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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
2 Corinthians 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-18

Xv.—his Revelations As A Ground For Boasting ( 2 Corinthians 12:1 ff.). How He Had Been Kept From Self-exaltation, And Been Led To Glory In His Infirmities ( 2 Corinthians 12:7 ff.). How He Ought To Have Been Saved The Necessity Of Such Self-commendation By The Corinthians Themselves ( 2 Corinthians 12:11 ff.)

2 Corinthians 12:1-18

1It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory, [I must needs[FN1] boast: it is not expedient 2 for me, for[FN2]] I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew [know, οἶδα] a man in Christ above [om. above] fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell [know not, οἷδα], or whether out of the body, I cannot tell [know not]; God knoweth): such an one caught up to [even unto, ἔως] the third heaven 3 And I knew [know] such a Prayer of Manasseh, (whether in the body, or out of [apart from, χωρὶς][FN3] 4the body, I cannot tell [know not[FN4]]; God knoweth: How [om. how] that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a5[om. a, ἀνθρώπῳ)] man to utter. Of such a one will I glory: yet of myself I will notglory, but in mine[FN5] infirmities 6 For though I would [should] desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now [om. now] I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or[FN6] that he heareth of [from,7ἐξ] me. And lest[FN7] I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the Revelation, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger [an angel,8ἄγγελος] of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.[FN8] For [concerning, ὑπὲρ] this thing [angel] I besought the Lord thrice, that it [he] might depart9 from me. And He [hath, εἴρηκἐν] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my [om. my[FN9]] strength is made perfect[FN10] in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest [abide] upon me 10 Therefore I take pleasure [am well contented, εὐδοκῶ] in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in[FN11] distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then Amos 1strong 11 I am become a fool in glorying [om. in glorying[FN12]]; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am [was, ὑστέρησα I behind the very chiefest [these overmuch, ὑπερλίαν] apostles, though I be nothing 12 Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in [by[FN13]] signs and wonders and mighty deeds 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior[FN14] to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this 14 wrong. Behold, the[FN15] third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you [om. to you[FN16]]: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you [your souls, τῶν ψυχῶν]; though [if, ἐι[FN17]] the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved 16 But be it Song of Solomon, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile 17 Did I make a gain of you by any18 of them whom I sent unto you? I desired [besought, παρεκάλεσα]Titus [to go to you] and with him I sent a [the] brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

[Alford: “The date probably refers back to the time when he was at Tarsus waiting for God to point out his work, between Acts 9:30; Acts 11:25.” Wordsworth says: “Fourteen years, reckoned inclusively, carry us back to the time of St. Paul’s ordination to the Apostleship of the Gentiles, which must not be confounded with the time of his conversion to Christianity.” “Probably this vision and revelation were vouchsafed to him then, because he was going forth for the first time to incur shame and suffering,” and they were not communicated to the world until fourteen years afterwards, and even then only as facts and not in detail, because they were designed only for him, and for such a purpose. On this use of πρὸ, Webster says: “The primary idea of πρό, Isaiah, in sight, and it is applied to what is before one, in some place opposite, in view. From this meaning it passes on to denote priority in time, and so with a trajection in its use it signifies here, before, in time.” Syntax and Synn. p150]. We have no other account of what is here related. With respect to the manner in which it took place, the Apostle was entirely uncertain, he was not sure that the soul retained any connection with the body. The latter may have been raised by the Spirit’s power along with Paul’s spirit into heavenly regions, or this connection may have been for the time dissolved, and his spirit rapt away from its earthly tenement. In a word, the whole person, composed of his soul and his body together, or his soul alone, separate from his body (or at least without any of its external functions) was lifted up into a celestial world, Ἁρπαγέντα signifies much more than the different varieties of subjective mental vision, whether accompanied by bodily mental perceptions or not. The uncertainty here expressed does not refer to the question, whether this was a mere vision (ἐν), or an actual trance of the spirit (ἐκτός). Any doubt on such a point would have seriously impaired the importance of the occurrence itself (comp. Meyer, Osiander). We have no means of determining to which of these suppositions, the ἐν or the ἐκτός) the Apostle was most inclined. But the whole representation which he gives makes it probable that the ascent was real and in actual space, and not merely ideal.[FN20] Εἴτε, εἴτε have here the sense of: whether, or whether. ̔Αρπαγῆναι, is spoken of sudden, involuntary removals from one place to another (comp. Acts 8:39; Revelation 12:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:17), [and it hero implies great celerity and the power of some external force].—And I know such a man (whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knows); that he was caught up into Paradise ( 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 a.).—In the words, such a man (τὸν τοιοῦτον) the Apostle recurs to the subject of the ecstasy, the one he had before described as the man in Christ. Osiander, thinks that the phrase, such a man, contains an allusion to the fact, that he is now endowed with qualities which fitted him for such an exaltation. The point reached in the course of his ecstasy under the influence of the higher power (the Spirit of God) which had taken possession of him, he calls the third heaven (τρίτος οὐρανός). This is not to be interpreted spiritually of the utmost degree of Divine knowledge, etc. (the number three being taken simply as a symbol of perfection), for the Apostle had unquestionably in his mind a higher sphere of the heavenly world. A plurality of heavens is not inconsistent with Scriptural doctrine, for something

f the kind is implied even in the plural (heavens, οὐρανοί) here used, and in the description ( Hebrews 4:14) of Christ’s ascension, in which He is said to have passed into the heavens διεληλυθέναι τοὺς ούρανούς), the termination of which is described ( Hebrews 9:24) as an entrance into heaven itself (εἰσελθεῖν εἰς αὐτὸν τὸν οὐρἀνόν), i.e., into the dwelling place of the Divine Majesty, to which the heavens he had passed through were related, just as the sanctuary in the tabernacle was related to the holy of holies. Jewish tradition generally speaks of seven heavens (Rabbi Judah alone speaks of two). To such common views and forms of speech the Apostle doubtless had some reference, but the original idea must be distinguished from the arbitrary and monstrous details of the Rabbinical writers. As neither here nor elsewhere (except in some later ecclesiastical writers, who probably derived their views from the passage before us) is it necessarily implied that there were no more than three heavens, this third need not, of course, be regarded as the highest heaven. Neither here nor in Hebrews 4:14 must we suppose the allusion to be to some region of the visible heavens (the clouds, etc.), but to some supersensous space between the stellar and the highest heaven, the true holy of holies (comp. Riem, d. Lehrbegr. des Hebr. Br. p. 512). And yet we must unquestionably make a distinction between this higher region called the third heaven, and the place called Paradise although it does not follow that the former must of course be a lower region than the latter). It does not seem probable that what is said in 2 Corinthians 12:3-4, should be a mere repetition of what had been said in 2 Corinthians 12:2.[FN21] On the other hand the Apostle probably speaks in 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 of a higher degree of ecstasy than that which he had mentioned in the other. And yet the Paradise was not exactly some interior department of the third heaven, but some higher region, that which is called in Revelation 2:7 the Paradise of God (the lower department in Sheol, Luke 23:43, comp. Luke 16:23). Osiander: “The abode in which the highest peace and joy are enjoyed, where fellowship with God and the God-man is most intimate, and where the world of spirits has its most delightful and most perfect development.” Neander: “Paul here describes a higher degree of life in God, a foretaste of that which the soul will reach at a later period, no illusion of the imagination or product of Jewish superstition, but a certain and actual exaltation of the soul. And yet we may here distinguish between the supernatural and the divine on the one hand and the human on the other, and we may concede that the representation here given to the Apostle was in that form which was most familiar to him in his actual state of mind at the time.”—And heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for man to utter ( 2 Corinthians 12:4 b).—It is evident from the use of the word ἤκουσεν that ῥῆμα cannot here be equivalent to things, but that it must mean a word. But ἄῤῥητον signifies, not what cannot be expressed, for then the words could not have been perceived, but as the relative sentence immediately following shows, words of such mysterious import as ought not to be uttered or to be generally known. In this sense the word is used in Herod, and other writers. Ἐξόν is equivalent not to δυνατόν but to fas est.—The substance of the communication was so exalted that it would have been a profanation to give it in human language. W. F. Besser: “It is likely that the substance of the heavenly words was taken up by the Apostle as he heard them, but he felt that no man after receiving such a communication in successive details, could find language adequately and worthily to express what he had heard in that sacred presence. And even if God had given him power to express on earth what he had heard in heaven, there were no earthly ears which could intelligently receive the communication.” We cannot accept of Ewald’s explanation, that the reason Paul determined to keep these revelations to himself ( Revelation, as he thinks likely, of the final victory of Christ over Rome and heathenism, and also over Jerusalem and the Jews), was because he saw that other men might easily be led to pervert them in many ways and then to obtain credit on his authority. [These words were “unspeakable,” (not only to him but to man) perhaps on account of their nature, but as Paul tells us that it was not “lawful to utter” them, we must suppose that he was restrained from uttering them principally by a moral reason. The whole vision appears to have been intended for the Apostle alone, to prepare him personally for his work, and for this reason alone he had no occasion to speak of it for fourteen years, and never to speak of its contents. The apocryphal literature of subsequent times, shows what follies the minds of men are inclined to, on such mysteries. (See the ἀναβάτικον Παύλου used by the sect of Caïani, mentioned by Epiphanius, Haeres: 18, 38). But nothing in this passage implies that the Apostle possessed any arcana or mysteries on the general subject of salvation, which are to be withheld as dangerous matters, from common inspection, and yet capable of investigation to more philosophical and learned persons.] Ἀνθρώπῳ is not the object of λαλεῖν but is governed by ἐξόν. There are no means of determining whether Paul was brought to this conclusion by an express command with regard to it, or whether he saw its propriety without such a command. The speaker, however, must have been the Lord, comp. 2 Corinthians 12:1, ἀποκ. κυρίου. What was said must have been very significant and eminently strengthening to the Apostle’s mind (comp. Osiander).—Instead of proceeding to say now: ἐντούτω (of such a thing) καυχήσομαι, as must have been in his mind, he says, in accordance with the mode of representation commenced in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Of such a one will I glory ( 2 Corinthians 12:5).—Τοῦ τοιούτου is not neuter but masculine. This is proved not only by ὑπέρ which has relation to a person in whose behalf the boasting must take place ( 2 Corinthians 7:14; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 8:24), but by the contrasted ἐμαυτοῦ, and the unmistakable reference to τὸν τοιοῦτον in 2 Corinthians 12:2-3.—The principle which lies at the basis of the whole passage Isaiah, that he was not to boast of such Revelation, as though they argued anything in his own favor, but only as an incident connected with a man in Christ, who had been at this period completely lifted out of his own individuality and had been thought worthy of such grace merely on account of his being in Christ. His only object in condescending to this boasting of such a one, was that he might bear witness that such glorious things had been granted to such a one.—But of myself I will not boast, save in my infirmities ( 2 Corinthians 12:5 b).—In behalf of himself, (regarded simply as himself), ho would boast only with reference to his infirmities (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:30). He alluded here to those many manifestations of human weakness, which had occasioned so much humiliation to him, which had completely extirpated all vanity from his bosom, and which had finally compelled him to boast only of that divine power which evinced its greatness through his infirmities, (comp. vv9, 10.).—For if I shall desire to boast, I shall not be foolish, for I will speak the truth ( 2 Corinthians 12:6 a).—There is some difficulty here in determining the connection which the γαρ implies with 2 Corinthians 12:5. To make it refer back to the first half of that verse, and thus to make the Apostle begin to reveal his identity with the man in Christ (Osiander) does not seem after all very probable. And yet to supply something to οὐκαυχησομαι ( 2 Corinthians 12:5) by which it shall mean: I will not boast of these great Revelation, and to make εἱ μή signify but only, and then in this 2 Corinthians 12:6 to make if I should desire to boast refer to the same things with the additional thought: although I could thus boast (De Wette), seems very harsh. We would prefer, without any such completion of the sense, to understand before the words οὐ καυχ. εἰ μή, etc., in 2 Corinthians 12:5, simply: I could thus boast concerning myself if I wished to do so (i.e., of my worth and merits), and to suppose that when he continues, if I should desire, etc., he is giving the reason for this thought which had sprung from what is obviously implied in the sentence itself (Meyer). But, perhaps after all it would be simpler to make the γάρ refer to the whole of 2 Corinthians 12:6, so that the writer would have already in view the subsequent φείδομαι and the sentence connected with it: I will not boast of myself except of my infirmities; for although I should not be a fool even if I were to boast myself, inasmuch as I should tell the truth, yet I forbear, lest, etc. Or: not because I should be a fool, if I were inclined to boast myself, etc., but because I would guard against, etc. In this case there would be no need of adding anything to the thought expressed.—The boasting (καυχήσασθαι) has reference to something the reverse of weakness, and hence to deeds (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:10) in which power was exhibited. In ἄφρων (senseless, without reason) he alludes probably to the empty boasting of his opponents, in which there was no basis of truth like that in his self-commendations—but I forbear, lest any one should reckon of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me ( 2 Corinthians 12:6 b).—There is no need here of supplying ὐμῶν to φείδομαι; along with μή (or in the infinitive) this verb has the sense of: to shrink back or to act with reserve, i.e. to deal sparingly with his self-commendation. In μή we have certainly the idea of mental care (Meyer: of guarding against something). This anxiety, however, was well founded, so far as it referred to the inclination to boast in men then so strong among the Corinthians, and the Apostle did not wish to encourage in any way a disposition against which he had so earnestly contended. Τις has reference to no particular individual, for we have no reason to suppose that he is hero aiming at some Pauline party at Corinth. The over-valuation of his person which ho here deprecates, he expresses in the words beyond what he sees me, or hears something from me (ὑπὲρ ο͂ βλέπει με ἀκούει τι ἐξ ἐμοῦ) i.e., beyond the immediate impression which my personal presence would make. There is no necessity of supplying either εἶναι or ποιεῖν, after δ βλέπει με, which has reference to his whole appearance, his bearing and behavior. ̓Ακούει refers to his performances in oral discourse. Ἐξ ἐμοῦ (ex me) from myself, in contrast with that which might be heard of him through others. Τι is a brachyological or concise form of expression equivalent to ἐί τι ἀκούει. Notwithstanding the unfriendly opinions which had been expressed of him ( 2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 10:10), he desired to have no other standard laid down for judging of him than a strict conformity to what all might perceive in him.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations ( 2 Corinthians 12:7 a).—[Stanley, adopting Lachmann’s reading of διὸ before ἴνα, is obliged also with him, to connect καὶ τῇ ὐπερβ. τῶν άποκ. with ἀσθενείαις in 2 Corinthians 12:5, and to make the whole of 2 Corinthians 12:6 a parenthesis. Even Alford concedes that, if διὸ forms a part of the text, it must be the commencement of a sentence, and that we must adopt Lachmann’s punctuation. But he thinks that “a very strange sense would thus be given,” for then the Apostle would refuse to glory in himself, except in his infirmities and in the exceeding abundance of his revelations; thus making his glorying in his revelations a part of his glorying in himself. But rejecting διὸ, for which we have hardly sufficient authority, the sentence reads smoothly. Osiander remarks that everything in K. τῇ ὑπερβ. τῶν ἀποκ is remarkable: the expression itself, the way in which the words are joined together, and the position of the words in the sentence. For emphasis the words are placed first (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:4), the revelations are represented as multifarious, and for additional force a substantive is used with an adjectival signification.] Having said ( 2 Corinthians 12:5-6) that he now abstained from further boasting, not because he lacked in good grounds for it, but from a regard to them, that they might not overvalue his person, he now returns to the revelations he had spoken of in 2 Corinthians 12:1, etc., and shows how he had been kept from a possible self-exaltation on account of these Revelation, by means of a peculiarly severe affliction. Kαί here signifies not: even, but: and, merely connecting with the former sentence.—Υπερβολή occurs also in 2 Corinthians 4:7. It is difficult to decide whether the dative is that of the instrument (: by means of), or of the cause (on account of) like ἑπαίρεσθαι τινι. The meaning is much the same in either case. We have ὑπεραίρεσθαι in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, in the sense of to exalt himself.—There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me—There can be no doubt that a Divine intention or design is implied [by ί́να], whether God or Satan is looked upon as the giver in ἐδόθη. It is possible to interpret it of either, but it seems rather more appropriate to refer it to God, inasmuch as the object to be accomplished by it was under the Divine direction. We must not, however, conclude from thence that ἐδόθη implies merely a Divine permission, for it includes the idea of disposing, and ordaining. God gives even what is afflictive for the attainment of some higher and benevolent end; i.e, as the means of trial and humiliation. Σκόλοψ is a sharpened piece of wood, a stake, or a thorn (as in Numbers 33:55). The first of these meanings is not altogether inappropriate. [Stanley adheres to this, and contends that σκόλοψ is not a thorn (from which he finds it sometimes distinguished, esp. Hosea 2:6; Sept. Artemid3:33) but generally a pointed stake or palisade ( Numbers 30:55; Ezekiel 28:24). It must be conceded that this is the usual meaning. Hence Luther and many understand by it a stake, for the execution of criminals. Stanley finds ἀνασκολοπίζω in the Sept. of Esther 7:10 explained by Phavorinus and Hesychius as equivalent to ἀνασταυρίζω, and he thence infers that σκόλοψ was equivalent to σταυρός, the cross, or the stake. In Lucian, too (De morte Per11), ἀνασκολοπίζω is used for the crucifixion of Christ. As in describing his state of constant torture the Apostle draws his image from crucifixion. so here he draws it from impalement. The angel of Satan like Death in 1 Corinthians 15:55, is armed with the impaling stake; or the Apostle was himself already impaled or crucified. The phrase τῇ σαρκὶ is certainly unsuitable to this interpretation]. In the flesh (τῇ σαρκὶ) is not in apposition with to me (μοι) and dependent upon was given (ἐδόθη), but it is to be connected with σκόλοψ (a thorn) as a dative of appropriation. But σάρξ is not human nature in general, unregenerate and sinful, but man’s corporeal nature with the sinful disposition connected with it. In this place it has reference especially to the sensitive horror which that nature feels at pain, or its recoil from the suffering which God had decreed for it. Σκόλοψ is undoubtedly the subject of έδόθη, and ἄγγελος σατᾶν is in apposition to σκόλοψ, though the converse of this may not be true (as if σκόλοψ were an ἄγγελος). These words in apposition, however, are the subject of ἵνα—κολαφίζη, which involves a metaphor no longer quite suitable to σκόλοψ. But such an apparent irregularity of construction may be found in other places. And yet there is no inversion of the words, as if he would say: that the angel of Satan might buffet me. Κολαφίζῃ expresses continued action and it is therefore in the subj. præs, not in the aorist. Ἄγγελος σατᾶν does not signify merely a hostile angel, for σατᾶν never is to be found precisely as an adjective, and in the New Testament it never has the sense of adversarius (an angel, an adversary). Nor can it mean Satan himself [the angel Satan] who is never designated an ἄγγελος; but an angel of Satan like ἄγγελοι τοῦν διαβόλου in Matthew 25:41, Σατᾶν therefore is in the genitive (the var. σατανᾶ. has less authority for it, is a correction of the indeclinable noun, which is a ἄπαξ λεγόμενον). An exceedingly painful suffering is indicated by σκόλοψ, and is described by the phrase an angel of Satan. It is not merely a Suffering sent upon the Apostle by Satan, (for Satan’s angel in the estimation of the Apostle was a real malignant power) by means of which God had ordained for him a humiliating torment (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:5, Job 2:6), with the exalted purpose which he afterwards brings forward in an emphatic manner when he says:—lest I should be exalted above measure ( 2 Corinthians 12:7).—The idea conveyed therefore Isaiah, that in accordance with the divine decree the Apostle was abased in a humiliating manner by an angel of Satan, and that in consequence of this tormenting influence sent on him from the kingdom of darkness, he was kept from unduly exalting himself on account of the glorious revelations vouchsafed him from the kingdom of light. But of what nature were these sufferings? Of course we are not to think of literal and real blows or buffetings. The idea of an internal assault of Satan by means of blasphemous thoughts, or by remorse of conscience on account of his earlier persecution of the followers of Christ, or by means of temptation’s to lust, must be regarded (irrespective of the last mentioned suggestion, which was an improbable product of the ascetic exegesis of the monks, comp. Osiander p 473 and 2 Corinthians 4:7), as directly in opposition to τῇ σαρκί (according to Meyer also in opposition to σκόλοψ and κολαφίζη in which are described an acute and continuous pain). Still more improbable is the idea of external assaults on the part of hostile opponents, called here ministers of Satan ( 2 Corinthians 11:15), and designated collectively an angel of Satan, inasmuch as one of them (sing.) may have distinguished himself above the rest; or the idea of a great pressure of apostolic duties in general. The context leads us to think of a definite and special form of suffering (Meyer) in contrast with the abundance of the Revelation, and of something for whose cessation he could properly and earnestly pray ( 2 Corinthians 12:8), as he could hardly do with respect to his official duties.—The most probable supposition is that he had in view some very severe and painful bodily suffering, which however did not prevent his undergoing exhausting labors and his persisting in numerous hardships. But it is utterly out of our power to determine precisely what this suffering consisted in (hemorrhoids, hypocondria and melancholy, epilepsy, stone, violent head-ache, etc.). Ewald: “When this disease came upon him, it was like a terrific blow upon the head (κολαφίζῇ) without a previous warning.” It was something personal, not affecting him simply as a minister of Christ, and an ἀσθένεια ( 2 Corinthians 12:9), although of a peculiar kind, reminding him of his human frailty and hence having a tendency to keep him from undue self-exaltation on account of his remarkable experiences of divine favor. We are very naturally reminded of Luther’s disease of the stone which in like manner was ascribed to the devil.—Osiander unites together the ideas of bodily and spiritual assaults, and his explanation is favored by the fact that there is usually a reciprocal action between the two, but the general impression of our passage is rather in favor of a long-continued evil rather than of a temporary darkening and .disturbance of mind.—In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, he tells us how he prayed that this evil and its consequences might be removed from him.—Concerning this, I besought the Lord thrice, that he might depart from me ( 2 Corinthians 12:8).—Ὑπέρ, since Demosthenes, has frequently had the sense of περί: in consideration of, in respect to. Τούτου is not neuter but masculine, as is shown by ἀποστῇ (might depart). Ho had in his mind the angel of Satan. Τρίς is not equivalent to πολλάκις, nor is it a number for perfection. There may have been long intervals of time between each prayer, and perhaps he only prayed when under extreme paroxysms of suffering. That he was under this affliction when he wrote however, is not necessarily implied. He received no answer from the Lord until the third petition, when, of course, he ceased. The Lord (κύριος) is Christ who has obtained the victory over every kind of Satanic power. Παρακαλεῖν is a word which in the New Testament is never used with reference to God and only with reference to Christ. It has the sense of, to call for help, and in the classic writers is used to designate a call on the gods. ̓Αποστῆναι ( to depart) as in Luke 4:13 is used with regard to Satan, but in Acts 5:38; Acts 22:29, it is applied to human assailants.—And he has said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for power is made perfect in weakness ( 2 Corinthians 12:9).—In this place εἵρηκε express a continued action [the perfect of a continued past action], but we have no means of determining how it was said, whether in a vision, or merely by some internal encouragement. (Osiander: “probably a testimony of the Holy Spirit in the exercise of the highest spiritual functions, by means of which the Apostle’s heart was thoroughly tranquilized, assured of his gracious state and enlightened with respect to this special case. It was thus a distinct revelation of the mind of Christ, by special inspiration, and confirmed, perhaps, by the application of some passage of Scripture.” The answer was an apparent refusal, with such a promise as was a virtual granting of his request. The ἀρκεῖ, which stands for emphasis at the head of the sentence, is not equivalent to: will protect (a poetical usage), or will assist (Xenophon and others), but it means simply, will be sufficient for, will satisfy; it will be enough that I am gracious to thee, and that I love thee, and will take pleasure in thee. There is no reference to miraculous gifts. To show that he would need nothing else, the Lord adds: for my strength, etc. The μου has only a few authorities in its favor, but they are of the highest importance; and even if it is not supplied in the text, it must be understood. The fact that ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ has no σου after it may have had some influence in inducing transcribers to leave it out. The meaning is: with one who is in this weak state, my power comes into more perfect activity (comp. 2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 2:3-4). But this power of the Lord dwells only in those who share also in His grace; .i.e., it is put forth in its full strength and activity only where there is nothing but helplessness and painful weakness; for where a consciousness of power Isaiah, it is rather impeded in its action. (Τελεῖται has not the sense of: proves itself to be perfect).—Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that Christ’s power may abide upon me—( 2 Corinthians 12:9).—The Apostle here describes the effect of this promise. He gave up all expectation of being freed from his trouble, and he was satisfied with the prospect (of enjoying the grace whose work was to be completed in his weakness. Grammatical usage will not permit us to refer μᾶλλον to ἤδιστα. Nor should we supply after it: than before, when I prayed thus ( 2 Corinthians 12:8), or: than any thing, or: than in my own power, or: than in the revelations which I had. It belongs rather, as its position necessarily shows, to καυχήσομαι. Instead of complaining and praying that the suffering might cease, I will rather glory in my infirmities. This, however, would lead to the accomplishment and experience of the promise given him when the Lord visited him, i.e., that Christ’s power might dwell (permanently abide) upon him. The word ἐπισκηνοῦν signifies to enter, to turn into, a tent or dwelling. Ἐπ ̓ ἐμέ, in other places, has reference to the direction generally; and here, where the Apostle is speaking of the power of Christ, who was then in heaven, it means, to come down upon me and to abide with me (the figure is that of a permanent connection). Whether any thing of unusual solemnity attaches to the expression, as if it had reference to the Shekinah, as if the power of Christ were as a pavilion extended over him for his protection, or as if he himself were the space in which it was to be manifested, is uncertain.—Wherefore I am well contented in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake ( 2 Corinthians 12:10). From what he had just described as the object of all this proceeding, and of course from the promise of Christ which had been accomplished by his glorying in his infirmities ( 2 Corinthians 12:9), the Apostle now makes a practical inference, viz.: inasmuch as this glorying in my infirmities has brought Christ’s power to take possession of me, I take pleasure in infirmities, etc. Ἐυδοκεῖν ἐν signifies here a voluntary endurance, a patient satisfaction with these sufferings [Our English A. V.: take pleasure in, is too strong; the Greek is: I am well contented in (Fausset)]. The ἀσθένειαι, the suffering condition in which these infirmities become perceptible, are particularized in ὔβρεσιν, insulting abuses, ἀνάγκαις, etc., comp. 2 Corinthians 6:4 (external afflictions proceeding from those around him). ̓Υπὲρ χριστοῦ, which belongs to and qualifies all these preceding nouns, signifies here: for the sake (or, in behalf) of Christ.—For when I am weak, then am I strong ( 2 Corinthians 12:10 b.). The reason for his good courage while enduring these sufferings for Christ’s sake, was that he had felt strengthened under all his infirmities by the power of Christ dwelling continually in him (comp. Philippians 4:13). In these words we have the fulfilment of the promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9. Τότε is emphatic, and shows how triumphant were the Apostle’s feelings, comp. 1 Corinthians 15:54; Colossians 3:4.

[Stanley: “The long burst of passionate self-vindication, has now, at last expended itself, and the Apostle returns to the point from whence he diverged at 2 Corinthians 10:7, where he was asserting his intention to repress the disobedience of those who still resisted his authority at Corinth. Before, however, he enters again upon this, he looks back over the long digression, and resumes here and there a thought which needed explanation or expansion. Hence, although this concluding section stands apart from the interruption of 2 Corinthians 10:10 to 2 Corinthians 12:10, and is truly the winding up of the main argument begun in 2 Corinthians 10:1-7, it is filled with traces of the torrent which has passed through his mind in the interval. His ‘folly,’ 2 Corinthians 11:1-10; the ‘commendatory epistles’ ( 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:12); the ‘apostolical’ pretensions of his opponents ( 2 Corinthians 11:12-13) are resumed in 2 Corinthians 12:11; his miracles and sufferings ( 2 Corinthians 11:23-28), in 2 Corinthians 12:12; the question of self-support ( 2 Corinthians 11:12) in vv13–18; the strength and weakness united in Christ ( 2 Corinthians 12:19), in 2 Corinthians 13:3-4; 2 Corinthians 13:9”].

2 Corinthians 12:11-15.—I am become a fool; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind these overmuch apostles, although I am nothing ( 2 Corinthians 12:11).—He here makes an ironical concession (for the words should not be regarded as a question) with reference to the many things he had said in commendation of himself in the course of the last two chapters: I am become a fool. [The verb γέγονα indicates that he had become what he was not originally]. And yet he follows this immediately with a justification of himself; for he throws upon them the responsibility of all: ye have forced me thus foolishly to boast myself, for I ought to have been commended by you, instead of being obliged to commend myself. [The ironical nature of the passage explains the concession without taking this verse interrogatively, as Wordsworth, after some Greek scholiasts, suggests]. In emphatic correspondence with one another are arranged the words: ὑμεῖς, ἐγώ, ὑφ ̓ ὑμῶν. By ἑγω he does not put himself in special contrast with those opponents who were so highly commended by the Corinthians. He merely censures here the want of attention which these Corinthians had shown to his claims. Their positive injustice toward him he exposes when he comes to say, that he had been in no respect behind those much-lauded apostles (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:5). Ὑατέρησα limits the time of the comparison to the period of his residence at Corinth. With humility, however, he adds (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:8, etc.), that he was after all nothing, i.e., I am absolutely powerless in myself ( 1 Corinthians 1:28). This is a sincere assertion, though it contains a severe allusion to the pride of his opponents (Osiander). He shows that he was in no respect behind these supereminent apostles, by referring to those proofs of his Apostleship which he had given among them.—Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience by signs and wonders and miracles ( 2 Corinthians 12:12). The signs of an Apostle here signify those things by means of which the Apostles showed that they were Apostles, and were recognized as such among their fellow men. The article makes the idea of an Apostle especially prominent (Bengel: ejus, qui sit apostolus); the reality and not merely the ideal of one. The first σημεία is here to be taken in the more comprehensive sense [of general evidences], whereas the second should be explained in the narrower signification [of special tokens of a Divine power]. Neander: “Our faith in the reality of the Apostle’s performance of miracles need not therefore be founded solely upon tradition, for Paul here asserts that he wrought them, and he thus comes in direct opposition to all mythical views of the narratives of New Testament miracles.” The passive κατηργάσθη (were wrought) or κατειργάσθη is a modest form of expression for: I wrought. Even if we are not influenced by the inappropriateness of such an idea ἐν πάσῃ ὑπομονῇ cannot be taken as the first in the series of σημείοις, etc., for the ἐν is not really a part of the original text. The phrase designates the ethical element in which these signs were wrought in Corinth (ἐν ὑμῖν), and which had a tendency to confirm believers there. It shows his perseverance, with all steadfastness in the midst of the opposition and sufferings he had to meet as an Apostle (comp. 2 Corinthians 6:4). Ὑπομονή has reference here not to an outward objective tolerance of all kinds of evils (for it has no genitive of the object in connection with it, as in 2 Corinthians 1:6), but it refers to the feelings with which he persevered under his trials. Πάσῃ implies the degree, the completeness of his patience, for if we refer it to the extent to which it was carried in respect to the variety of its exercises, it would more properly apply to the objective interpretation. These proofs of his Apostleship (κατεργ. is said of that which is a res ardua) he calls σηὴεία, τεράτα, δυναμε͂ις. The words designate the same thing under various aspects; we have: 1, their significance, with reference to the Divine legation; 2, their impression, on account of their extraordinary and wonderful appearance; 3, their causality, as expressions of Divine power. [Σημεῖα are “signs,” and have an ethical purpose beyond themselves as credentials of a Divine mission; τέρατα are “wonders,” regarded simply as supernatural prodigies to excite surprise, and are never spoken of except in connection with some of the other names; and δυναμεῖς are “mighty works,” looked upon simply as putting forth of Divine power. See Trench, part2, p198 ff.; Webster, 233f. It is much to be regretted that each of these words in the original is not rendered in our English version uniformly by the same word]. The same words are used in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 (of Satanic miracles), but in Hebrews 2:4 and in Romans 15:19, they are referred to for the same purpose as in our passage, i.e., to legitimate Apostolical authority. The accumulation of such words brings into more distinct prominence the magnitude and variety of the miracles. Some have attempted, rather arbitrarily, to refer the first to the cure of diseases which were curable by ordinary means; the second, to the cure of diseases beyond the reach of human art; and the third, to exercises of Apostolical power in punishing crimes, or to spiritual powers. The force of the passage is entirely lost by those who explain it of the extraordinary effects produced by his preaching and character. The μέν gives a hint of a contrast, on which the Apostle is other-wise silent, i.e., the want of acknowledgment which these signs had suffered. Meyer: the proofs were indeed (truly) wrought, but they have failed to produce the corresponding conviction among you. There is no γάρ in the sentence, and the omission is in accordance with the abrupt and lively style of the general passage. It Isaiah, however, supplied in 2 Corinthians 12:13, where he corroborates by a touching question what he had said in 2 Corinthians 12:12.—For what is there in which ye were inferior to the rest of the churches? ( 2 Corinthians 12:13 a).—The proofs of an Apostleship had been wrought among them, for in nothing were they inferior to the other churches where he had labored. Ὑπέρ signifies generally over, beyond; but here on account of ἡττᾶσθαι, downwards, below. In other places we have ἠττᾶσθαι τινόςτινι (but with the accus. of the “wherein”). Rückert, very incorrectly and contrary to the connection with 2 Corinthians 12:12, gives the meaning: ye have suffered no more injury than, etc. It seems also an arbitrary limitation of the thought, to make it refer exclusively to the gifts of the Spirit.—The Apostle, however, allows that there was one respect in which they might be considered inferior:—except that I myself was not burdensome to you ( 2 Corinthians 12:13 b); i.e. had labored among them without compensation. This was a delicate though painful irony, which amounted to bitterness when he added the prayer which follows. Εὶ μὴ ὅτι: i.e. except perhaps; or: except this, that, etc. The great distance of 2 Corinthians 12:16, etc., renders it improper to explain αὐτὸς ἐγώ by a reference to it. [Αὐτὸς is very emphatic especially before ἐγὼ]. He places his own person in contrast with those Apostolic works to which his question had just alluded. οὐ κατενάρκησα is explained on 2 Corinthians 11:7-8.—This fact that he had received no personal maintenance from them as he had done from other churches, made them inferior to those churches and was an injustice to them, for which he craved their pardon:—forgive me this wrong ( 2 Corinthians 12:13 c).—Such a request was a severe censure, as if they had been so ungrateful and had so completely failed to appreciate his conduct, that they had become grossly prejudiced against him through the influence of his contemptuous and suspicious opponents.—Chrysostom and some others contend that the Apostle was not here speaking ironically, but that he was endeavoring to mitigate the wounded feeling he had produced by his allusion to his self-denying course among them (as if it were a sign of a defect in his regard for them). But the irony of the preceding question compels us to regard the prayer as a continuation of the same strain.—Not until he comes to 2 Corinthians 12:14, does he come back, to his ordinary tone:—Behold, I am ready to come unto you the third time, and I will not be burdensome to you.—In this verse τρίτον does not belong to ἑτοίμως ἔχω but to ἐλθε͂ιν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, for it is not with reference to his readiness, but to his actual coming among them that he could say he was resolved not to be burdensome to them. He intended to say that on two occasions when he had been among them [see on 2 Corinthians 13:1], he had not been a burden to them and he was equally resolved not to be a burden to them on this third visit for which he was now prepared. On ἰδού comp. 2 Corinthians 6:2; 2 Corinthians 6:9; 2 Corinthians 7:11.—His reason for this purpose he says was to be found in his dis-interested love for them (comp. Philippians 4:17); they were of importance to him, not because of what they possessed, and hence not for any advantage they would be to him, but for their own sakes; since if they were won to Christ and advanced in the work of salvation, he would gain by them as much as he desired (Rückert reverses this: the Apostle would gain them for himself, and in this way for Christ; but such a view is not as much according to the spirit of the passage, comp. Osiander).—This idea he traces back to the natural relation between parents and children; by virtue of which children were not bound to make provision for the parents, but the parents for the children:—For the children are not bound to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children ( 2 Corinthians 12:14 b).—This applied to him as their spiritual father ( 1 Corinthians 4:15), and it was therefore his part not to seek for their possessions, but to care for them and to collect spiritual treasures for them (as the duty of providing for children by the investment of property is not abolished but brought within the proper limits of a confidence in God and a heavenly mind by what is said in Matthew 6:19, so here the duty of children to support their parents is not excluded, Osiander). After οἱ γονεῖς understand ὀφείλουσι θησαυρίζειν.—He applies this rule to himself in 2 Corinthians 12:15, but he implies that his love was strong enough to go far beyond the limits usually reached by parental duty:—And I will most gladly spend and be spent for you.—The gradual rise in the discourse or the climax indicated by δέ is clearly brought out even in ἤδιστα, which goes far beyond ὀψείλει, but it is carried far beyond both in in ἔκδαπανηθήσομαι. Instead of collecting something for himself at their expense, he was determined not merely to expend with hearty good will, all that he had acquired or possessed, for their benefit, but so to use all his powers as to wear them out in the interest of their souls, i.e., to sacrifice his life and his whole self, if he could thereby promote their supreme good. The compound verb ἐκδαπανᾶςθαι is much stronger than the original simple verb, and signifies to be utterly consumed (comp. Osiander’s admirable remarks). The Apostle adds:—although the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved, ( 2 Corinthians 12:15 b)—If we accept εἰ καί according to the Receptus, the sense would be: although I shall be loved the less, the more I love you. Rückert and Osiander preserve this idea, even if καί is rejected (making εἰ concessive), but such an interpretation is very doubtful. Meyer takes εἰ in the sense of: if, equivalent to ἐπεί, as if the Apostle hesitated to make the direct and confident assertion, but declared that he was willing to go to the utmost in overcoming their hostile spirit toward him. This willingness he would still express if the condition were set forth as an actual and known fact: though I, as is now evident, shall be loved the less, etc. If this is presented by the Apostle as the motive of his conduct the language certainly is very severe, but on any other view the idea comes out in a very awkward and feeble manner. It is better probably to take it in a concessive sense, but then it becomes necessary with Tischendorf to retain the καί, which has many and good authorities in its favor.—Περισσοτερως—ἦττον is an abbreviated expression for ὅσῳ—τοιούτῳ.—Nothing needs to be understood in addition to the comparative (as: more them other churches, or: less than my opponents).

[Osiander draws attention to the fact that in each of the three passages ( 2 Corinthians 7:13; 2 Corinthians 8:6) in which Paul’s agency in inducing Titus to enter upon this mission, the same word (παρακαλέω) is used. The word appears to convey an idea intermediate between that of a command and that of a prayer, i.e., a friendly requirement, a reminding of what ought to be done].—Did Titus make a gain of you? Walked we not in the same spirit and in the same steps? ( 2 Corinthians 12:18). Τῳ αὐτῷ πνεύματι is the dative of the mode and manner ( Romans 13:13), or of the rule or law. The meaning is: did not the same Holy Spirit control us all in our conduct, and keep us from all selfish conduct, from every thing like making a gain of any one? The dative οὐ τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἴχνεσιν is probably the local dative, as in Acts 14:16, and the words here signify an agreement in external conduct, as the preceding clause refers to an agreement in internal purpose and feeling. The Apostle is not here speaking directly of Christ’s footsteps ( 1 Peter 2:21), but we must conclude that they walked in the same steps, because Titus followed those of Paul (Meyer).

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. When a Christian is distinguished for remarkable degrees of Divine grace, he is very apt to become elevated in his own estimation. A faithful God not unfrequently prevents this by bringing him into circumstances of deep humiliation, that by such painful methods he may become conscious of his own inability, and that he may not claim those glorious distinctions which are given him for Christ’s sake, as if they were his own and were intended for his personal honor. In all such afflictions, whether bodily or spiritual, or both combined, there is an influence of Satan designed to torment and worry him, but God will use them to drive him to the throne of grace. And though his ardent request to be freed from the distress may not be granted, he will surely receive that Divine grace which will enable him to bear the heaviest burden. Divine power will find its best sphere of activity in his weakness, and the result will be that he will be strong in his weakness. Instead, therefore, of complaining and fretting about his various infirmities and those sufferings which make him conscious of them, he will experience and exhibit to the world no small degree of satisfaction in them.

2. A faithful member of Christ will be inclined to keep his own person in the background, wherever he is. He seeks, no honor for himself, and least of all will he boast himself when he gains esteem and influence in consequence of some special impartations of grace from on high. Every attempt to give him an undue importance on account of such things will be offensive to him, because it will seem like giving him an honor which belongs only to God. He desires to be esteemed only for what he has actually done and spoken. The important thing with him is not the fleece, but the sheep, that those souls which Christ has purchased may be brought to Him and be saved. For such an object he is willing to make any sacrifice, to bring to the altar all that he is and has, even his life. What if men do not appreciate his love and fidelity, make him no suitable return, and even show themselves ungrateful? His love will only become more ardent, and his devotion to their welfare more intense.

3. W. F. Besser:—Ever since God stationed before Eden the cherub with his naked, flaming sword, man must look for no Paradise on earth. There Isaiah, however, one beyond this sinful world in the third heaven. Its treasures and its jewels were enjoyed by the Apostle when in holy ecstasy he was allowed to have direct communion with God in Christ, that true tree of life which was lost in Adam but regained in Christ. Our Lord promised it to the thief on the cross ( Luke 23:43), and now offers it to all sinners. When the tabernacle of God shall be pitched upon the new earth, then shall the New Jerusalem be revealed in Paradisaic glory ( Revelation 21:2-3).

3. “Paul evidently supposed that his soul might be taken to heaven without the body, and that it might have a separate consciousness and a separate existence. He was not therefore a materialist, and he did not believe that the existence and consciousness of the soul was dependent on the body” (Barnes). Doddridge says that he has “yet to learn what the presence of an immaterial soul in a body can be (for this also seems supposed by the Apostle to be a possibility), distinct from the capacity of perceiving by it, and acting upon it.” And yet the Apostle makes both suppositions and evidently regarded them as credible.

4. All prayer is answered in heaven—though sometimes not until it becomes importunate, and the petitioner has come by continued prayerful fellowship with God to a consciousness of his real want. Paul (like his Master) prayed and held communion with his Lord, until he came to know what was possible and best for him. The subject matter of his prayer, as it existed in the heart, was for relief, rather than for that specific mode of relief which the outward words asked for. That prayer in the heart was answered when his thorn ceased to be a thorn to him.

5. It is lawful to address Christ in prayer. Though the verb παρακαλέω is never used in classic Greek, nor in any other passage of the N. T, as equivalent to δέομαι, and in an address to God, the reason for its preference here was probably simply because of the familiar and personal relation in which Paul supposes himself to his Lord. The distinction between invocatio and advocatio seems here inappropriate, since Christ is evidently not addressed as an advocate with the Father, as if He were subordinate, but as a supreme and ultimate Disposer of affairs.

6. We have here ( 2 Corinthians 12:12) one of the few allusions which the Apostles make in their Epistles to the evidence of miracles. Only in seven out of all their Epistles is any thing said of this kind of evidence, and the reason is that most of those Epistles are hortatory and not apologetical. Here, however, the importance, if not the indispensable necessity of miracles, as σημεῖα τ. ἀποστόλου is clearly asserted. And yet here, as every where else, they are spoken of in an unobtrusive manner as of universally acknowledged facts. They had been performed, as Christ wrought them, not merely as credentials of a Divine mission, but from benevolence also, and from a fulness of power to relieve human woe. And yet in another aspect they were, and might properly be, appealed to as the seals of the Apostleship. Comp. Fausset, Port. Com.].

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Chrysostom:

2 Corinthians 12:10. Where there is suffering there is consolation, and where there is consolation there is grace. And yet before the reward which God bestows, we derive much benefit from the very exercises of affliction itself; for our arrogance is repressed, our littleness is taken away, the use we can make of many human instruments is discovered, and we are, as it were, anointed for the conflicts before us.—Basil:

2 Corinthians 12:18. The left hand is not more indispensable to the right, than unanimity and concord to the ministers of the church.

Starke:

2 Corinthians 12:1. Never boast of yourself; it is always useless and vain. But if you so conduct yourself that others praise you, it is honorable and useful to you ( Proverbs 27:2)

2 Corinthians 12:2 ff. Spener:—While under such Divine influences, ecstasies and Revelation, the external man cannot pay attention to itself, and frequently it has no conception of what is passing within itself; all power and intelligence is taken up with what is taking place within the soul itself. While the eternal God is at work within him, the man knows nothing of time, and while God’s power occupies his thoughts, he has no remembrance of such a thing as himself or the world. Hedinger:—During the present life, heavenly things are much too high and difficult, and it is enough if we can be gradually prepared for them by a few fortastes of them.

2 Corinthians 12:5. Our highest boast now Isaiah, to know what weak, poor and miserable creatures we are. Whatever good we are and have, is entirely the result of God’s grace and mercy.

2 Corinthians 12:6. Hedinger:—A faithful pastor will be careful that his people think of him no more highly than they ought to think. 2 Corinthians 12:7. Where much is given, much also shall we be tempted; but great also shall be our consolation and sure our final victory.—Let no one pride himself on anything he has received from God, for as sure as he does Song of Solomon, all enjoyment of it will be taken away from his flesh by some keen thorn, which Satan knows how to sharpen so ingeniously that he will be compelled to feel it whether he is willing or unwilling.

2 Corinthians 12:8. Affliction drives us to God, and teaches us to call on him day and night, Isaiah 26:16. But very probably God will make us wait, Psalm 130:6. Christians gain their victories by patience and prayer. Prayer makes the heart light and merry. If you cannot pray, then groan, and if you cannot groan and even this distresses you, that very distress is a prayer, Romans 8:26.

2 Corinthians 12:9. Luther:—Christ cannot make known His full strength in us, until we are weak and suffering. God knows best what is for our good; and no one is more ignorant on this point than those who are enduring the anguish of the cross. Our prayers, therefore, should always be conditional. Think not that it is a sign of God’s displeasure, when you are not heard according to your desire, even though you have prayed aright, for it is rather a token of grace. Happy the man who is so satisfied with Divine grace, that it is easy for him to depend wholly upon God; for he who is thus satisfied with grace actually enjoys it. Our weakness need never trouble us. The weaker we are in ourselves, the stronger in Christ, Psalm 18:36. It is the weak tendril which unites the branch with the vine. Christ is our vine. We who are truly in Christ shall never fall, whatever storms may beat upon us. If we have much grace, we must have much suffering; if great suffering, great power; and if great power, great victory. All these hang together in one undivided chain.

2 Corinthians 12:10. Hedinger:—The more humbled by afflictions, the more exalted by grace. Faith increases under conflicts.

2 Corinthians 12:11. Pious Christians should never remain silent when men venture by falsehoods to cast suspicion upon their spiritual teachers. Such is the duty of every Christian in behalf of his fellow men, how much more of spiritual children in behalf of their parents. Humility forbids us not to allow others to commend us, but only to love the praise of men. The more thou humblest thyself, the more exalted thou art, and the more God will be gracious to thee, Ecclesiastes 3:20.

2 Corinthians 12:12. The signs of a true servant of Christ are seen not merely in his passive suffering, but in his active doings.

2 Corinthians 12:13. Spener:—Without keeping back what they owe to God and their fellow men, parents should economize what God has kindly bestowed upon them, that their children may have something after their death; but let them be careful to lay up no treasures from mere covetousness, from a distrust of Providence, to the prejudice of the claims of justice, and to the withholding of what is due to the honor of God, their neighbor’s necessity, or the proper education of their children. By not attending to these latter considerations, many live to experience much anguish of heart, and drown themselves and their children in everlasting destruction (comp. Matthew 6:19; 1 Timothy 6:9). Happy the church in which many are serving the Lord, and all are faithful!

2 Corinthians 12:18. It is a great blessing, where God’s servants are ruled and animated by the Spirit of Christ alone, and where they all walk in the same steps.

Berlenb Bible:

2 Corinthians 12:1. What is there higher for a poor creature, than for him to come into direct communion with God and heavenly beings? And yet even this would be an injury if it became a ground of self-glorification.

2 Corinthians 12:2. Who could keep to himself a matter like this for fourteen years? Those who have great gifts must be most watchful over themselves.

2 Corinthians 12:3. In circumstances like these it is God’s way to have men say: “I cannot tell;” for they are thus kept from being puffed with pride. Many lessons God reserves to the higher school of heaven.

2 Corinthians 12:4. Not unfrequently God gives His people some foretaste of their future blessedness; but such things are not indispensable to our happiness. Our highest excellencies are best shown in the modesty with which they are enjoyed. Those who have seen most of God’s majesty, know not how to humble themselves enough, Isaiah 6:5.

2 Corinthians 12:5. Ineffable grace it is when the Lord graciously vouchsafes to turn the heart of his servant to his native home, and to let him know what no mortal eye, ear or sense could perceive. Even if we have done all things, what have we to boast of? Luke 17:10. Only of our infirmities, and yet these should afford us no excuse for indolence and wickedness.

2 Corinthians 12:6. Anti-Christianity has sometimes had its origin in an excessive veneration for the eminent gifts which God has sometimes bestowed upon His people.

2 Corinthians 12:7. Those who have carefully observed the mysterious ways of Divine Wisdom of Solomon, have remarked that without giving any explanation of his dealings God has deeply humbled His own people as well as other men. To say nothing of external afflictions, this is particularly the case with inward trials. God will gradually consume and exhaust even the most secret influences which might injure or destroy the highest gifts of His grace. It is His secret counsel that many a Christian who seems a favorite of heaven, should be encumbered with some sore trouble, and taste, perhaps, even the powers of hell, until the ends of grace are accomplished, and he is in no danger of self-exaltation.

2 Corinthians 12:8. Why thrice? was not once enough? How long has the Lord been obliged to wait upon thee! Besides, if He lets thee struggle awhile in thy distress, it may wake thee up to more faith, hope and patience at last. A Christian may have wonderful revelations of God, and yet not know much of the secret ways of God with Himself. God often seems severe, when He is really aiming at our highest good. His help consists not so much in ridding us of the evil, as in preserving us under it. Here is the error which makes many prayers seem unanswered. But is it not help when God keeps us from being consumed in the flames?

2 Corinthians 12:9. Let us not be afraid of temptations, but see to it that we lose not our hold upon grace by turning aside to evil. We need never fear to meet trials if we only maintain a vigorous resolution in harmony with the inward action of grace, and thus proceed from one degree of attainment to another. To keep us humble we must never lose sight of our miserable condition; and yet we may go so far in this direction, that we may make shipwreck of hope and despair of God’s love and mercy. The best state we can attain in this world Isaiah, a happy assurance by God’s Spirit, that we always have in heaven a gracious God and Father. Our whole safety depends upon this, for then our hearts rest upon God Himself. “Lord, give me Thy self, and it is enough!” Psalm 73:25-26. God’s power seems mightiest when we are conscious of our own wretchedness, and in the midst of such travail of soul it comes to its perfection. The Saviour is obliged frequently to let His people know that they can do nothing of themselves, that thus they may be driven to a reliance upon grace alone. If they truly boast of their infirmities, they will take pleasure not in their sins, but in being humble. Not so with those who make an excuse of their infirmities. They have no desire, and hence they have no ability to do anything. Let them resolve in a proper manner, and they will soon accomplish something by Divine grace; for they will soon cast away all confidence in their own powers, and make such a use of God’s, that they will triumph over all evil, and begin and complete every good work.

2 Corinthians 12:10. The Spirit’s power increases as that of the flesh decreases. As I lose my own power I am clothed with Christ’s. God makes the creature see its own nothingness, that it may become something in Christ to the praise of His glory. God was robbed of His glory when man fell, and it can be restored to Him only when man is shown in his weakness and nothingness, that God may become all in all. Whoever strives in his self-sufficiency to live according to his own pleasure, acknowledges no subjection to God, and will derive no power from him.

2 Corinthians 12:11. It is quite possible to be at the same time something and nothing. All are striving hard to be something, but none like to learn that they are nothing. If thou art something, esteem thyself as nothing, and then thou wilt remain something, and become something more.

Rieger:

2 Corinthians 12:1, etc. Men think at the present day they can gain much attention by some wonderful accounts of the invisible world. But whoever has not given himself up thoroughly to obey the word of the Cross, will find that the word from the third heaven and from Paradise will be only a manacle of unbelief, and a temptation to forsake the faith.

2 Corinthians 12:4. In Divine things it is better to have more in store than is given out.

2 Corinthians 12:6. How much honor a man may gain before God, by not seeking and not accepting of the honor which comes from his fellow men. Indeed, God’s love goes beyond this, and provides against the self-exaltation of His children when they have received what is of real value and pleasure to them.

2 Corinthians 12:7. Mighty grace! which can provide that neither height nor depth can do us an injury!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Let nothing overwhelm thee; even in utter weakness be strong, and assured that Christ’s power will accomplish some gracious purpose thereby. In sorrow’s night, when troubles distress thee, His power will defend thee until the sure morning comes.

2 Corinthians 12:14, etc. In preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, we cannot be too careful to avoid not only the reality, but even the slightest appearance of a worldly spirit To aid a soul in escaping from death and in the work of salvation, will be a greater joy to your own soul in the day of the Lord Jesus than to have won a world. Love generally goes downward (i.e., from parents to children), in greater strength than it returns; and what must be said of the great love of that God who is nothing but love and from whom all good comes, as compared with our feeble love!

Heubner:

2 Corinthians 12:1. Boasting, to please ourselves, always lowers us in the esteem of others, and is usually punished by some great humiliation.

2 Corinthians 12:2, etc. Extraordinary revelations have been sometimes given to those who are distinguished for piety to strengthen them for their duties, by a foretaste of future blessedness. No one, however, should long for such Revelation, and much less make a parade of them when they are vouchsafed; for they are not needful to a believing and godly life, and in seeking them we run great peril of self-deception, of gross errors, and above all, of spiritual pride. For every spark of pride which accompanies them, our fall will have to be so much the deeper.

2 Corinthians 12:5. When we glory in our infirmities and confess that we can do nothing of ourselves, we give glory to God.

2 Corinthians 12:6. The pious man makes it his aim not to appear better than he Isaiah, but to be better than he appears

2 Corinthians 12:7. The example of Paul is most instructive to all who are called to endure severe but unavoidable evils. God does not always appear for their help; for though He is able, He knows it unwise to do so. He knows what is best for us, and He intends to try our faith, to purify our hearts, and to suppress that pride which is the greatest foe to eminence.

2 Corinthians 12:9. The only consolation which can satisfy us in affliction is that which springs from an assurance of the Divine favor, and an unreproving conscience. If we long for nothing else, we can triumph over all things.

2 Corinthians 12:10. The more we let go all confidence in ourselves and leave ourselves entirely and unreservedly in the Lord’s hands, the more strength we shall receive from Him. Such is the true weakness of a Christian. That which is only spurious makes excuses for sin, shrinks from conflicts, and has no desires for growth in grace.

2 Corinthians 12:14. Genuine love says: “I seek not yours, but you;” that which is false seeks for external and adventitious advantages, such as power, honor, rank, etc. A rare thing it is to find those who love us solely for what we are !

2 Corinthians 12:15. The highest degrees of love are seldom fully reciprocated. The Christian must not expect it.

W. F. Besser:

2 Corinthians 12:9. In the weakness of the instrument, the power of him who uses it has an opportunity to show how completely it can triumph over difficulties ( 2 Corinthians 4:7). “It is God’s way,” says Luther, “to manifest His power and majesty by means of nothingness and feebleness.” Give up praying away thy thorn, O Christian, and take to heart the promise of all-sufficient grace; then shalt thou begin with Paul to boast of thy weakness and shelter thyself in Christ’s own power! Thou mighty God and merciful Saviour, in covenant with the falling leaves and withered grass of human weakness, dost permit us to witness miracles of Almighty power precisely where our power completely fails us! Teach us to understand an arrangement in which Thy glory is in harmony with our joy, and we become satisfied for Thy sake with every cross and with manifold infirmities; since like a magnet they bring down Thy power to us.

2 Corinthians 12:14. If it is indeed reasonable and just that children should support those parents who need their care; surely it is the duty of churches to sustain their spiritual father by a return not only of intercessions in their behalf, at the throne of grace, but of such honor as is required in 1 Corinthians 9:11.

Gerlach:

2 Corinthians 12:9. The greatest peril to a sinful man is pride and self-exaltation. When his powers and his gifts seem greatest, and all that he attempts succeeds and thrives, great will be his temptation to be proud and self-sufficient; and it will be hard to feel continually that all he has is of grace. Though our own hearts and outward appearances may suggest the contrary, never are we better prepared to have God’s power work within us and around us, than when we are enduring outward and inward afflictions.

2 Corinthians 11:19 to 2 Corinthians 12:9. Gospel for Sexag. Sunday. Heubner:—The Apostles as the most eminent of the followers of Jesus. How they—1, preached and were faithful in all their duties, from mere love to the Church, and notwithstanding the envy and opposition of false teachers; 2, suffered the greatest hardships in their work without wavering from their steadfastness; 3, were vouchsafed more exalted revelations; 4, were nevertheless more deeply humbled.—How Christian love suffers—1, First, it can bring us into deep afflictions; 2, God will thus purify us, and assimilate us to Jesus; 3, His grace is an abundant consolation. The Christian’s commendation of himself: 1) Its proper occasion: urgent reasons ( 2 Corinthians 12:19-21); 2) Its object: excellences which have a spiritual value, labors, sufferings, etc. ( 2 Corinthians 12:23–33), gracious tokens which God vouchsafes to us; 3) Its limitations (to boast of these things only as gifts of God, and to induce others to trust in him).—Comp. Oetinger, Epistelpredigten, S 151 ff, Kap. xii1–9; Albertini, Predigten, S 49 ff,Kap xii1–10; L. Hofacker, S 199 ff, 757ff.; Zeugnisse Evang. Wahrheit, I. S 399 ff, Kap. xii9; Hossbach, 2Samml. S 45 ff.; Schmidt, Vorhalle des Predigtsegens, 1864, S384.

[ 2 Corinthians 12:1-5. The wonderful incident here related, and Paul’s appreciation of it. I. The fact itself. 1. The manner in which he speaks of himself as the subject of this experience (with reluctance and embarrassment 2 Corinthians 12:2-3). 2. The time in which it took place (at the commencement of his religious life, 2 Corinthians 12:2). 3. The place in which it occurred (in a local heaven, 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4). 4. The state in which the Apostle was (so taken up with heavenly things as to be unconscious of his sentient life, 2 Corinthians 12:2-3). 5. The things he saw and heard (were not thought useful to our knowledge, and so were withheld 2 Corinthians 12:4. II. The Apostle’s estimate of it. 1. He clearly distinguished between an exalted privilege and a gracious attainment2. Regarded it as very liable to become a snare3. Esteemed his infirmities and afflictions as more useful to him4. And yet he evidently highly appreciated what he had here seen and heard.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10. I. Prayer.—1. Its appropriate objects; 2. Its encouragements; 3. The importunity allowed; 4. The limitation finally given. II. Its Answer—1. At the best time, however delayed; 2. With transcendent Wisdom of Solomon,, 3. With a view to spiritual results alone.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - 2 Corinthians 12:1.—Rec. and Tisch. have δὴ, others δὲ. The best authorities are in favor of δεῖ. The apparent want of connection gave occasion for changing it into δὴ, δὲ, εἰ—δεῖ (δεῖ was not transferred from 2 Corinthians 11:30). [Authorities now seem evenly balanced between the three. Δὴ has in its favor K. M, most of the cursives, the Arm. vers, and (on such a point) the powerful testimony of all the Greek Fathers; δὲ has D. (1st hand) Sin114, Copt. Slav. and Latin versions, and Theophyl.; and δεῖ has B. D. (3d hand) E. F. G. L. Sin. (3d hand), many cursives, the Syr. Arm. Vulg. Ital. verss, and Ambrosiast. But as Tisch. suggests, B. is evidently corrupted here by (εἰ—καὶ), and δὲ and δεῖ were most likely to be derived from δὴ, and as the most difficult reading, and the one most consistent with the ironical style of this section, the latter has much the best internal evidence. It is adopted by Bloomf, de Wette, Reiche, Alford, Wordsworth, Conybeare, and Hodge, while Lachmann, Meyer, Osiander, and Stanley adopt δεῖ].

FN#2 - 2 Corinthians 12:1.—Lachmann has οὐ συμφέρον μὲν, ἐλεύσομαι δὲ (B. δὲ καὶ), on authorities by no means the highest. [B. F. G. Sin. some curss. and verss. (the Copt. Latin Fathers, Damasc. and Vulg, add καὶ with B.)]. The Rec. οὐ συμφέρει μοι· ἐλεύσ. γαρ is the more difficult reading on account of γὰρ, and μὲν—δὲ are evidently corrections to make the sense clearer. [The reading συμφέρον can only be retained with μὲν—δὲ. The variations are very considerable here, but the Rec. is sustained by most of the uncials and cursives, and especially by the verss, (except the Lat. and Vulg.) and the Greek Fathers; and if original it most easily accounts for the variations].

FN#3 - 2 Corinthians 12:3.—Rec. has ἐκτός, but it was probably taken from 2 Corinthians 12:2; for χωρίς is well sustained. [Sin. D. (2d and 3 d hand) E. (2d hand) F. G. K. L. M. have ἐκρός; but B. D. (1st hand), E. (1st hand) and Method. have χωρίς].

FN#4 - 2 Corinthians 12:3.—Lachmann leaves out οὐκ οἶδα, but without sufficient authority [only that of the Vatican and Methodius].

FN#5 - 2 Corinthians 12:5.—Lachm. throws out μου, but on insufficient evidence. [The only important MSS. for the omission are B. D. (1st hand), with the Copt. Syr. (both) and Arm. versions; while D. (3d hand) E. F. G. K. L. M. Sin. Vulg. and the Fathers insert it].

FN#6 - 2 Corinthians 12:6.—Τι is wanting in many, and even in some of the better MSS. [B. D. (3d hand) E. (2d hand) F. G. Sin. Vulg.]; but it probably was omitted because it disturbed the sense of the passage, or at least seemed superfluous.

FN#7 - 2 Corinthians 12:7.—Before the first ἵνα Lachmann inserts διὸ after A. B. F. G. [and Sin.], et al. But “it was probably an interpolation, to disconnect this sentence with the preceding.” [The words καὶ τῇ ὑπερβ. τῶν ἀποκ. were united in sense with εἰ μὴ ἐν ταῖς ἀσθεν. ( 2 Corinthians 12:5). making ἐαν—γᾶρ ἐξ ἐμου a parenthesis, and then Διὸ ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι. ( 2 Corinthians 12:7) began a new sentence. It must be conceded that the documentary evidence for this word is now very strong, and Stanley has adopted it. If it is accepted, the punctuation which is mentioned above must also be adopted, viz.: “I will not glory except in my infirmities, and in the abundance of my revelations. Wherefore, also, lest I should be exalted above measure, there was given,” etc.].

FN#8 - 2 Corinthians 12:7. Some important MSS. [A. D. E. F. G. Sin17, and many versions and fathers] leave out ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμσι, from not recognizing the emphasis which the Apostle meant to give by the repetition of these words (Meyer).

FN#9 - And yet B. D. F. G. Sin. and many verss. and fathers (Tisch, Bengel, Lachm, Stanley) omit it].

FN#10 - 2 Corinthians 12:9.—Τελεῖται is well authenticated [with A. B. D. F. Sin.]. Rec. τελειοῦται was doubtless a gloss [with D. (3d hand) K. L. Sin. (3d hand) Orig. and Athan.].

FN#11 - 2 Corinthians 12:10.—Both B. and Sin. leave out ἐν before στενοχωρίαις].

FN#12 - 2 Corinthians 12:11.—Rec. has καυχώμενος after ἄφρων; an exegetical addition, and feebly sustained [with only L, many cursives, the Goth, and Syr. (both) versions, and some Greek Fathers].

FN#13 - 2 Corinthians 12:12.—Rec. has ἐν before σημείοις, but according to the preponderance of evidence [A. B. D. F. Sin, et al.] it should be erased; it was a repetition from the preceding clause.

FN#14 - 2 Corinthians 12:13.—Instead of ἡττήθητε Lachm. has ἡσσώθῃτε; but the latter was evidently an error of the transcribers. [B. D. Sin17 (Alford) have ἡσσωθ. Tisch. with A. D. (2d and 3 d hand) K. L. and the Greek Fathers have ἡττήθ.].

FN#15 - Rec. omits it, but it is given in A. B. F. G. Sin. Ital. Vulg. Goth. Syr. Arm. Æth. and most of the fathers]. It has different positions, being sometimes before, and sometimes after τρίτον. Perhaps taken from 2 Corinthians 13:1.

FN#16 - 2 Corinthians 12:14.—Rec. after καταναρκ, has ὑμῶν. Some MSS. have ὑμᾶς. Neither were original [A. B. Sin, et al. omit both].

FN#17 - 2 Corinthians 12:15.—εἰ καὶ. A. B. F. G. [Sin.] have only εἰ, and a number of MSS. leave both wordb entirely out. Exeget. explanations.

FN#18 - Wordsworth still thinks that μοι is emphatic in contrast with ὀπτασίας κ. ἀποκαλύψεις, and with κυρίου (hence each of these words are contrasted in position at the end of their respective sentences): to glory is not proper or expddient for one like me; I will new, therefore; proceed to such things as have been vouchsafed to me by the Lord, Alford thinks that Paul did actually desist from all boasting here, and that he now proceeds to give a vision and revelation which was intended to show the folly of it (γὰρ); Stanley, that Paul intended here to cease all boasting of himself, but that the necessities of his position repeatedly overcame his reluctance, and betrayed him into boasting again, though more and more of things which really humbled him. Dr. Hodge also thinks that Paul did actually desist at this point, and came to such things as involved no real boasting, but rather a personal humiliation and a recital of God’s goodness. Indeed, most of the interpretations, though resting upon different readings and explanations of the words and connection, come finally to the same thought in only different shades. There are contrasted, what was necessary to his position with what was proper and useful to his person; what related to him as a carnal man with what related to his infirmities as a spiritual man; and what was done by him with what was done by the Lord. He therefore says: I know that boasting of myself is not calculated to benefit me in the higher sense as an individual, but I am compelled by the circumstances in which you Corinthians are, to do something which would ordinarily be so called,—and yet what I have to say will only be humiliating to me as a Prayer of Manasseh, while it tells what wonderful things God has done for me, and proves conclusively my claims as one of the highest Apostles. W. F. Besser: “The ‘high Apostles’ at Corinth could lay no claim to such things as had been mentioned in the preceding chapter, but they spoke much of their numerous visions and revelations. What had the Apostle to set off against those? He would have told the truth if he had spoken of many of his glorious Revelation, but he would allude only to one, of which he had hitherto been silent, at least among the Corinthians: and of this he would speak only in a way to show the evident difference between a modest discourse and a carnal prating of personal distinctions. He had experienced a holy joy when his faith in the invisible realities of the Christian hope had been strengthened by a holy trance, but he was not inclined to describe in a wordy style what he had then seen and heard. He was rather disposed to bring forward an humbling incident connected with it, in which he became painfully conscious of his sinful infirmity,—a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan, and an earnest prayer,—when he had been favored with a promise of inexpressible consolation, and was led to boast that when he was weak in himself, he was strong in the Lord.” He thus shows that a spiritual grace obtained even by a painful experience was of far greater vaiue than the most exalted outward privilege].

FN#19 - And yet J. E. C. Schmidt, of Giessen, in his Clavis on the N. T, has maintained this opinion with no little degree of plausibility. His main points are, the repeated declaration of the Apostle that he was not boasting of himself, his use of the third person, the strong contrast between τοῦ τοιούτον and ἐμαυτοῦ in 2 Corinthians 12:5, and his assertion that he would spare his readers (φείδομαι) this very thing. According to him, the course of thought is: ‘It is not expedient for me to boast: I will come to those visions and revelations of which my opponents make so much. I am reminded of a man whom I knew long since (and who perhaps was claimed by Paul’s opponents to be of their party). Of such a thing (neuter), or of such a man (masculine), I am prepared to boast, as of an incident or person in which is shown the extent of the grace I preach. I also might personally boast of such things without vanity, for I should say the truth,—but of myself I will not, except of my infirmities, lest any one should think of me above what he sees me to be. And lest I should be exalted above measure for these revelations (from the detail of which I forbear), there was given to me a thorn,’ etc. This view would avoid the appearance of inconsistency in the Apostle i.e., of refusing to boast, and yet appearing continually to do Song of Solomon, but it seems altogether too constrained, especially in its explanation of ὑπὲρ τ. τοιούτον καυχ. in 2 Corinthians 12:5].

FN#20 - “We may conceive the soul to receive a supernatural vision, either while it remaineth still in the body, or by its departing from the body for a season. The latter may not be called a death, because either the sensitive, or at least the vegetative, soul or faculty continues meanwhile in the body, either naturally or miraculously vivificating it. Again, we may conceive a man’s spirit remaining in the body, to receive such visions, two several ways: either by a real rapture of both body and spirit into that place, whereof the soul or spirit hath such a vision; or else by a representation of such things really absent to the spirit, neither the body nor it changing at all their place; yet, as in dreams, the spirit apprehending a change of place, and a presence of the whole person to those persons and things, which it spiritually and supernaturally, and by the power of God, not by any operation of nature or fancy, beholds. This last, if not only, most commonly happeneth; and thus St. Paul’s rapture will be most agreeable with other Scripture-rapts. Revelation 1:10; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 21:10; Acts 12:11; Ezekiel 8:3.”—Old Paraphrase and Annott. on Paul’s Epistles, published by the Oxford Angl. Society. “The infusion of spiritual influences suspends at the same time the usual succession of ideas and the ordinary current of thought; the power of imagination alone remaining active, and the sense of spiritual vision being excited to the highest degree of intensity.”—Lee on Inspiration.]

FN#21 - The reasons for this opinion are not given by our author, and seem to us not quite sufficient. The apparent repetition in the text is partially accounted for by the intervention of the parenthesis, and partially by the peculiarly abrupt and animated style which the recollection of the event occasioned. If the transaction mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 was different from that mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:2, then Paradise must be a different place from the third heaven, as is contended for by Grotius and many Lutheran and English divines. The question then must arise, why was the visit to Paradise mentioned last, as if this were a higher sphere than that of the third heaven? If Paradise is (as all agree, and as Luke 23:43 and Revelation 2:7, compel us to believe), the abode of departed saints immediately after death, and if the third heaven is a different locality (as usually held by those who make this distinction, the abode of saints after the resurrection), we naturally inquire why was the visit to the lower sphere made after that to the higher? If we answer with Bp. Taylor (Fun. Serm. on Sir. G. Dalston Vol. II. p135), Bp. Bull (Works, Vol. I. Ser. III. p89), and Wordsworth, that “the vision of the heavenly glory would not have satisfied Paul since it was to be attained only at the distant period of the resurrection, and hence that he was shown something to be entered upon immediately after death;” not to insist on the fact that the prospect of the Parousia was not so very distant to the mind of Paul, we may suggest that this only shows that he needed to see Paradise at some time, but not necessarily to see it last. The view of Augustine, Thomas, Estius and Calvin seems to us more strictly conformed to our passage, viz, that the third heaven included the whole world of the blessed, (the Father’s house with its many mansions) in some part (not necessarily some more interior part) of which was Paradise where the ascended Jesus abides with His saints. (Bengel: some inner recess in the third heaven, rather than the third heaven itself; an opinion very generally held by the ancients. See Greg. Obs. c18.) Whether the latter is different from the home which the saints are to possess after the resurrection is not determined by 2 Corinthians 12:4, in which we recognize simply a more specific designation of the place than in 2 Corinthians 12:2.]


Verse 19

XVI—REPROOF OF SOME MORAL IMPERFECTIONS NOT YET REMOVED, AND ADMONITION TO SPARE HIM THE NECESSITY OF APOSTOLIC DISCIPLINE. CONCLUDING ENCOURAGEMENTS AND BENEDICTION

2 Corinthians 12:19-21. 2 Corinthians 13:1-14

19Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? [For a long time [FN22] ye are thinking that it is to you that we are excusing ourselves πάλαι δοχεῖτε; ὅτι ὑμῖν ἀπολογόυμεθα]; we speak before [FN23] God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, [but all, beloved,] for your edifying 20 For I fear, lest, [haply μήπως] when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest [haply] there be. debates [discord][FN24], envyings [emulation, ζῆπως], wraths,[FN25] 21strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come [FN26] again, my God will humble[FN27] me among [with respect to, πρὸς] you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, [before, προημαρτηχότων], and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

2 Corinthians 13:1. This is the third time[FN28] am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established 2 I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write [I have said before, and now say beforehand as I did when I was present the second time, so now also in my absence, om. I write] [FN29] to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all others, that, if I come again, I will not spare: 3Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in 4 me, which [who] to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. For though [FN30] he [For He also, και γὰρ] was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also [om. also][FN31] are weak in him,[FN32] but we shall live[FN33] with him 11 by the power of God toward you.[FN34] 5Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves, Know [or, know] ye not your own selves, how that Jesus6 Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? [to some extend unapproved, τὶ ὰδὁκιμοί?] But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates [unapproved]. 7Now I pray to [yet we pray, εὐχόμεθα δὲ ][FN35] God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, [excellent], though we be as reprobates [as if unapproved]. 8For we can do nothing against the truth, but [we can do something] for the truth 9 For we are glad, [rejoice, χαίρομεν], when we are weak, and ye are strong: and also [FN36] we wish, [pray for, εὐχόμἐθα], even your perfection10 [prefect restoration, κατάρτισν]. Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to [for, εἰς] edification, and not to [for] destruction 11 Finally, brethren, farewell, [rejoice, χαίρετε] Be perfect [be restored to order, καταρτίζεσθε], be of good comfort, 12be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you, greet one another with a holy kiss 13 All the saints salute you. The grace of our Lord 14 Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. [om. Amen].[FN37]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

2 Corinthians 12:19-21. For a long time ye are thinking that we are excusing ourselves unto you (ver1).—Paul here guards against the erroneous impression which he anticipated some might receive from his self-defence, that he was standing in judgment before them; he assures them that his only object was to do them good. Nothing was then of more importance to him than their amendment, unless he was willing to have their whole conduct come before him in his judicial capacity. The interrogative form of the sentence would become necessary if we adopt the word πάλιν of the Receptus (a reading perhaps occasioned by 2 Corinthians 3:1); but it would be quite unsuitable if πάλαι be adopted. With this latter reading Paul must be understood to refer to what would take place, when his Epistle should be read or heard at Corinth, especially that part which was of an apologetical character. Ὑμῖν stands at the commencement of the sentence for the sake of emphasis. It is the dative of direction or tendency (with, or before you) as in Acts 19:33. He was about to set before them the positive bearing of his self-defence upon them, i.e., to show them that its true object was to promote their spiritual life (οἰκοδομή). This required that all obstructions to his Apostolical influence, and all prejudices and wrong thoughts against him and his conduct among them, should be removed, and that all dependence upon their false teachers should be broken off. But before he presented this it was of consequence to assure them that he was standing with his apology at the bar of God, to whom alone he was responsible.—we speak before God in Christ, but all things, beloved, for your edification ( 2 Corinthians 12:19 b).—In these words (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:7) his object was not to affirm the sincerity of his purpose, but to let them know that it was to God that he was accountable, and from God that he expected an acquittal. The words in Christ (ἐν Χριστῷ) point out the sphere in which he was speaking, one far above every human tribunal, as a Christian and an Apostle, conscious of his fellowship with Christ. In connection with the last clause (τὰ δὲ πάντα) we must supply λαλοῦμεν (we speak) from the preceding sentence. Some would join the sentence with the preceding [and unite τὰ and δὲ together] so as to read: λαλοῦμεν ταδε πάντα, etc; but τάδε usually refers to that which follows it, and never is made use of by Paul in any other passage. [It refers here to something definite, and not to all things in general, for it is confined to those matters of which he had been speaking, and especially his apology for himself]. In this last clause also, he makes, by way of conciliation, a direct appeal to them as his beloved ones (ἀγαπητοί), before entering upon a more severe remonstrance. The reason for this is apparent in 2 Corinthians 12:20-21.—For I fear that haply when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not ( 2 Corinthians 12:20 a).—He here notices the unhappy condition he had reason to fear they were in, and which called for these efforts on his part for their benefit. His first reference to this condition is very tender. He merely mentions the impression which such a state of things would necessarily make upon him when he should come among them, and he alludes to the proceedings which such a state would necessarily call forth from him. Even when he says, I fear lest, etc., he expresses the solicitude of a father, and his earnest desire that his intercourse with them might be free from annoyance; but in μήπως we have something likewise of a conciliatory nature. [The word is used in two successive clauses (anaphora), but in the third ( 2 Corinthians 12:21) it is exchanged for μὴ, inasmuch as the hesitation to express his thought in decisive terms wears away as he proceeds. The expressions: “such as ye would not,” and “such as I would,” are euphemistic, to avoid a more disagreeable phrase. The use of the verb θέλω for βούλομαι was not uncommon, and yet we may recognize something of the specific meaning of θέλω here, inasmuch as the Apostle meant perhaps to express some determination of the will in the case]. In κᾆγώ—οἶον οὐ θέλετε he shows that he was painfully conscious of an Apostolic power of discipline which he would be obliged to exert; and he now reappears in that triumphant attitude of authority which he had formerly assumed (comp. Meyer). ̓Υμῖν has not the sense of: by you, but to you, or for you, as in Romans 7:10. The position of the second οὐ before the θέλετε is especially emphatic.[FN38] What he meant by such as he would not, he shows in greater detail in the second part of 2 Corinthians 12:20 and in 2 Corinthians 12:21.—lest I shall find, perchance, among you debate, emulation, passions, contentions, slanderings, whisperings, insolences, tumults ( 2 Corinthians 12:20).—The unpleasant things which he found are arranged under two different relations, according to the two different kinds of moral defect he knew to be in the Church. [Bengel: “That which was not such as he would, is treated of to the end of the chapter, then what was such as they would not, is treated of from 2 Corinthians 8:1 and onwards.” Such vices indicate how great were the difficulties to be met with in churches just emerged from heathenism, but we are not to suppose them prevalent among that portion which Paul had described in chap7 as penitent and obedient]. Not, however, until the commencement of the next chapter does he come to speak of the exercise of his Apostolic power to punish offenders (for in the next verse he brings before us another kind of offences). To μήπως ἔρις, etc., must be supplied εὑρεθῶσιν (or ὦσιν) ἐν ὑμῖν. We have ἔρις and ζῆλος in 1 Corinthians 3:3, and ἔρις in 1 Corinthians 1:11; on ἔριδες comp. Winer, § 9 [p59, Philad. ed.]. Θυμοί occurs also in Galatians 5:20, and signifies vehement passion, boiling emotion. Θυμός signifies the heart as the seat of passionate emotion, and then this emotion itself—passion, wrath, rage; the plural is found also in the classic writers. ̓Ερίθεια signifies hired work, mercenariness, love of intrigue, a disposition to foment parties. See Romans 2:8; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:17; Philippians 2:3; James 3:14; James 3:16 (not of ἔρις) Com. Meyer and Fritzsche on Romans 2:8. Καταλαλιαί signifies, evil reports in general; ψιθυρίσμοί, secret slanderings. The original verb of φυσιώσεις is used with reference to the insolence of faction, an arrogant conceit of knowledge, and arrogance with respect to gifts in general, in 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4. ̓Ακαταστασίαι occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:5; 1 Corinthians 14:33. In addition to these moral defects, which had their origin in the factious spirit prevailing at Corinth, and hence called for decisive measures, the Apostle now proceeds ( 2 Corinthians 12:21) to mention some manifestations of that sensuality for which their city was noted.—Lest again when I come, my God shall humble me with respect to you ( 2 Corinthians 12:21 a).—There is no need of commencing a new period here, and so of giving this whole verse an interrogative form. The reading ταπεινώσει does not require this, for this word, like the μή (previously μήπως), indicates simply an increased anxiety that such a sad calamity should not come upon him. We may also notice that a question calling for a negative answer (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:17-18) would not be appropriate in this connection ( 2 Corinthians 12:20). The πάλιν qualifies the whole phrase: ἐλθόντος μου ταπεινώσει με (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:1), and not merely either ἐλθόντος μου or ταπεινώσει. He does not intend to say that he had experienced a similar mortification during some former visit [and yet comp. 2 Corinthians 2:1. We see not how πάλιν can have its force without supposing some reference to a former visit, even if it should be made to qualify ἐλθόντος alone. And yet this could not have been his first visit when he had great success and general joy in spite of his persecutions, but certainly no such humiliations. We are obliged to think of a second unrecorded visit between his first and second Epistle. See on 2 Corinthians 12:1 of the next chapter]. The genitive absolute here is remarkable, and hence the reading in the Receptus. The ταπεινοῦν has reference not to the exercise of discipline among them, as if this would produce a feeling of humiliation on account of his love to the Church and to the Lord, and would be traceable to God because it would take place according to the Divine will, but rather to the mortification the Apostle would experience if he were compelled to see the fruit of his labors among them utterly destroyed, and thus to find all his boasting either much abated or completely wrested from him. Should such a humiliation come upon him, he would trace it to the hand of God, and receive it as a wholesome discipline. He would therefore humbly submit himself to it, and find consolation in the reflection that the God who did it was his God ( Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4), the God whom he served, and with whom he was in such intimate fellowship that the interests of one were the interests of both. If we give the word the sense of: to trouble, or to grieve, it will have precisely the same signification with πενθήσω. Πρὸς ὐμᾶς has here the sense, not of: with or among you, for with such a meaning it would be superfluous, but of: in respect to you.—And I shall bewail many of those who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed ( 2 Corinthians 12:21 b). The word πενθεῖν signifies, to mourn, to Lamentations, lugere, especially for the dead, etc. It expresses the genuine feeling of a spiritual pastor (comp. Calvin), and perhaps it alludes to the idea of a spiritual death. It expresses either the sorrow he would feel on account of their impenitence (Meyer), or the grief he would feel in denouncing punishment or in excommunicating them (De Wette, et al.). [In ancient times sentence of condemnation in the Church was pronounced with outward signs of sorrow and mourning; see 1 Corinthians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 7:7; 2 Corinthians 7:9 (Old Paraphrase). Perhaps the customs attending excommunication were derived from an extreme interpretation of such passages]. The objects of this sorrow are mentioned when he says: πολλοὺς τῶν προημαρτηκότων καὶ μὴ μετανοησάντων, etc. This is not an inexact form for designating a general class, instead of saying τοὺς μὴ μετανοὴσαντας; many, i.e., who have not repented. But the Apostle had not in mind all unconverted sinners, in every congregation, among whom he gave especial prominence to those in Corinth by using the word πολλὸυς (Lücke), for nothing in the context warrants us in giving such an extension to- the idea. He unquestionably had his eye upon sinners in Corinth alone, when he used the phrase προημαρτηκότες, etc. But our further explanation must depend upon the answer to the question, whether ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ etc., should be connected with μετανοησάντων or with πενθήσω. The first method would be without analogy, so far as the New Testament is concerned, for in every instance there, μεταν. is construed with ἀπό or ἐκ (with ἐπί only in the Old Testament, in Joel 2:13, and Amos 7:3, where the μετανοεῖν in both cases is the act of God). And yet it is probably admissible, even if the idea of a mere change of mind without that of sorrow for sin, be connected with the word. It would then signify, a change of mind in respect to, or on account of, etc. [Osiander draws attention to the contrast of προ: and μετα:] The connection of the words with πενθήσω seems rather unusual and strange, inasmuch as in other places we meet with πενθεῖν ἐπί τινι in the sense of: to lament over something, but not with πενθεῖν τινα ἐπί τινι. It Isaiah, however, not altogether unallowable on this account. If we adopt the first mode of connecting the words, we must understand by πολλούς the worst among the class of persons mentioned (De Wette, Osiander), i.e., those whom he would be obliged to punish by excluding them from the Church (πενθεῖν would then be: to mourn for them as dead persons; and it is used with respect to such an act in 1 Corinthians 5:2). If we adopt the other mode, προημαρτηκότες etc., would signify those who had in any manner sinned, etc, and we should make the Apostle say that he feared he should have to mourn over many of these on account of the sins of the flesh, of which they were guilty; and he designs to mention here the other class of sins which were most prevalent at Corinth i.e., besides those mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:20). We prefer the second of the methods, because the reference to the excommunication of the worst contains something unnatural, and 1 Corinthians 5:2 by no means justifies us in referring πενθήσω to such a transaction. Against this second method no objection should be urged on account of the position of πενθήσω, nor of the thought itself, to mourn for one on account of such things. Πενθήσω stands at the commencement of the clause for the sake of emphasis, and ἐπί stands not at a very extraordinary distance from it. The Apostle might very reasonably be understood to mourn over such impenitent persons on account of their sins, even though he does not in this place, as in other places (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), bring prominently before us the consequences of those sins. The προ, however, refers not to the period before their conversion, but to the time preceding his second visit, when misunderstandings had begun to prevail, and when he had admonished them to repent (comp. 2 Corinthians 13:2), though with so little success that he found the peculiar faults mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 were still prevalent among them. ̓Ακαθαραία signifies sins of a sensual nature generally, such as defiled both soul and body, Romans 1:24; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19. Πορνεία ( 1 Corinthians 5:1), and ἀσέλγεια (wantonness, shamelessness, voluptuousness, Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19, et al.), are particular exhibitions of ἀκαθαρσία. Πράσσειν signifies, to bring about, achieve (comp. Passow). We do not (with Meyer and Osiander) make μὴ μετανοησάντων refer to those who should be impenitent at the anticipated coming of the Apostle at Corinth: “and shall not have repented,” but to the fruitlessness of his admonitions when he was among them the second time. [The perfect in προημ. has here a special force and significance, implying that the sins were continued, and were not overcome by a true repentance. The aorist of μὴ μεταν. is in contrast with this, and we see no reason why it may not be taken in the sense of a futur. exact, i.e., those who will not have repented when I shall be with you].

2 Corinthians 13:1-4. This is the third time I am coming to you ( 2 Corinthians 13:1 a).—Now follows the Apostle’s announcement of his determination to proceed with an unsparing judicial severity, in accordance with what he had said in 2 Corinthians 12:20 : κᾳ̇γὼ εὑρηθῶ ὑμῖν, οἰον οὐ θέλετε. Τρίτον τοῦτο signifies here: this is the third time, as in John 21:14, et al. Ἔρχομαι speaks of his actual coming, and presupposes that he had been at Corinth twice before this (it cannot refer to a mere purpose or plan of such a journey, nor to a coming by letters).

[General note on Paul’s visits to Corinth. It seems to us impossible to interpret 2 Corinthians 13:1, on any other view than that Paul had previously been twice at Corinth. It cannot be made to mean simply, this is the second time Ι have been ready, and if it could it would have been a most unfortunate reference, in which he would rather remind his readers of his failure actually to come. The usual appeal to 2 Corinthians 12:14, is unsatisfactory, not only because our passage should not be a repetition of that, but because the proper idea of that Isaiah, I am ready to come the third time. The word διέρχομαι in 1 Corinthians 16:5, is not quite to the point (Wordsworth), since it would only show how the will was taken for the fact, but would not account for his expected coming, being the third of a series of the same kind. Certainly no one, reading 2 Corinthians 13:1, without a previous bias, would ever think of anything but a third actual visit. In 2 Corinthians 2:1, Paul also implies that he had once visited them “in heaviness,” evidently on account of the misconduct of Christians there; in 2 Corinthians 12:21 he intimates that God had then humbled him; and in 2 Corinthians 13:2 (rightly rendered) he implies that he had then given them warning that if he came again he would not spare them. Now when could that visit have been paid? The whole idea is unsuitable to the first visit when the church was formed. Nor could it have been after that which we now call the First Epistle, when he announced his intention to remain at Corinth until Pentecost ( 1 Corinthians 16:8), and after “the Epistle” in which he had written to them “not to keep company with fornicators” ( 1 Corinthians 5:9), and answered the inquiries the Corinthians had made of him ( 1 Corinthians 7:1). See Introd. § 6. But we know that Paul resided at Ephesus during the whole time between his first visit to Corinth and his journey through Macedonia, during which he wrote our present Second Epistle. There must, however, have been time enough after his departure from Corinth for the springing up of the disorders which were censured in that unrecorded visit, and the subsequent lost Epistle, and for the sending of a letter and perhaps a deputation from the Corinthian Church to Paul ( 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 16:17). On the supposition that Paul came to Ephesus late in the year54, Alford ventures to place the unrecorded journey in the Spring of55, and the lost Epistle in the Spring of57, or at least early in the same year in which he left Ephesus for Macedonia ( 1 Corinthians 16:8). As Ephesus and Corinth were the usual points of transit between Asia and Europe, Paul might easily have made a brief visit of the kind supposed, but as it was attended with no special results, it was not mentioned in the Acts. The shipwrecks and disasters at sea mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, indicate that Paul must have made several voyages during his missionary life, which are not recorded. Comp. Alford, Introd. to Cor. § 5, and Essay on How to use the Epistles in Sun. Mag. for 1867. J. L. Davies, Art. Paul in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible].

In the mouth of two witnesses and of three shall every word be established (ver. l b).—By a citation from the very letter of the Law in Deuteronomy 19:15, the Apostle lets them see how rigid and precise were to be his disciplinary proceedings when he should come to them this third time. He would so arrange the proceedings that the witnesses should be heard in the presence of the congregation (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13; 1 Corinthians 5:3, etc.), for in the trial of notorious offences, it would be necessary to adhere strictly to all legal forms, that he might avoid any appearance of partiality.Ῥῇμα [the word, after the Hebrew manner] stands here for the matter, cause, conduct or charge in dispute.Σταθήσεται, signifies: shall be established, determined or brought to a decision. ̓Επὶ στόματος, i.e., on account of what is spoken. The καί instead of before τριῶν was designed to imply, and by three, as if there are so many; or, also by three, if he had said, from two to three. The free application which some have made of this citation from the law, (either to his repeated warnings and their certainty and validity; or to those repeated announcements of his coming with the accompanying warnings and threatenings which were equally sure to prove true; or to the various occasions on which he had been or was about to be present among them, as if these were distinct personal witnesses to establish the truth of the matter) seems to us by no means ingenious or plausible, even if we accept the more delicate and profound explanation which Osiander proposes, viz., that his apostolic visits among them were, in consequence of their repetition, not merely means by which he directly saw them, but distinct practical attestations of his faithful testimony among them, deposing against those who should continue impenitent (comp. Matthew 8:4; Matthew 10:18).[FN1]—Whether any relation was intended between τρίτον and τριῶν is very uncertain. Inasmuch as he was about to announce in 2 Corinthians 13:2, that he was now determined to proceed in an unsparing manner against them, it is difficult to perceive in what way he can imply that he was especially patient in delaying and in repeatedly warning them.—What is said in 1 Timothy 5:19 shows that the law in such matters was not looked upon as abrogated. [Its validity, however, depended upon its general reasonableness and upon Christ’s recognition and Revelation -institution ( Matthew 18:15) and not upon the perpetual obligation of the Mosaic precept].—I have said already and now say beforehand, as when I was present the second time so now also in my absence, to them which heretofore have sinned and to all the rest ( 2 Corinthians 13:2 a).—The verb προείρηκα (I have said before) has reference to previous announcements which still remained in force (perfect tense), and προλέγω (I foretell) to what he was then writing [in which he probably used precisely the same words, viz.: “If I come again,” etc.] With respect to the former, he says: that he had said when present the second time, i.e., as I did when I was present the second time; and with respect to the latter he says, I say beforehand, now when I am absent (καὶ ἀπὼν νῦν, comp. 2 Corinthians 13:10). There is a correspondence between the two clauses προείρηκα and προλέγω on the one hand, and τὸ δεὺτερον and νῦν on the other, and hence the τὸ δεύτερον should not be separated from παρών and connected with προλέγω. It is evident from 2 Corinthians 13:1 (τρίτον τοῦτο ἒρχομαι) and other passages, that the Apostle had already been twice at Corinth, and hence there is no need of the interpretation here: “as if I were present the second time, although I am now absent.” The προημαρτηκότες were those in general who had previously sinned (and even then [open perfect] continued to do so), whether before his second visit (ὡς παρὼν τὸ δεύτερον), or until his present writing (ἀπὼν νῦν ). The λοιποί were not those who had become impure after those just mentioned, as if προημαρτ. were related to προείρηκα and οἱ λοιποί to προλέγω, for such an expression would be not only forced but indistinct. It means rather the remaining members of the congregation, either such as witnessed his threatenings, or (better) such as should be brought by his warnings and their own reflection to a reformation, and hence such as would not fall under discipline. The substance of what he had thus told them, and now foretold them, was:—that if I come again I will not spare ( 2 Corinthians 13:2 b).—In the words εἰς τὸ πάλιν the πάλιν which had been used as a noun, is converted by the εἰς back again into an adverb. Why it was that he had been so lenient on his second visit is not told us; it may have been because he had hoped that they would themselves come to a better mind by reflection, or because he had feared that he would only make matters worse, etc. With οὐ φείσομαι is intimately connected what is said in 2 Corinthians 13:3.—Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who toward you is not weak, but is strong among you ( 2 Corinthians 13:3).—The reason he would not spare them, is introduced by ἐπεί: “I will not spare, since now ye seek, and indeed challenge by your conduct a proof,” etc. Others make ἐπεὶ ζητεῖτε the protasis or conditional proposition to 2 Corinthians 13:5, and regard the words, “Who is not weak toward you—by the power of God toward you,” or at least the whole of 2 Corinthians 13:4, as a parenthesis. Such a construction, however, seems unnecessary and awkward. Δοκιμήν, which stands for emphasis at the commencement of the sentence, signifies: proof, trial, verification by experiment [see on 2 Corinthians 2:9]. The genitive, however, may be either of the object: the proof of the fact, etc, i.e., the proof that Christ is speaking in me; or of the subject: that Christ may give proof that He is in me. That which follows, who is not weak toward you, etc., is rather in favor of the latter interpretation. In the words, Christ speaking in me, he had reference not merely to Christ’s speaking through him (ἐν=διά), but to Christ’s being and acting in him. By their impenitent conduct they were putting Him to the proof whether he could carry out what He had threatened against them, and so they challenged Him to make a demonstration of His power to punish them. What is said in the relative sentence, was intended to make them consider how dangerous such a challenge was: “who is not weak with respect to you [εἰς], but is mighty among [ἐν] you.” In this he refers not to earlier manifestations of this power among them by means of spiritual gifts and miracles, etc., but to such an exercise of it among them as would become indispensable to punish them if they continued impenitent. The word δυνατεῖ occurs nowhere else except here and in Romans 14:4, though it is analogous to ἀδυνατεῖ, and was perhaps occasioned by the use of ἀσθενεῖ. The reason for the assertion that Christ was not weak but mighty, he now proceeds to give in 2 Corinthians 13:4 :—For he also was crucified on account of weakness, but he lives on account of the power of God ( 2 Corinthians 13:4 a). The Apostle here reminds them that Christ was once reduced to an extremity of weakness, but that he now lived by the power of God. That extremity was when He endured crucifixion in consequence of the human infirmity which He had experienced in the season of His (voluntary) humiliation and privation ( Philippians 2:7-11). Ἑκ here designates the cause or origin. The ζῇν refers to the life of absolute power (energy) which began with Christ’s resurrection, was derived from God, and was afterwards proved by influences among men (comp. Romans 6:4; Acts 2:33; Ephesians 1:20-23; Philippians 2:9). If we accept the reading: καὶ γὰρ εἰ (which Osiander with Tischendorf adopts as the lect. diffic.), εἰ must be taken as concessive, and by itself it seems not inconsistent with the ἀλλά which follows. But καὶ γὰρ does not correspond with ἀλλά very well, inasmuch as it signifies not merely: for, but: for even. Καὶ γὰρ εἰ would then signify: for even (although) if. But καὶ εἰ indicates that the condition must be looked upon as an extreme one, and not to be expected. On the other hand εἰ καί would have implied that this condition was probable or certain, but that for the argument in hand it was a matter of indifference. We are obliged in this case to suppose that there has been an exchanging of καὶ εἰ for εἰ καί, which must be ascribed to some transcriber having interpolated the εἰ, rather than to Paul. A concessive protasis appears appropriate on account of the ἀλλά. The solution of the difficulty which Osiander proposes, viz., that the καί implies that the case of Christ was similar to that of his ministers, does not seem clear to us, and indeed appears unintelligible. The best way would seem to be, to leave out the εἰ, as it may easily have been inserted. It is evident that the Apostle looked upon this as the actual condition in which Christ was, for he now proceeds to show that he himself was in the same condition of weakness and life through the power of God:—for we also are weak in him, but we shall live together with him through the power of God toward you ( 2 Corinthians 13:4 b).—It is evident, therefore, that he leaves us to infer what must be the condition of Christ from that of one who stood in fellowship with Christ (ἐν—σὺναὐτῷ); inasmuch as the condition of the former was reflected or was repeated in that of his followers, or was the consequence of it. ̓Ασθενοῦμεν refers not to the Apostle’s sufferings, but to his appearing to lack power when he spared the Corinthians It must be regarded, therefore, as something which was like Christ’s own weakness, voluntarily assumed. He describes it also by the words ἐν αὐτῷ as something which was the consequence of his fellowship with Christ [Winer’s Idioms, § 52, p 311 note], and therefore like Christ’s own weakness transient and temporary, inasmuch as the Divine power which made Christ alive would necessarily and in that very act make alive all who were connected with him (σὺν ἀυτῷ). And indeed, εἰς ὑμᾶς indicates that his being alive would be manifested in the energy by which they would be directed. There is no reference in the word ζῃν, as here used, to the future resurrection, but it means simply to be vigorous, to be full of life. Neander: “In the discharge of our Apostolic authority among you will be manifested the Divine power of a risen and glorified Christ.” [The Apostle, in this passage, surely claims that Christ spoke and acted in him, and we reasonably infer that his Apostolic words, Epistles and acts were those of an infallible Christ within him. It has been said that he never advanced such a claim. Not only in the ἀλλὰ, which occurs in both clauses of 2 Corinthians 13:4, but in the use of the present (ζῇἀσθενοῦμεν) and the future (ζήσομεν) in opposition to (ἐστανρώθη), we have a strong contrast with the resurrection and all its endless and perpetual influences through Christ and His people].

[Our English version entirely overlooks the at the head of the clause.] There are two ways by which οὐκ ἔπιγιν. etc., may be connected in sense with that which precedes it; according to the first, the spiritual relation which Christ sustained toward them, and of which indeed they must be conscious if they were Christians, imposed on them the obligation to examine more carefully into their relation to Him and their conduct toward Him, and of course into their faith, in order to ascertain whether it was not wavering (Osiander). According to the second, he appeals to their sense of honor, and implies that for this reason they should not shrink from self-examination; i.e., they surely ought not to be so entirely destitute of a Christian spirit as not to know their own selves (Meyer, deWette). In either case there was a motive for self-examination; but the ον̓κ argues in favor of the latter method. In εἰ μήτι ἀδόκιμοιἐστε, he intended to say, that they would find this to be the case with themselves, unless they should prove to be unworthy, spurious Christians (Osiander: He throws out a doubt of that gracious state to which they laid claim, in the same proportion in which they were ignorant of their relation to Christ and did not examine themselves). Ἐι μήτι is used in 1 Corinthians 7:5; and the τι has the effect rather to soften the force of the expression [unless ye are “somewhat reprobates,” or “to some extent abide not the proof”]. Αδόκιμοι has reference to δοκιμάζετε and δοκιμήν which he had previously used.—But I trust ye shall know that we are not unapproved ( 2 Corinthians 13:6).—This verse is intimately connected with the latter part of 2 Corinthians 13:5. Αδόκιμοι, in this verse, has reference to Paul’s power as an Apostle to punish offenders, and he expresses the hope that (in case he should be compelled to exercise it) they would find him [if they ventured to put him to the proof] (in this respect) not unapproved, i.e., as one who throws out empty threatenings, but is too feeble to execute the but rather one who would make those who perseveringly resisted him feel his power (comp. 2 Corinthians 13:7; 2 Corinthians 13:9). This was the δοκιμή which they sought ( 2 Corinthians 13:3). His hope, however, was not fixed exclusively upon the punishment in itself, but upon the proper authentication of his office, the maintenance of his Apostolic authority by such means. The interpretation which maintains that γνώσεσθε (ye shall know) is to be understood, not of an experimental knowledge, but of a knowledge gained by their reformation in consequence of his warning, or by an observation of his life and works as an Apostle [i.e., if you put our Apostolical power to the test by appealing to our clemency], is not quite consistent with the general scope of the passage. The same may be said of the view which aims to mediate between the different explanations, and maintains that the knowledge was to be obtained partly by an examination of themselves and partly by their experience of ecclesiastical discipline.—But in 2 Corinthians 13:7 he shows that he would gladly be spared such an authentication of his power:—But we pray God that ye do no evil ( 2 Corinthians 13:7 a);—His desire is expressed in the form of a prayer. The explanation which makes ὑμᾶς the object and the Apostle himself the subject of ποιῆσαι [that I may do you no evil], is unsatisfactory: 1, because he could not apply such a designation to the punishment he inflicted; 2, because κακὸν ποιεῖν μηδέν has an evident reference to τὸ καλὸν ποιεῖν [the one being what is morally bad or worse, and the other what is morally honorable, beautiful and right].—not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do what is good, though we be as unapproved ( 2 Corinthians 13:7 b).—He here expresses what was more particularly the purport of his prayer. (We should observe the change which here takes place in the construction: the infinitive and ἵνα, comp. προσεύχεσθαι ἵνα Colossians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). The prayer was not (I pray or I desire), that he might appear approved (in consequence of the infliction of punishment, or the accomplishment of his threatenings) but that the Corinthians might do well (that which is right), though he should be unapproved (inasmuch as his threatenings would remain unfulfilled, or seem needless and uncalled for). [In this case he would use the word ἀδόκιμος in two different senses: in the one sense he would not be unapproved, since the reformation of the Corinthians would be the best proof of his Apostolic power, but in another sense he would be unapproved, because he would fail in the fulfilment of his threatenings, on account of their reformation. He meant to say that he cared not for being unapproved in the latter sense, since they would be saved and edified. Comp. Stanley]. Another explanation is given by Meyer, who takes ἵνα in the sense of, that, in order that, and understands δόκιμοι of the approbation which would be awarded to him as their spiritual father, if they should conduct themselves well; but he makes ἀδόκιμοι. refer to his failure in exercising and applying his power as an Apostle to inflict punishment. It must be conceded that the idea advanced in this first explanation lies not within the range of thought pursued by the context, and yet it would not be inconsistent with Paul’s manner, to say that the good conduct of his readers might make him seem in one aspect δόκιμος and in another ἀδόκιμος. He certainly gives reason in 2 Corinthians 13:8 for saying that if they did well he would have no occasion for exercising his power as an Apostle to punish them, and therefore would in that same degree appear unapproved, inasmuch as he had laid down the rule by which he would be governed in his course with them:—For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth ( 2 Corinthians 13:8).—The truth here may be explained either as equivalent to moral truth (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:8) or righteousness (a sense which is not allowable unless it is made necessary by the context); or as signifying that he could do nothing which did not accord with the facts of the case, a meaning very appropriate to a judicial proceeding, but entirely unsuitable when we come to the phrase for the truth. Meyer makes the word mean the truth κατ̓ ἐξοχήν, i.e., the gospel: “If their good conduct had not been his. object (ἀλλ ̓ ἴνα) he would have been working against the Gospel; since that was a system designed to promote morality on Christian principles.” Osiander’s explanation is preferable: “The Divine law was the truth from which we deduce all our rules of discipline; and in Paul’s Apostolic work he could do nothing against this, but every thing he did would finally result in the advancement of that Divine truth which was dispensed in the Gospel.” Κατᾳ̇ against—ὑπέρ, for its interests. In the latter sentence δυνάμεθά τι should be supplied.—For we rejoice when we are weak and ye are strong: this also we pray for, even your restoration to complete order ( 2 Corinthians 13:9).—His object here was to confirm what he had said an 2 Corinthians 13:8, by assuring them that he would rejoice, even if he were weak, i.e., powerless, so far as relates to the exercise of discipline among them (from want of occasion); and they were strong, i.e., should conduct themselves so wisely as to disarm him of all judicial authority against them. If this were Song of Solomon, how could he do anything in opposition to the truth, and to those rules of action which the truth prescribed? He furthermore assures them that it was the object of his constant prayer, that they might in this way be made strong. As in 2 Corinthians 13:7 εὔχεσθαι signifies not merely to wish, for it is an advance beyond the thought expressed in χαίρομεν. Τὴν κατάρτισιν ὑμῶν is added after τοῦτο epexegetically, and signifies your restoration to complete order, i.e., perfection. The verb is used in 2 Corinthians 13:11 and in 1 Corinthians 1:10, and καταρτισμός in Ephesians 4:12. It contains a reserved hint that their condition at that time was disorderly.—For this cause being absent I write these things, lest being present I should use sharpness according to the power which the Lord gave me for edification and not for destruction ( 2 Corinthians 13:10).—In this he adds an explanation of his design in writing this Epistle: “I have written because my joy and my great anxiety before God Isaiah, that ye may be strong and restored to your proper state.” In this expression he had reference to the whole Epistle, but especially to the latter part of it.—lie here uses the singular number, because he begins to treat of conduct and purposes which belonged only to himself. Ἀποτόμως ( Titus 1:13, the noun is in Romans 11:22) signifies roughly, rigorously, with strict severity (from a verb signifying to cut or tear off). Κρῆσθαι is here used absolutely, and signifies to proceed, to act; in other places it is used with the dative of the mode of proceeding or acting, but here, with an adverb, there is no need of supplying ὑμῖν. The reason for his wishing not to act thus, he gives when he says that his power was given him for edification and not for destruction (comp. 2 Corinthians 10:8). [He had no power or authority for the injury of men: it was all for their edification. Except for the latter purpose therefore it was not only null and void as to authority, but it was actually powerless in result. By a beautiful figure he conceives himself as a builder intrusted with no right or means to do anything except for the welfare of his fellow-men, to advance the true interests of humanity. Such were the Apostle’s views of the limits of ecclesiastical power with respect to οἰκοδομὴν Comp. on 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 10:8. Also J. S. Howson, on Paul’s use of Metaphore in Sund. Mag., 1867].

[With respect to the φίλημα ἁγ. see on 1 Thessalonians 5:26; Romans 16:16, and 1 Corinthians 16:20. Among the Greeks the kiss had only an erotio signification, but among the Jews and Oriental nations it was generally a token of affection among kindred and friends. The Jews refused it to all except the holy seed of Israel. Thence it passed into the Christian community, and Justin says, (Apol. II. p37), “After the prayers, are ended (in the church), we greet one another with a kiss.” Cyril (Hier.) says that before the ‘sursum corda,’) a deacon proclaimed to the communicants in the words of this verse: “Salute” etc. In the Eastern, churches it was given before, and in the Western after the consecration of the sacramental emblems, and before their distribution, as a sign of reconciliation and love. In the Apost. Constt. it is said: “Let the men salute one another, and the women also one another, with a holy kiss in the Lord.” Paul anticipated that his Epistle would be read before the whole Church, and Hebrews, therefore, connected with it this ecclesiastical or hieratic usage, as a sign of the common covenant by which they were all members one of another and the body of Christ. Bingham, Chr. Antt. B. XII. Ch. IV. § 5. Smith’s Dict, of the Bible, Osiander and Wordsworth, on 1 Thessalonians 5:26].—All the saints salute you ( 2 Corinthians 13:13).—The words οἱ ἅγιοι πάντες refer to those saints who lived in the region from which he was writing (Macedonia), but a more comprehensive sense of the words is not excluded (comp. Osiander, who very thoroughly discusses the meaning of this whole verse). In place of his own salutation, he gives us finally that precious Benediction which has acquired such a liturgical importance in every age and in every part of the Christian world:—The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all ( 2 Corinthians 13:14).—[It is the most formal and solemn of all Paul’s forms of benediction, and accordingly has been universally selected as the one to be used by the Church in its worship. It ascribes to each Person of the Trinity a special but not an exclusive part in the work of redemption. Each of those Persons share in the work of grace and love and communion, but each of them is distinguished for a peculiar prominence in one of these departments. Each of them are mentioned with equal, but with a distinct honor and efficiency. They are presented, not according to their ontologic or metaphysical nature, but to their economic relation to sinful men in the work of salvation. That salvation comes to us “from (ἐκ) God the Father, through (διὰ) God the Song of Solomon, and by God the Holy Ghost.”] The Benediction itself is divided into three parts in accordance with the relations of the sacred Trinity. We have first, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (comp. 2 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 5:15), that grace which is continually bestowed upon, intercedes for ( Romans 8:34), and strengthens ( 2 Corinthians 12:9) those whom he has redeemed, and by means of which they come into the possession and enjoyment of the love of God. The communion of the Holy Ghost, the participation in Him and in His gracious influences, is the product of that grace and this love, and is His continual direction and application of them to believers (comp. Romans 8:9-27; Romans 7:6; Romans 8:11; Galatians 4:6; Galatians 6:8. Κοινωνία, as in Philippians 2:1, and 1 Corinthians 1:9, signifies not communication merely, for τοῦ πνευμ. is the gen. subj.). He thus desires that the whole Church [even that portion which he had been obliged in some respects to censure] may enjoy all the blessings of God’s salvation, as they are shed forth by the Lord of the Church, including that Spirit which is the bond of its fellowship and the source of its organic life. Neander: “We have in this passage the practical doctrine of the Trinity, the Father revealing His love in Christ; Christ, in and through whom he reveals Himself, and by whom the work of redemption (grace) is accomplished; and the fellowship of Divine life, which proceeds from Christ.”—Ewald: “We cannot but feel an intense interest in knowing what was the effect of a letter containing such an unusual amount of severity. Fortunately we have some reason to conclude from Romans 15:25-27, and Acts 20:2, that the result was all that could be wished. Paul actually returned to Corinth soon after sending this Epistle, and remained there for some time in peace, as he certainly could not have done, if this letter had not smoothed the way for him there, and enabled him to return to his beloved Church in triumph.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Where an impenitent spirit which disregards all warning and admonition becomes manifest in a congregation, there is no other way than to administer discipline with severity. And yet the minister of Christ should always be careful to produce the impression that he is by no means proud of his official authority, but that he rather feels humbled under the hand of God when he finds that he is compelled to administer discipline with severity. He must indeed never spare, when he is called to act in behalf of Christ’s authority, if it is evident that his forbearance will be imputed to a want of power in that Lord whom he represents, and whose organ he is known to be. Every one should be made to see not only that a minister, in imitation of his Divine Master, may for awhile lay aside his power and oven appear feeble as he bears and forbears with his brethren, but that through the same Divine power which raised his Lord from the weakness of the cross to the might of an absolute and all-sufficient life, he possesses a living power for the accomplishment of those objects which are essential to the office he has received, and to his-triumph over all who oppose him in his lawful work. But the same love which, on suitable occasions, refrains from all assertions of authority, will also incline him to make every exertion to avoid any necessity for its exercise. He will admonish, entreat and implore God that every thing which insolently puts Christ in him to the proof whether His threatenings are seriously intended, and whether He will venture to execute them, may disappear; that all who have been refractory and disorderly may have their attention turned rather to themselves to see whether they are in the faith and whether Christ is in them, and that so they may be reëstablished in Christian fellowship, may do that which is good, and may be saved from the necessity of discipline. It will be a pleasure to him when he is able to exchange severity for gentleness, even though he may thus have the appearance of weakness. His only care will be so to conduct himself that Divine truth may be vindicated, that complete order may be secured, and that practical religion may be promoted.

2. Where Jesus Christ causes His grace to abound, and abundantly forgives, blesses and saves men, the love of God is revealed, and God Himself is freely and powerfully communicated to our souls. When this is the case and our souls are sealed by His grace, this love will be shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, we shall be of one mind, we shall seek for the things that make for peace, we shall rejoice in the Lord, we shall earnestly aspire after perfection, and never want consolation when we are in trouble. In this manner the Church will be built up; and it is a blessed work to co-operate in the production of such a result by praising this grace and love, by bringing men into the communion of the Holy Ghost and by confirming them in it. No one, however, can perform such a work unless he knows by experience what it is to rejoice in this grace, love and communion, and regards it as his highest privilege to continue to do so.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Starke:— 2 Corinthians 12:19. That no impediments may be thrown in the way of our work, we must, though with humble diffidence, repel those assaults which may be made upon it; but we must be especially careful lest we use such means of defence as will only make matters worse. Those who truly servo God, speak as though they were conscious of being ever before God in Christ, as though they were in communion with Him, and were under His direction.

2 Corinthians 12:20. Where love is wanting, hatred will be found, and will break forth into every kind, of discord, though all its forms will show a family likeness to one another.

Hedinger: 2 Corinthians 12:21. How distressing to look upon such disorders! Those whose hearts are still bleeding from the wounds which former sins, especially those of lewdness and impurity, have left upon the conscience, should be careful that those wounds be properly healed, and that the old sore is not liable to break out afresh. Isaiah 38:15.—Spener:

Chap13. If. Even when we conclude that spiritual discipline does not call for a public judicial process, it should not be entered upon without reflection. If sinners have no fear of punishment, they will flatter themselves with the hope of impunity in sin.—Hedinger:—To bear long is not necessarily to bear always. Even Elisha finally called for the bears, Samuel grasped the sword, and Elijah invoked fire from heaven, when time and patience were exhausted. Scoff not at God, who will surely give testimony in behalf of His servants.

2 Corinthians 13:3. Let us see to it, that we do not so conduct ourselves that Christ is obliged to put forth His hand to punish rather than to assist us. The threatenings of God’s faithful ministers will not be found empty words.—Hedinger:

2 Corinthians 13:4. Rejoice, for the Lord is King, and reigns in the midst of His enemies! Let no one be intimidated when the powers of darkness seem to prevail! If we would be exalted, we must humble ourselves and cheerfully bear Christ’s cross.—Spener:

2 Corinthians 13:5. Many know not their own selves; for while some think too well of their own goodness, others are faint-hearted. A faithful self-examination would rectify all such errors. Most of us by nature have the bad habit of trying our neighbors and seeking a proof of what is in them, but of neglecting the same thing with respect to ourselves, Matthew 7:1-3.—Hedinger:—“Thou sayest: I am a Christian, a child of glory!” But hast thou proved this? Art thou really sure of it? Is it not possible that thou hast taken up with a vain conceit and received base coin for gold? Let every one search his own heart diligently, and if he finds Christ and the graces of Christ’s Spirit there, if Christian love and a fraternal spirit reigns there, all is well.—Spener:—While we examine ourselves, we almost invariably are led to pray that the Lord also would search and make us know our hearts, Psalm 139:23-24.—If we have a faith which works by love, we have good evidence of our gracious state and of our salvation. Such an examination of ourselves is of great importance: 1, because our hearts are naturally so corrupt and our self-love is so inordinate that we never discover evil in ourselves without great difficulty; 2, because in the midst of so many cares and so much intercourse with our fellow-men, we are in danger of neglecting to watch over our thoughts, words, etc.; 3, because of the injury which is sure to follow the omission of this duty, in our continuance under delusive fancies, or our relapse into them; 4, because of the benefits which a frequent self-examination must bring, in the increase of faith, in assurance of salvation, in our security against apostasy, in our growing union and intimacy with God, in our better acquaintance with our faults, and in our purification from them by Divine grace. But the object or this trial Isaiah, to ascertain: 1, whether we have been truly converted, believe in Christ, and are united to Him, and whether we have the comforts and put forth the fruits of faith, such as the love of God and of our neighbor, delight in spiritual things, an inclination to every form of obedience, earnestness in prayer, lively hope, patience, etc.; 2, how successful we have been in following Jesus. The result will be, that we shall recognize what is good in ourselves with humility and thankfulness to God, and what is wrong with contrition, and prayer for forgiveness; we shall lay hold upon Divine grace with greater eagerness; and we shall arouse ourselves to walk before God with increased earnestness. It should be a special object of such an examination to discover what sins most easily beset us, and to what extent we have succeeded in laying them aside.

2 Corinthians 13:7. Preachers will find it better to use their staff of office with gentleness, than to put forth the power given them so as to give pain.

2 Corinthians 13:10. Think it not for thy injury that thy spiritual guide has touched thee rather roughly, for proud flesh needs a corrosive plaster.

2 Corinthians 13:11. We must not be surprised that believers should not unfrequently be depressed with internal as well as external afflictions, notwithstanding the seeds of spiritual joy they always possess. The admonition therefore can never come amiss, that they should be of good cheer and be joyful in the Lord.—Many heads, many minds! Look therefore continually to Christ or thou canst never come to Him. God dwells in souls exercised to good works through faith in Christ.

2 Corinthians 13:13. Every minister should reflect whether such a salutation could go forth from him to his hearers in the spirit of the Apostle, with an earnest desire for their salvation and with a sincere faith in God; but it equally becomes these hearers to consider carefully whether they are prepared to appropriate such a salutation to themselves, and to confirm it with an earnest prayer and a hearty amen before God.—There are many who are unreasonable enough to long for the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father, but are unwilling to be directed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost.—Let every one who reads and desires a part in the blessings promised in God’s word, unite in applying this benediction to all, and add his hearty amen!

Berlenb. Bible, 2 Corinthians 12:20 :—Such are the disorders which follow a removal from the simplicity of the Gospel.—How much reason has a sincere child of God for sorrow and humiliation when he thinks of the abomination of desolation in the holy places of the Church at the present time, and when he finds that everything there is disordered, that self-conceit, false Wisdom of Solomon, and confusion so generally prevails, and that almost every man’s hand is turned against his brother!— 2 Corinthians 13:2 : We must never connive at wickedness. But if it is willing to come to the light it should be freely forgiven.

2 Corinthians 12:4. It is God’s way sometimes to seem very small in His servants, but if they are despised, He manifests Himself in His greatness.

2 Corinthians 12:5. There is no point on which men are so liable to be deceived as with reference to their own faith. On no point therefore should they be more careful to examine themselves. Unconverted men and hypocrites never prove their own selves. And yet no one can enjoy communion with God without it, for such a communion requires us to give up self-love for God’s love, and to pass an impartial judgment upon ourselves.—Those who pay no attention to their condition, and never reflect whether they are prepared for another world, will surely be unable to abide the fiery trial of God’s justice and will be cast away and dashed in pieces as worthless vessels.—The human heart is a fathomless abyss; we only need closely and properly to observe it to find in it every day some new thing to humble us before God and to make us willing to be judged by God and man. We must not, however, be insensible of the good which God has wrought in our hearts, for we shall never have courage to fight against our sins, if we know not our interest in Christ.—Especially should we examine whether we have that peace with God through Jesus Christ, which excites us to pray, to strive against sin, to praise God, to walk before Him, and to hunger and thirst after righteousness; and whether all our hope is built upon a consciousness of faith in Christ and love to God. Nor should we be satisfied unless we find these evidences during the whole course of our lives.—No one will become free from sin unless he is willing truly to know himself.

2 Corinthians 12:11. Where love and peace reign, the heart becomes a temple in which God is adored and praised in spirit and in truth.

2 Corinthians 12:13. Such is the order in which God conveys His blessings to men. Christ and His grace must precede everything else, or our evil consciences will prevent us from trusting to the love of God. Both are united together in our hearts by the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, This three-fold band encircles all who are willing to be the Lord’s, and makes them children of the Father, members of the Song of Solomon, and temples of the Holy Ghost. Amen!

Rieger:— 2 Corinthians 12:20 f. We are sometimes too careful to conceal those sins which take place in our own hearts and in our Christian community, and the consequence is they are not thoroughly removed. Where we do not bring what has been done in former times with sufficient honesty into the light of Divine truth, and to the forgiving and sanctifying grace of God, great mischief will afterwards spring from them.— 2 Corinthians 13:1. In matters of conscience we should hold ourselves to the strictest method of proceeding. Even those remarks and judgments which Christians pass upon one another, should be so thoroughly considered that they will bear an examination like that which is given to the most suspected witness in a judicial process.

2 Corinthians 12:4. From His advent into the world until the close of His earthly career, Christ made Himself so weak that sinners thought they could do with Him as they pleased. But He now possesses through Divine power a life, in which He not only has life in Himself, but He gives life to the world, and sends His Spirit to make even the word of His cross the power of God unto salvation. A life of faith in the Son of God is even now a life of Divine power. Those who are troubled about their infirmities, will find that in losing life they receive a life eternal.

2 Corinthians 12:5. A faith which does not bring us into communion with God, nor bring Christ and His Spirit into the heart, will never abide the test.

2 Corinthians 12:7. Our threatenings and punishments must have the unction of prayer, or they will accomplish no good results. We not unfrequently find that we can get no access to men until we have found access to God.

2 Corinthians 12:11. Even where considerable faults are known to exist among brethren, we must come back to the common relation in which we all stand to one another, that by its means all may be awakened to joy without giving up their faith.

2 Corinthians 12:13. Every good thing we have or hope for from God, must come to us through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The love of God can be exercised only toward those who find pardon and access to him through Jesus Christ. And it is only through the fellowship of the Holy Ghost that God will have or maintain any union with those whom he loves ( John 14:23).—May we all be justified by grace, as pardoned sinners be the objects of Divine love, and as temples of the triune God be restored and glorified by Spiritual communion. May every soul have a part in this faith and in this prayer. Amen.

Heubner:— 2 Corinthians 12:20 f. Every Church should be always ready to let any of Christ’s ministers examine carefully into its affairs. —Chap13. If. There are certain limits beyond which Christian meekness cannot go, whether in the use of gentle or severe measures. But whatever change circumstances may call for in our outward action, our hearts should always be animated by the same benevolent spirit. The Christian should always act with energy.

2 Corinthians 12:3. God not unfrequently disciplines His people with severity, and they should not be unwilling to be severe with themselves. What is a single preacher against an army of soldiers? And yet he has mighty power with them. Christ will live forever and will hold His sceptre over the world. Few worldly men imagine how completely He is their Lord.

2 Corinthians 12:5. To be displeased with Christ’s word shows plainly that faith is dying or dead. Only those who examine themselves can truly know whether they have this faith, for no other one can determine this for them. Then the only evidence which can prove that we possess it is Christ living and working in our hearts, and our hearts burning with love at the thought of Him. How few tried Christians would be found, if this only true test were faithfully applied!

2 Corinthians 12:7. A faithful minister thinks only of the interest of souls, and not of his own authority or reputation among men.

2 Corinthians 12:9. A genuine teacher always rejoices to see his pupil become wiser than himself.

2 Corinthians 12:10. The church which gives heed to gentle and kind suggestions is much more advanced than one which can be moved only by harsh measures. The object of all spiritual power is the salvation of the Church.

2 Corinthians 12:11. God is never in a church except where the conditions required in this verse are fulfilled. Where these are complied with, God’s Spirit reigns.

2 Corinthians 12:13. Through the Son we become children of the Father and temples of the Holy Ghost.

W. F. Besser:

2 Corinthians 12:4. We may derive much benefit and comfort from contemplating the form of weakness which Christ endured during His life and on the cross, since it is the form of One who has been invested with Divine power, having entered into His glory by the power of that Father who has raised him from the dead, and of that Son who was raised from the dead, and of that Holy Ghost who declared and demonstrated that this Son of God and this Son of Mary was the Prince of life ( Romans 6:4; Romans 1:4). The same Divine power which raised up Christ from the dead and set Him upon the throne of heaven, is the source of all faith in the hearts of believers ( Ephesians 1:19-20), and is concerned in the whole work of the ministry for the consolation of the penitent and the punishment of the impenitent.

2 Corinthians 12:5. We learn two things here: a. that we may imagine ourselves to be in the faith when we are not; and b. that whoever deceives himself in this matter, so essential to his everlasting salvation, is criminally guilty for it; for God has made it the privilege and the duty of every man by faithful self-examination to ascertain with confidence whether he is in the faith.

2 Corinthians 12:7. A minister’s fitness for his work will appear in two ways: a. from the good results of his labors ( 2 Corinthians 3:3); b. from his seasonable punishment of evil conduct.

2 Corinthians 12:11. This friendly admonition: Live in peace, throws the peaceful bond of brotherly love around the whole body of believers ( Ephesians 4:3), and is like a lock which holds together the whole chain of exhortations running through both these Epistles. Oh, that the peace which breathes here these Apostolic words might be imparted to all men! To all sons of peace, who rest in peace as on a mother’s bosom, belongs the promise: “The God of love and peace shall be with you!”

2 Corinthians 12:13. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God will not be far off, but pervadingly nigh the assemblies of God’s saints; for among them the Holy Spirit’s communion has its especial habitation and sphere of action ( 1 Corinthians 3:16). As the Holy Spirit communicates Himself to them through the word and sacraments, He produces and maintains in them a holy fellowship with the Triune God and with each other. As often as we hear these words of Apostolic benediction, it is only as the spirit of that faith which has for centuries communicated so many blessings to those who have received it, awakes within us, that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, is with us and with all saints!

Florey:

2 Corinthians 12:13. How happy is our lot if our souls are united by a perpetual bond of living faith to the Triune God! This thought—a. keeps before us every day the great object that we should seek for ourselves, viz.: forgiveness through Christ, assurance of God’s love, and strength by means of the Spirit’s power; b. makes us see that in every event of life we should strive to confirm and strengthen our fellowship with God; c. gives us strong consolation in every affliction in the consciousness that Almighty aid is always at hand; and d. instructs us with respect to the true Wisdom of Solomon, the true reason, the spirit, the object, and the proper range of all our prayers.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Stanley (with whom Wordsworth agrees) thinks it unlikely that Paul would express himself so formally and yet so imperfectly if he merely intended to speak of the usual legal process. He therefore contends that “the journeys of the Apostle, accomplished or intended, occupy throughout the Epistle a prominent place in his mind; and now they seem to him to assume almost a distinct personal existence, as though each constituted a separate attestation to his assertion. Hebrews, as it were, appears to himself, a different person, and, therefore, a different witness in each journey accomplished or proposed. The first witness was that which he had delivered during his first visit, or in his first Epistle ( 1 Corinthians 4:20); to which he refers in the words: ‘I have said before’ (προείρηκα). The second witness was that which he now bore on his present journey and through his present Epistle, which was intended to supply the place of the journey once intended ( 2 Corinthians 1:15; 1 Corinthians 16:7) but now abandoned by him. To this he refers in the word προλεγω ‘I speak beforehand,’ i.e, before my next visit; and he strengthens this witness by representing himself as in a manner present on that second visit which had really been postponed (ὡς παρὼν τὸ δεύτερον). It is by thus reckoning his second Epistle as being virtually a second visit, or at least a second witness, that he was enabled in the first verse, to call the visit which was now about to be actually accomplished, his third visit. And this hird visit would be reckoned as the third witness, if it were necessary that the words quoted from Deut. were to be literally complied with.” We have thought it fair that this view (which had so general a support in ancient, and until recent, times), should be thus fairly presented, but we agree with Barnes when he says, that “with all respect due to such great names, it seems to us that this is trifling and childish in the extreme.” Hodge: “Three visits are not the testimony of three witnesses.”]

FN#22 - 2 Corinthians 12:19.—Rec. has πάλιν [with D. E. K. L. Sin. (3d hand), many cursives, versions, and Greek Fathers], but the preponderating evidence is in favor of πάλαι [with A. B. F. G. Sin. the Vulg. and several ancient Lat. versions. The latter word standing at the beginning of a sentence is without an example in the N. T, and is in itself so difficult a reading as to seem improbable; inasmuch as it makes the whole sentence refer to past instead of present time ( Hebrews 1:1); but this only makes it more likely to have been altered. Bloomfield and Wordsworth and Conybeare still adhere decidedly to πάλιν, but Tisch, Lachm, Alford, Stanley, and most recent editors are equally decided in behalf of πάλαι, and are disposed to regard πάλιν either as the mistake of transcribers, or as a conjectural emendation and reminiscence of the parallel 2 Corinthians 3:1.]

FN#23 - 2 Corinthians 12:19.—Rec. has κατενώπιον for κατέναντι, as it had also in 2 Corinthians 2:17.

FN#24 - 2 Corinthians 12:20.—Lachmann has ἔρις for ἔρεις, but it has no sufficient authority. [That of Sin. has since been added to that of A. a number of cursives, Syr. Arm.verss, and Chrys. and Theophyl. in favor of Lachmann’s reading. B. D. E.F. G. K. L, et al., the Ital. Syr. (later) Copt. Goth. versions, Theodt. Damasc. Tert. Ambrosiast. have ἔρεις.]

FN#25 - 2 Corinthians 12:20.—Rec. has ζῆλοι. but ζῆλος has better evidence in its favor. [The plural never occurs in classical nor Septuagint Greek. This, as well as the preceding ἔρεις may have been a correction to conform to the other plurals in the verse and to usage. Bloomf. thinks they were a provincialism, and probably genuine. Tisch. has ζῆλος with ἔρεις, while Sin. has ζῆλοι with ἔρις].

FN#26 - 2 Corinthians 12:21.—Rec. has ἐλθόντα με.; but it is the lectio facilior, and it has the least authority. [Ἐλθόντος has A. B. F. G. Sin. and many Fathers in its favor. Most MSS. which have the accus. omit also the subsequent με before θεός. This suggests that both must have been attempted corrections.]

FN#27 - 2 Corinthians 12:21.—Rec. has ταπεινώσῃ, but ταπεινώσει is better authenticated. The former was an attempt to make the word conform to the preceding subjunctive; [and yet it has A. K. Sin. and many Fathers. It may have been as Alford suggests, an itacism. The latter word has been adopted by Lachm. and Tisch.]

FN#28 - 2 Corinthians 13:1.—Cod. A.reads Ἰδοὺ τρίτ. τοῦτ. ἐτοίμως ἔχω ἐλθεἴν. Ἰδοὺ has in its behalf also Sin. (3d hand), many cursives (some omit τουτο), the Vulg. and Ethiop. verss, and Damasc. Theophyl. and Aug.; but it was doubtless borrowed from 2 Corinthians 12:14. The ἐτοίμ. ἔχω ἐλθ. has also for it the Syr. and Copt. verss, but it was probably taken from the same passage. Sin. also has ἵνα. before ἐπὶ with some less important authorities, and instead of καὶ, with the Vulg. and Arm. versions. Such authority, however, is hardly sufficient for either.]

FN#29 - 2 Corinthians 13:2.—Rec. has γράφω after νῦν. It appears to have been an addition to conform to 2 Corinthians 12:10. The best MSS. [A. B. D. F. Sin.] are against it.

FN#30 - 2 Corinthians 13:4.—After the first καὶ γὰρ the Rec. has εἰ, but it is not found in the best MSS. [B. D. F. G. K. Sin. (3d hand inserts εἰ, as do also the Syr. Vulg. Goth. and several Greek Fathers). It appears to have been a correction on account of the doctrinal offence which the text without it gave]. See Exeget notes.

FN#31 - 2 Corinthians 13:4.—The second καὶ of the Rec. [after καὶ γὰρ and before ἡμεισ], has only feeble authority.

FN#32 - 2 Corinthians 13:4.—For ἐν before αὐτῷ A. F. Sin. have σὺν, and for σὺν before the last ὰὐτῷ some less important MSS. have ἐν, by an obvious interchange].

FN#33 - 2 Corinthians 13:4.—Much better authority [A. B. D. F. Sin. Damasc.] is found for ζήσομεν than for ζησόμεθα of the Rec. [D. (3d hand) E. K. L. Chrys. Theodt].

FN#34 - 2 Corinthians 13:4.—Lachmann puts εἰς ὑμᾶς in brackets, but it has ample authority in its favor. [The only important authorities for its omission are B. and Chrysostom].

FN#35 - 2 Corinthians 13:7.—Rec. has εὔχομαι so as to conform to ἐλπίζω. Εὐχόμεθα has decidedly better evidence.

FN#36 - 2 Corinthians 13:9.—Rec. has δὲ καὶ. The best MSS. leave out the δὲ.

FN#37 - 2 Corinthians 13:14.—The ἀμήν is not critically well established. It is wanting in the best MSS. [A. B. F. L. Sin. et al.]

FN#38 - The whole comment of Chrysostom on this verse is so characteristic a specimen of his discrimination and acuteness, that I cannot resist the inclination to transcribe it:—“It was not hiere out of arrogance, nor the authority of a teacher, hut out of a father’s tender concern, when he is more fearful and trembling than the sinners are themselves at that which is likely to reform them. And not even so does he run them down (κατατρέχει), nor make an absolute assertion, but says doubtingly (ενδοιάλων): “lest perchance when I comeetc. Nor does he call them not virtuous or wicked (ἐναρἐτους), but: ‘I shall not find you such as I would;’ everywhere employing terms of affection. And the words: ‘I shall find,’ are those of one who would express what is out of natural expectation (τὸ παρὰ προσδοκίαν δηλοῦντός ἐστίν), as are also those: ‘I shall be found by you:’ For the thing is not of deliberate choice, hut of a necessity originating with you. Wherefore he says: ‘I shall be found such as ye would not.’ He said not here: such as I would not, but with more severity: ‘such as ye wish not’ for it would in that case become his own will, not indeed what he would first have willed, but his will nevertheless. For he might indeed have said again, ‘such as I would not,’ and so have shown his love; but he wishes not to relax (ἐκλῦσαι) his hearer. Yea, rather, his words would in that case have been even harsher (τραχύτερος), but now he has at once dealt them a smarter blow, and showed himself more gentle. For this is the characteristic of his wisdom (τὸ βαθύτερον τέμνοντα, ἠμερώτερον πλήττειν), cutting more deeply, to strike more gently”].

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/2-corinthians-12.html. 1857-84.

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Monday, June 24th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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