stars — the second, and the home of the glorified saints and angels, the third. Hence we see that this man was caught up to Heaven proper, as understood in common parlance.

4. He was caught up into Paradise, and heard unutterable words, which it is impossible for a man to speak.” i. e., those words were unutterable by mortals, consequently he was incompetent to repeat them, and as the Greek says, “it was impossible for a man to speak them.” The case is very clear that Paul himself was the man caught up to the third Heaven, and the time of its occurrence was evidently when they stoned him at Lystra in Pisidia, during his first great evangelistic tour with Barnabas. As the writing was A. D. 57, fourteen years would drop back to A. D. 43, which would just about suit the chronology, as he was converted about 35, and spent three years in Arabia and at Damascus, equal to 38. Then, returning to Jerusalem, he proceeded to preach in the Hellenistic synagogues, where Stephen had preached until he and others had persecuted him unto death. Hence, very appropriately going hack on his old track, he was endeavoring with all his might to undo all the bad work of his mistaken ministerial life before he was converted. We know not how long he preached at Jerusalem till the opposition which had martyred Stephen four years previously became so rife against him that the brethren found it necessary to rescue him from their hands, leading him to Cesarea, and sending him off home to Tarsus, this occurring about A. D. 39 or 40. There the historic curtain falls, and we hear no more of him till Barnabas went after him and brought him to Antioch to Help in their work in that great Syrian metropolis. After a year they go off on that missionary tour to the Island of Cyprus, the home of Barnabas; returning back to the Continent, and evangelizing Pamphylia, they proceed into Bithynia, where he was stoned at Lystra. As the time he spent at Tarsus, when they sent him home, is unknown, and the location of this wonderful vision at Lystra only gives him two or three years to constitute that unknown period at Tarsus (which he doubtless used diligently to the glory of God, evangelizing Cilicia, Phrygia and Galatia, and doubtless at that time founding churches in those countries), we may quite safely settle down on the Lystrian martyrdom as the epoch of this wonderful Heavenly vision. The solution becomes very simple. of course, it is more than probable that the cruel stoning actually killed him, his disembodied spirit going up to Heaven and there abiding, seeing scenes and hearing words indescribable in mortal phraseology. “Unlawful” in the KJV. is incorrect, “impossible” being the true rendering. There was no law forbidding him to tell on earth the things he saw and the utterances he heard in Heaven; but we must remember that all earthly languages are superlatively materialistic. This is the reason why the Bible abounds in material imagery, constituting a vast series of vehicles by which the unutterable realities of Heavenly truth are in a measure transmitted to us. Divest the Bible of this imagery, i. e., types, symbols, emblems and illustrations, and we could not understand it. Heaven is a world of pure spirituality, utterly unencumbered with material organism of any kind. Hence the pure spiritual realities of Heavenly existence are incommunicable in the materialistic phraseology used in this mortal world. Therefore when we go to Heaven we will receive a new language, dropping the vast and cumbrous vocabulary of materialistic utterances which we have used in this life and adopting the pure and unadulterated spiritual phraseology of the angels and glorified saints.

5. In behalf of such an one I will boast, but I will not boast in behalf of myself, except in my infirmities.” This sentence does not abnegate the identity of Paul with this man that went up to the third Heaven and there heard and saw those wonderful things, because he was sent back to reanimate his body and go on and finish his work. Hence there is a great difference between incarnate Paul and his disembodied spirit. You also see in these passages Paradise and the third Heaven used synonymously. This is in harmony with the uniform teaching of inspiration. Our Savior told the dying thief that he should meet Him in Paradise on the day of the crucifixion (Luke 23:43). He told the two Marys and Martha, on the resurrection morn, that He had not yet ascended up to His Father. Hence the Paradise of the thief was not Heaven properly so called, but that intermediate Elysium of the Old Testament saints designated “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). When our Savior expired on the cross, His human soul descended into Hades (1 Peter 3:19; Ephesians 4:8; Acts 2:31); proclaimed His victory to the inmates of the Pandemonium; crossed that chasm, impassable to finite beings, intervening between the Hell of Dives and the Heaven of Lazarus; entered that intermediate Paradise, i. e., “Abraham’s bosom”; met the thief true to His promise; enjoyed a glorious ovation through the oncoming Sabbath; abolished that intermediate Paradise, leading them all up with Him (Ephesians 4:10); received His body from the sepulcher on the third morning, all these inmates of the Old Testament Paradise accompanying Him the forty days, invisible because not having their bodies, and ascending with Him from Mt. Olivet up to Heaven (Psalms 24). Hence the identity of Paradise and Heaven in Paul’s day. We see in this last verse that Paul certifies that he will only glory in his infirmities, which have already been described.

6. For if I shall wish to boast, I will not be a fool: for I shall speak the truth.” We can not properly denounce a man as a fool when lie speaks the truth. The Greek word here translated “fool” is not moros, “a natural fool,” but aphroon, “a spiritual fool,” i. e., one rejecting the light of the Holy Spirit, and consequently a fool, not simply in the estimation of mortals, but of the Heavenly intelligence’s. “But I abstain lest some one may reckon unto me above what he sees me or hears from me.” He does not want to be misapprehended nor overestimated. Lord, help us to do likewise, and see that we are not estimated above what we really are.

7. And in order that I may not he exalted by the abundant excess of revelations, a thorn in my flesh was given unto me, the messenger of Satan that it may buffet me, in order that I may not he exalted.

8. For this three times I called on the Lord, that it may depart from me.

9. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will most gladly rather boast in my infirmities, in order that the power of Christ may have its residence in me.” It is flagrantly out of harmony with the context to conclude that this unrevealed and unknown trouble designated “the thorn in the flesh” was sin in any form or manifestation whatever.

(a) The thorn was not in his spirit, but in his flesh, i. e., his mortal body, here used not antithetical to the Holy Spirit, but to his human spirit. Hence the thorn in the flesh was a bodily ailment of some sort.

(b) He here positively and unequivocally identifies it with his infirmities, which are neither actual nor original sin, but the weaknesses and failures and shortcomings appertaining to this life resultant from the effects of the Fall, reaching our spiritual being through the media of the body and mind, on whose organs we are dependent for our communication with this world. Hence all bodily and mental disabilities and failures properly come in here. I am satisfied that this thorn in the flesh was ocular feebleness, which was the most prominent infirmity in his life.

“For I testify unto you that, if possible, plucking out your eyes, you would have given them unto me” (Galatians 4:15)

If his eyes had been all right, they never would have thought of relieving him by giving him one of theirs. He was a double graduate, having graduated in the Greek colleges of Tarsus and the Hebrew universities of Jerusalem, thus having prematurely worn out his eyes. Besides, the wonderful glory radiating from the transfigured Jesus, who a appeared to him on his way to Damascus, utterly eclipsed his mortal vision, wrapping him in rayless midnight. God makes no mistakes. Paul had the self-will of a rhinoceros, fortified by the greatest intellectual power, educational achievement and official promotion. He thought he not only saw everything, but saw it just right. Consequently it was necessary to take from him every ray of his former light, grandeur and glory, dropping him down to the bottom of self-abasement and preparing him for his deep Arabian plunge into egotistical annihilation, thus sweeping away every vestige of the old carnal selfhood that had made him a champion of Satan’s host. Though he became the recipient of Divine healing in the restoration of his eyesight through the ministry of Ananias, yet we have abundant reason to believe that ocular feebleness became his great physical disability till relieved at Nero’s block. Of course, he asked God to take it away, and continued to ask until the negative verdict came, bearing the happy assurance, “My grace is sufficient for you.” I am satisfied that God made this serious physical infirmity a great blessing to Paul, as you see he became, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the revelator of more Scripture than any other man in the history of revealed truth. I became a good reader when six years old, on through my childhood and youth devouring books with enthusiasm, ploughing all day and reading by a brush light until midnight, spending the next day digesting and assimilating what I had read, as I walked behind the plough, and then going to our rural polemic society on Saturday night and astonishing the people by an off- hand speech of a solid hour, all wondering where I ever found out what I was telling them. A student twenty-one years in school ever and anon, I studied so assiduously that I went away from all my comrades. The result of thus excessively using my eyes, which seemed to me as strong as an eagle’s, was that failure began at the age of twenty. During the six years following I studied through the entire collegiate course, with great difficulty and suffering. I then learned how to make my memory — naturally excellent — a substitute for eye power, which resulted in a wonderful development of that most invaluable faculty. Reading my lesson but once, I so committed it to memory that I could repeat it like a declamation, while my comrades, who had read it over a dozen times, were blundering over it.

I had to commit it to memory because I could not give it much attention with my eyes. Aided by spectacles, I read much in several different languages, till ten years ago my eyes signally failed, not visually, but potentially.

Oculists all told me they were worn out, and no remedy. Consequently I gave up all reading but the Greek Scriptures, the New Testament being more important than the Old, whose Hebrew I was very reluctant to surrender. To my unutterable surprise, God has put me to writing (not much with my own hand, as my eyes are too feeble, but dictating to an amanuensis). I see now the glory of God in the whole matter. I was such an inveterate reader that I would actually have spent my life devouring books if I had enjoyed continuously the eagle-eye power peculiar to my childhood.

No one was ever so surprised as myself when I became a book-writer. As I could not read, I had opportunity to think and dictate to others. Homer, the greatest poet the world has ever seen, the author of the twenty-four poetic books constituting the Iliad and twenty-four more in the Odyssey, which have charmed the world three thousand years, was blind. So was Milton, the brightest and the best of the English bards. God needed Paul to think, preach and dictate the truth to an amanuensis. If his eyes had qualified him to read, he would have expended much brain and nerve power in that way which he needed in the production of that profound original thought, illuminated and inspired by the Holy Ghost, which has eclipsed all the tall sons of Zion, bringing them low down at the feet of Jesus and Paul to study the profound and unsearchable truth of God revealed by the Holy Ghost. Hence I can see a good reason for withholding complete convalescence and invigoration of ocular power from Paul. When God answered him, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” He gives as a reason, “For dynamite is made perfect in weakness,” or, as the Greek says, “in the absence of strength.” That is a patent fact. If you want real power to be illustrated, revealed and magnified, we are to have nothing in its way, but clear the field and give it full play. A giant who is stout enough to whip all the adversaries that can crowd into the ring does not want a lot of feeble folks in his way, even though they propose to help him. He wants the arena clear of all obstruction. Then he bids defiance to every foe who dares to enter. So human power is liable to get in the way of the Divine dynamite. “Then most gladly will I rather boast in my infirmities, in order that the dynamite of Christ may have its residence in me.” He is going out to fight the world, the flesh and the devil; so he wants the field perfectly clear, every obstruction removed so that the Omnipotent dynamite of Christ may just move in and have its abode in him.

10. Therefore I delight in infirmities.” The word for infirmities here means utter destitution of strength so as to clear the way for the incoming of Divine power. “In insults.” How many of us can say that we delight in insults? It was because Paul had perfect faith in God to make all of those insults and infirmities a means of grace to him and a blessing to others. Do you not know that you will get blessings in insults, rebuffs and abuses heaped on you by Satan’s people which you could never receive without?

Darkness shows us worlds of light we never saw by day. From the bottom of a deep well you can see the stars at noon-day. If you never receive an insult you will never have the happiness to know that your religion is competent to shout your way through the abuses, lies, calumniation’s, slanders and contumelies piled on you by the devil’s people. John Wesley said: “The insults, rebuffs, abuses and disappointments we meet in this life are the greatest helps to a sanctified experience.” “In necessities,” i. e., in destitution of the necessaries of life, requiring him to suffer in many ways for Christ’s sake. The Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece taught that the true philosophy of a happy life consists in the greatest possible independence of the material world. Hence Diogenes, their celebrated leader, made it his chief aspiration to dispense with everything appertaining to the material world which he could get along without, teaching his pupils that the more we are disencumbered the freer we are, the more independent and the happier. Hence, refusing to live in a house, he used a tub for his residence, which he rolled on wheels to the place in the city of Athens where he preferred to abide for the time. He had succeeded in reducing down his furniture to a plate to eat out of and a cup to use in drinking. On one occasion, when he saw a boy eating his vegetables out of a hollow bread crust, he threw away his plate, saying: “Boy, I thank you for teaching me a lesson in economy.” On another occasion, when he saw a boy drinking water out of his hands, he cast away his cup, thanking him for another lesson in economy. When Alexander the Great, his school-mate, having visited him in his tub, said: “Now, my old friend Diogenes, I have conquered all the world and I am dispensing kingdoms in many different countries to my friends; what shall I give you?” The response was, Alexander, I can not think of any favor you can do me unless it will be just to stand aside and let the sun shine into my tub.” Then when the great philosopher told the world’s great conqueror that there were many other worlds besides this, it is said that the latter broke down in tears to think that he never could have but this one world. Oh, what a contrast the craving of the modern church after worldly things, with the great apostle, who said he delighted “in necessities,” i. e., destitution, in simply having nothing. “In persecutions.” Reader, can you say that! you actually delight in persecutions? Multiplied thousands in the martyr ages by-gone, actually prayed for a martyr’s crown, decidedly preferring to go out of the world in that way. I fear there are not many nowadays who can truly and candidly say: “I delight in persecutions.” Lord, help us all into a radical Pauline experience, where all the antagonism of the world, the flesh and the devil will only be a source of delight to us. “In distresses.” The Greek word, stenochooria, is from stenos, “narrow, tight,” and choora, “place.” Hence it means all sorts of tight places, troubles, trials, conflicts, in every conceivable way, difficulties indiscriminately. If the preachers were like Paul every one would want the poorest circuit or the work most encompassed and involved in difficulty, really the hardest fields of labor. That is really the true conception. If we are here for ease and comfort, “Ichabod” is already written on our escutcheon and life is a failure. The greater the difficulties, the grander the opportunities and the more illimitable the field for real efficiency, and the more auspicious the omens that you will wear a starry crown in the good time coming. From the time the Lord sanctified me thirty years ago, as the old brethren still surviving will certify you, I kept the constant petition before Conference for the hardest and most difficult fields of labor. Afterward I located, simply that I might take the world for my parish, as John Wesley said. “On behalf of Christ.” So this is the reason why Paul delighted in infirmities, insults, necessities, persecutions and diseases, not that any sensible man would seek them for their own sake, but he rejoiced in them for Christ’s sake. Lord, help us to do likewise. “For when I am with out strength then am I dynamite.”

Evidently this was the secret of Paul’s wonderful power and efficiency. He succeeded in learning how to keep self and the world out of the arena and sink away into God. I am an old revivalist. We always had to have a repetition of Gethsemane and Calvary before we could reach the triumphant resurrection and the glorious ascension. On arrival, finding all elated over the new evangelist and shouting over the revival already in sight, I knew that we had to get rid of great car-loads of human lumber and trash before we could see the glory of God. Soon my plain, hard, rough preaching and earnest crying to God would disgust them, so all their hopes would evanesce, and giving up all expectation of a revival, they would be very sorry they had called me, feeling it was a mistake of their lives. Then came the salient point in the campaign. Frequently at that epoch they would run me off, of course defeating the enterprise outright. When they bore with me in utter desperation, all blue as indigo, feeling that it was infinitely worse than a failure, they all got out of the way and I was out of the way, because they were all disgusted with me. When we reached that significant crisis, a shout always began in the deep interior of my heart, because I knew victory was at hand and we would all see the glory of God as no one had ever seen nor anticipated before. I never knew a failure; when all human resources and hope evanesced away and we reached the place of nothing but insults, destitution’s, weakness, persecutions and tight places for Christ’s sake, then the dynamite came and blew down the walls of Jericho, busted up the devil’s kingdom, revealing the glory of God and the victories of Christ on all sides to the unutterable surprise of everybody, bearing all opposition before it and inundating the whole country with the glory of God. In many cases, where they all so fell out with me, I had no home, but stood for days and weeks alone with Jesus, preaching the truth fearlessly of men and devils, unearthing all the hidden things of darkness, exposing all Satan’s refuges of lies, cutting every cable with the sword of the Spirit, after the power came and the tide swept over everything, they almost pulled me to pieces to take me to their homes, and I actually became the most popular man ever known in that country. To give you the simple history of the literal verifications of this Pauline scripture I have witnessed in my own ministry would fill a great volume. Depend upon it and adopt it as a maxim, never letting it slip: “When I am without strength then am I dynamite.” Our resources, power and hope must evacuate the field before omnipotent grace can glorify God. Poor humanity must get out of the way before the power and glory of God can be revealed. The reason why we don’t have revivals everywhere after the Pentecostal style is because we have too much power, too many resources and too much encouragement. You will never see the glory of God till all this gets out of the way.

11. I am become a fool; you compelled me.” His enemies, minifying his ministry, and even impeaching his apostolic authority, and thus seeking to destroy his ministerial influence, had compelled him thus to vindicate himself by giving this paradoxical testimony to the wonderful power of God through his humble instrumentality. “For I ought to have been commended by you.” The emphasis here is on “you,” i. e., that you should have done this commendation instead of me. “For I was not inferior to the very chief of the apostles, if indeed I am nothing.” Evidently the reference is here to the entire original Twelve, whose apostleship had never been called in question.

12. The signs of an apostle were wrought out among you in all patience, signs and wonders and mighty works.” During the eighteen months he had preached among them, when God used him to found their church, great and mighty works were wrought; not only Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, but even Sosthenes, his successor and leader of the opposition, and many other Jews, had been gloriously converted; besides, great numbers of Gentiles, even Erastus, the chamberlain of the city, and quite a multitude, especially from the dismal hell-dens of debauchery and sensuality which cursed that emporium of idolatry and adultery, had been wonderfully saved and many of them powerfully sanctified. Finally the crowning glory of the mighty works wrought among them culminated in the mighty baptisms of the Holy Ghost, and His glorious endowment of many with the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, qualifying them to prophesy, speak with tongues, discern spirits and work miracles. As they were all young in their Christian experiences, the gospel being new and fresh among them and three years having rolled away since those wonderful meetings where God had miraculously blessed the labors of Paul, and now many other preachers having come and found a place in their minds and hearts, of course the trend of things was somewhat to blur and obliterate the memories of the olden times.

13. For what is that in which you are inferior to other churches but that I did not burden you? Grant unto me this injustice.” Again he reminds them of his noble self-sacrifice in preaching unto them the gospel gratuitously.

14. Behold! this third time I am ready to come unto you, and I will not burden you.” We have no account of his second visit to them. The presumption is it was very transient, probably occurring soon after his departure and before he got away from Europe and crossed the sea into Asia. “For I do not seek yours, but you.” This animadverts (critical remarks) severely on his adversaries, who in many cases had doubtless labored among them for the fleece more than for the flock. There is so little of this purely disinterested ministry in the church that preachers are not all discounted by the bold emphasis they lay on temporal support. It seems that they are past all shame on this subject. It is astounding to hear a preacher in the pulpit publicly speak of his salary, and boldly adopt measures to work it up. I could not stand anything of the kind. When the Lord ceases to feed me I will starve gladly for Christ’s sake. How many preachers now can candidly say to the people, “I seek not yours, but you”? Surely every one called and sent of God does feel and talk like Paul. My temporal life, since the Lord sanctified me especially, has been by faith, like my spiritual. If a preacher can not trust God fully and unequivocally for his temporal support, how can he preach to his people the truth of God appertaining to personal faith so that they will all “walk by faith and not by sight,” and live by faith alone? “For the children ought not to lay up treasures for the parents, but the parents for the children.” The deep and penetrating thought of Paul is constantly illustrating spiritual truth from temporal affairs patent to perpetual observation. In this statement he beautifully reminds them of his spiritual paternity with them all.

15-16. But most delightfully will I spend and be spent in behalf of your souls, even though the more loving you, I may the less be loved.” Lord, help us all to emulate our apostolic example in that deep self-abnegation and annihilation which will enable us to spend and be spent for the people of God, getting the Bride ready for her coming Lord without the slightest reference to temporal emolument. When shall the Church be delivered from the awful scourge of a hireling ministry, so out rightly condemned by our Savior? How infinitely alien are the utterances of Paul and Jesus from anything favoring temporal support, except simply the good Providence of God! When we let temporalities come in the way of spirituality’s, we had better hang our trumpet on the wall and blow it no more, till down in the straw we receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost, consuming selfishness world without end. “But be it so, I did not burden you. But being crafty, I caught you with guile.” If he had come to Corinth seeking temporal support and remuneration for his preaching, those Jews and heathens would have seen at once that he was actuated by a personal interest, this fact becoming an insuperable barrier against all the efforts he possibly could have made to win them for his Christ. The craftiness here and the “guile” with which he caught them was simply the policy he adopted, i. e., making his own living by manual labor, and preaching to them night and day with sympathetic tears flowing demonstrative of his tender love for them, while they could see no human motive actuating in this noble philanthropy; meanwhile, the Holy Spirit, through the truth sanctified with tears, sent arrows of conviction into their hearts, revealing an open Hell, death and doom on the one side; salvation, Heaven and a glorious immortality on the other. The result was that scores and hundreds fell under the triumphant power of God and were swept triumphantly into grace. Now do not forget that the guile and craft of Paul consisted in preaching the gospel without saying one word about temporal support. When Holiness people depart from this precept and cease to go and work without a word spoken or an assurance given relative to finances, they had better go back and hunt a place in the fallen churches whence they came. We must verify in precept and practice the literal truth of the New Testament. If you will adopt the Pauline craft and “guile,” like him you will catch men. But you can not do it without leaving finances sub rosa in toto. Of course this does not mean that you receive no temporal support. Rest assured God will attend to it. It does not mean that Paul received none at Corinth because he recognizes Gaius, one of the very few wealthy members in that church, as his host, and that of the whole church, we are thus assured that he enjoyed the kind hospitality and the home of Gains, and it does not follow that others did not co-operate in his temporal support. Of course this was not so in the beginning, as they had to rise from the dead before they could embark in living enterprises. Lord, help us all to use the same craft and “guile” which enabled Paul to catch multiplied thousands and save us from the egregious mistake made by the popular clergy in rendering temporal support so prominent as to impress the people that they are following Jesus for the loaves and fishes, thus disgusting and alienating them.

17. By which one of those whom I sent unto you did I fleece you?” The answer is in the negative. He had first sent to them Timothy with his cohort, and afterward Titus with his comrades, both of whom had spent their lives with Paul and so imbibed his spirit that he could fully vouch for them in finances and everything else. Like Paul, we should be careful to send out none who would permit temporal interest to get in the way of spiritual. Well does Paul remind them of the decisive contrast between himself and the preachers he sent and the mercenary evangelists who had been among them.

18. I called Titus, and sent along with him the brother.” We know not the name of this brother whom Paul sent along with Titus. Doubtless he was Aristarchus, Gains or Philemon, alluded to in chapter 2 Corinthians 8:18-22.

“Whether did Titus fleece you in any respect? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not in the same footsteps?”

Paul here fully endorses Titus and the brother who helped him, feeling fully assured that neither of them said a word or gave an insinuation or the remotest intimation in the favor of personal support. Oh, what mistakes are made along that line! Surely we can go like Paul, as he was the greatest traveler in his day. The great trouble is, as we see from this teaching, that we can not give any attention to our temporal support without imperiling the salvation of souls. Why can we not have faith in on Heavenly Father to feed us like He feeds the birds, and, if we go without a few days, feel it a blessed privilege to enjoy a fast for the glory of God and the good of our souls, and only shout the louder?

19. For a long time you think that we are apologizing to you.” This, of course, would become ere-long, a natural conclusion. But you see he utterly disclaims an apologetic attitude. The man of God is no apologist. He is Heaven’s messenger commissioned from the throne. Hence he needs no excuse, and should make no apology under any circumstances. If you are in any way out of kilter, do not tell the people. God can take a worm and thrash a mountain. “We speak in the presence of God in Christ: and all things, beloved, for your edification.” Hence we see that the ministers of God are all in Christ, not in the world nor sin. If you are not in Christ, and a new creature, you can not possibly be a minister of God. Not only are we in Christ, but we speak in the very presence of God. Good Lord, help us to realize and never to say or do anything that would not be appropriate if the splendors of the great white throne were flashing all around us. Besides, we find that l things are to be conducive to edification — not intellectual, but spiritual. Hence the metaphysical, literary and dogmatic discourses so common in the pit are utterly out of order because, while they may entertain the people intellectually, they do not really edify them spiritually. Edify means “to build up an edifice,” i. e., to instruct, sanctify and establish the people in God.

20. For I fear lest perchance having come, I shall not find you as I wish, and I shall not be found unto you such as you wish.” He is still determined by his letters and the preachers sent to them to get them all in as good fix as possible for his reception, thus preferring to settle controversies, refute heresies, correct irregularities, reform abuses and bring all the people into beautiful harmony with God and His Word while at a distance, so when among them he will have nothing to do but as in the first place, when God so wonderfully blessed his labors: preach to them the living Word in spite of men and devils. “Lest perhaps there shall be contentions, envy, animosities, self-seekings.” These four words comprehend the dark, malevolent affections constituting the dismal virus of inbred sin, which only the wonderful efficacy of the cleansing blood and the fire of the Holy Ghost can exterminate.


Verse 21

CALUMNIATIONS, SECRET MALIGNINGS

How frequently these things so prevail in a church as to bring about alienation’s, conflicts and terrible apostasies! The one of these words means open slander, which is so pestilential and ruinous among the members of a church, and the other means private gossip creeping round among the people, undermining and utterly ruining spirituality. I have known churches divided up into factions and filled with parties mutually recriminating each other, until they all become a pandemonium. “Inflation’s,” i. e., people puffed up with pride, vanity, egotism, self-importance, which are flagrantly incompatible with the humility, meekness and lowliness indispensable in Christian character. “Out-fallings.” How few large church organizations can we find without cases of this kind? Members partaking the same sacrament and refusing to speak to each other, and of course eating and drinking damnation to their souls. The Corinthian church was very large, mainly Gentiles, but many Jews in it; thus consisting of heterogeneous elements, easily kindled by Satan into a Hellish conflagration if once they only forfeit the equilibrium of sustaining grace and sanctifying power.

21. And I again coming, God shall not humble me before you, and I will weep over many of those who had sinned and not repented over their uncleanness, fornication and lasciviousness which they had practiced.” The verb is in the aorist tense, indicating an action complete, recognizing the fact that they had been guilty of these things, but that they were all taken away. Here we have three words indicating different phases of that same dark iniquity which was so prevalent in Corinth, the emporium of prostitution, which was popularized by the worship of Venus, the goddess of love, or more properly sensuality, which was so prominent there that more than a thousand priestesses were connected with her worship and living dissolute lives, thus apologizing for debauchery by the plausibility of religion. This awful state of things, and the fact that evidently very many of his converts were saved from low debauchery and gross sensuality, accounts for the wonderful emphasis laid on this phase of immorality throughout both the epistles.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/2-corinthians-12.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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