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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

Having established, in the preceding chapter, the superior excellence of the Apostolit ministry, the Apostle employs this chapter in defending himself and his colleagues against the charges of the false teachers; his apology is contrived in such a way as, by implication, to insinuate against his accusers the very charges which they preferred against himself. He says, that in discharging his exalted ministry, he has avoided everything, even in private, that might damage its efficacy (verse 1, 2). If to any persons this Gospel publicly preached is unknown, it is through their own fault (3, 4). In preaching, he seeks only God’s glory and his neighbour’s utility, in order to correspond with the designs of God in imparting his ministry (5, 6). But the treasure of celestial knowledge communicated to others, is carried in frail vessels in order to consult for the glory of God alone, whose power appears clearly in preserving the Apostles in the midst of sufferings. (7, 8, 9). They suffer thus, in the hope that by representing Christ’s death, they may share hereafter in the glory of his resurrection (10, 11, 12). But, notwithstanding their constant exposure to death, the Apostles intrepidly preach the Gospel and profess their faith, as did David in the like circumstances (13). Being firmly convinced, that God will, one day, resuscitate them with Jesus, and give a share in the glory of his heavenly kingdom to them as well as to their faithful converts, for whose advantage all the Apostolic ministrations are intended (14, 15). Hence, in the midst of trials, their souls are become more and more vigorous, while constantly making the inexpressible and never ending glory of the life to come, the subject of their continual meditation (16, 17, 18).

Paraphrase

1. Having, therefore, been called by the mercy of God to a ministry of such superior excellency, we are not cast down by the difficulties in which the faithful discharge of its arduous functions may involve us.

2. Even in private we do nothing unbecoming so exalted a ministry; we altogether abhor and eschew these private deeds of turpitude which carry with them shame and disgrace, not leading a life of hypocrisy and dissimulation, nor corrupting the word of God, either by the admixture of false tenets, or by preaching it from selfish, interested motives, but by the open and undisguised manifestation of truth, as well in the sanctity of our lives, as in the purity of our doctrine rendering ourselves worthy of commendation with all men who follow the convictions of conscience, and in the presence of God, who sees all things as they are.

3. But if, after this public and open preaching of the gospel, its truths are veiled for some, and concealed from them, it must be said, that this occurs only to the unbelieving reprobates, who refuse to believe, and who voluntarily place the veil of spiritual blindness on their own hearts.

4. Whose minds the devil, who rules over the children of this world of unbelief, has blinded, lest the bright glory of the gospel should shine unto them, by which gospel are made known and manifested the glorious mysteries of Christ, who is the perfect image of God, light of light.

5. I said (verse 2), we rendered ourselves worthy of commendation with all men and in the presence of God; and with truth I have said so; for, in preaching we seek not our own glory or emolument, but the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we seek your advantage, and not our own; for, we profess ourselves your servants, devoted to you for Christ’s sake.

6. And in seeking God’s glory and your advantage, we only correspond with the designs of God in conferring this grace of apostleship; for, it is the same Lord who, by the word of his might, commanded of old light to shine forth from the dark abyss, that by his spirit has shone in our hitherto darksome hearts, in order that we might enlighten others by the science and the knowledge of the glory of God, shining resplendent in the face of Christ, God’s most perfect image.

7. But this treasure of the heavenly knowledge of the truths of God for the enlightenment of others, we carry in ourselves who are frail and contemptible, like earthen vessels, that the excellence which is in us, and the fruit resulting from our ministry may redound to the glory of God, and not to our own.

8. And in the preservation of such frail beings in the midst of the most imminent perils, the divine power is clearly displayed; for, although we are pressed on all sides by adversity; still we are not utterly ruined; and although we are destitute of corporal aid and human counsel in our perplexities, we are not altogether left without resource, God in his mercy suggesting a means of evading our perplexities and embarrassments.

9. We suffer persecution on account of the exercise of our ministry, but we are not forsaken by God who rescues us in our perils; we are cast down to the earth in our struggles with our opponents; but still, we are not despatched (because God interposes to save and raise us up).

10. By our daily exposure to dangers and death, we always carry about, and by certain resemblance express in our bodies, the death of our Lord Jesus, in order that the life of glory which he now enjoys, may at a future day be revealed in us, when this mortal shall put on immortality.

11. For, although living, we are constantly given over to death on account of the preaching of Jesus, in order that the glorious and immortal life of Jesus may, at a future day, be revealed in this mortal flesh.

12. Therefore, by the preaching of the gospel, death is caused in us; but, by this means, your spiritual life is advanced.

13. But having, in the midst of dangers and death, the same faith proceeding from the Holy Ghost, that David had of old, when, as it is written of him, he said in the midst of trials and dangers: I have believed, and still believe firmly in the divine promises, and therefore, in consequence of this unhesitating faith in God’s promises, I have proclaimed, and still proclaim it aloud; so we also Apostles firmly believe in the promises, and, therefore, openly proclaim and profess this our faith.

14. Firmly impressed with the belief, that he who raised Jesus from the dead, will so raise us, and bestow on us a like glory with Jesus, and give us a place with you in his heavenly kingdom.

15. I said, give us a place with you, for all our ministrations are ordained for your salvation, that the grace of the gospel, being diffused amongst many, whilst many are returning thanks for it, may redound to the glory of God.

16. Propped up by this hope of future glory (verse 14), we faint not in adversity. For, although our bodies, the exterior portion of our persons, be attenuated by the sufferings we undergo for Christ, and tending to dissolution; still, our interior part, the soul, is daily becoming more and more vigorous and renovated.

17. For the fleeting and light afflictions of the body, which we endure at present, shall beget and insure for us hereafter an eternal weight of glory, which ineffably and incomparably exceeds the light and passing afflictions of the present life.

18. Whilst we keep steadily in view, not the goods of the present life, viz., honours, riches, &c., which fill beneath the senses—but the good of the life to come, which are not seen, but only believed. For, the things of this life, which are seen, are fleeting and temporary, while the invisible things of the life to come are eternal and never-ending.

Commentary

1. “Therefore.” As this ministry which has been confided to us by the purely gratuitous mercy of God, without any merits on our part, has been so excellent and exalted, as appears from the preceding chapter, “we faint not,” which may mean we are not idle or slothful in the discharge of its duties; or, rather, we are not cast down by adversity, but willingly sacrifice our lives for our flocks. In this, the Apostle indirectly censures the false teachers who, like mercenary hirelings, when they see the wolf approach and danger nigh, fly and abandon the flock.

2. “But we renounce,” i.e., execrate, shun, and abhor private deeds of shame and turpitude, unlike the false teachers who wear exteriorly the garb of sanctity, but whose conduct in private is shameful to be mentioned, as is expressed (Ephes. 5:12). “Not walking in craftness,” i.e., in hypocrisy and deceit, like the false teachers, saying one thing and thinking another, or saying one thing in public and acting in a contrary way in private. “Adulterating the word of God.” The Greek for “adulterating” δολουντες, is different from that used in chap. 2 verse 17, but the meaning in both places is the same, viz., not preaching the word of God in its unalloyed purity as it emanated from God, but mixing with it foreign doctrines, or preaching it from corrupt, selfish motives. In this also, the false teachers are censured. “Manifestation of the truth,” both in purity of doctrine and sancity of life; “the truth” probably includes both. “Commending ourselves to every man’s conscience,” i.e., rendering ourselves deserving of praise with every man who wishes to speak according to the convictions of his conscience, be he a believer or unbeliever, and even in the presence of an omniscient God. Oh! what a lesson to the minister of the gospel. He should pursue the even tenor of his onward course, neither elated by prosperity nor cast down by adversity, doing nothing, even in private, unworthy of his exalted calling, walking always “in God’s sight,” and sanctifying his actions by the consideration that the eye of God is always upon him, having God’s glory alone in view, and acting in such a way before men, as to merit the just commendation both of God and man.

3. In this verse, he meets a question which might be put, viz., if the gospel be preached thus openly, why be veiled for so many? The answer to which is, that this veil is not on the truths themselves, as was the case in the Mosaic law, but it was superinduced by the mental obstinancy of men themselves and by their resistance to the truth.

4. These men who voluntarily superinduce this veil, are the reprobates and unbelievers whose minds are blinded by “the god of this world,” which is commonly understood of the devil, who is called also by St. John (14:30), “the prince of this world,” since he exercises dominion over those who prefer earthly to heavenly things. Moreover, this class of men practically worship the devil, as a God. Even among Christians one would imagine that in baptism, instead of promising to renounce the devil, they promised him eternal allegiance, if their lives were taken as the standard of their profession. If they promised to be his servants, they could not more faithfully adhere to their promise, than they do at present. Others understand the words to refer to Almighty God, who blinds the wicked, not positively, by imparting malice, but negatively, by withholding mercy. Non obcecat impertiendo malitiam sed non impertiendo misericordiam.—St. Augustine. In this interpretation, the words “of this world” would, however, have no meaning, unless we join them with the word “unbelievers,” which would be without meaning also, and would besides, be a very forced and unnatural construction. The construction then runs thus:—It is concealed from those who perish (verse 3), I mean those unbelievers whose minds or spiritual senses the devil blinds, &c. (verse 4). “The gospel of the glory of Christ;” it is called such, either because in it are manifested the mysteries of Christ’s glory and divinity; or, because it is preached for his glory. “Image,” i.e., God’s uncreated image, begotten of him by an eternal generation, light of light. “The figure of his substance, and the splendour of his glory.”—(Heb. chap. 1). Hence, our Redeemer says in the gospel:—“He who sees me, sees the Father also.”—(John 14:9).

5. This is to be connected with the second verse, the intermediate verses being taken up in answering the question which presented itself. He says that by the manifestation of the truth (verse 2), they commended themselves to God and man, because they had in view only the glory of God and the utility of their neighbour, to whose service they devoted themselves. “We preach Jesus Christ and (profess) ourselves your servants.” The word, profess, must be understood. In order to show that their ministry does not involve anything like abject servitude, he says it is “through Jesus,” or for the sake of Jesus. The Greek particle, δια, corresponding with “through,” has frequently the meaning of, on account of.

6. In the Greek the construction runs thus, as in Paraphrase: ὅτι ὁ θεος ὁ εἰπὼν• ἐκ σκότους φῶς λὰμψει, ὅς ἔλαμψεν ἐν ταις καρδίαις ἡμῶν, for the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness (it is) who hath shone in our hearts, &c. It is the same God who at the beginning of creation said: “Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis, 1) that hath by his spirit shone in our hearts. The Apostle in these words indicates the allegorical reference contained in the words of Genesis. “To give the light of the knowledge,” &c., shows the purpose God had in view in shining in our hearts; it was, in order that we should be so many lights, illuminating the spiritual darkness of this world, by the knowledge of the bright glory of God, reflected in the face of Christ, his most perfect image. Others understand the words, “in the face of Christ,” to refer to the person of Christ, as if to imply that by illuminating the world, the ministers of the gospel acted in the person, or as the representatives, of Christ. In the Vulgate reading, in facie Christi Jesu, there would seem to be an allusion to the veiled face of Moses, with which the face of Christ is contrasted. The comparison has however, been instituted throughout, not between Moses and Christ, but between Moses and the Apostles. Hence, the Vulgate translation, in facie Christi Jesu, is supposed by some not to be the best version of the words; these prefer the reading which makes it “in the person of Christ Jesus” which reading the Greek, ἐν προσώπῳ Χριστου, admits, and which is also found in the Syriac version. “Jesus,” although in the common Greek text, is not in the Codex Vaticanus. What a lesson of instruction for all the ministers of the gospel. They should commend themselves by their zeal for God’s glory, preaching Christ and not themselves; instead of domineering over any, they should be the servants of all. They should make the brightness of God’s glory and sanctity shine forth in their own lives, as so many shining and burning lamps, enlightening others.

7. The Lord wished to confide this treasure of the ministry of heavenly illumination to poor, ignorant, frail, and contemptible men, in order that all its glory and excellence should be attributed to himself. By the “earthen vessels,” some understand the mortal bodies of the Apostles formed from the earth. Others, more probably, understand them of the persons of the Apostles, who were weak, frail, and despicable in the eyes of men.

8. In the following verses, is shown how the power of God was exerted in favour of his ministers, although placed in the most imminent perils. It may not be necessary to give a distinct meaning to each word of the two following verses, the whole passage being nothing more than a mere rhetorical amplification conveying the same idea in different words, which increase in intensity. “Distressed,” στενοχωρούμενοι, is interpreted by many, we are seized with excessive mental anxiety. The version of Erasmus gives the same meaning to the corresponding Greek word. The purpose of the Apostle, however, would appear to be, to show that, although as brittle as earthen vessels, they are still preserved from bodily destruction in the midst of the greatest dangers.

“Straitened but not destitute.” The Greek, απορουμενοι ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐξαπορουμενοι, literally translated, is, aporiati, sed non exaporiati; the former means destitute of human counsel in perplexity, without knowing what to do; the latter, that they are not oppressed in this perplexity, from which they knew not how to extricate themselves, because God suggests to them a means of effecting an escape.

9. “We are cast down,” &c., conveys the idea of most imminent danger of life, just as if a man in single combat were thrown to the earth by his adversary, and ready to be despatched, unless some one interpose to raise him up and enable him to avoid the fatal stab. God interposed to rescue the Apostles placed in the like danger. The words may also convey the idea, in allusion to earthen vessels, that although flung down upon the earth, God still interposed to save them from being utterly destroyed.

10. “The mortification.” The Greek word, νεκρωσιν, denotes a dying state without actual death. “of Christ.” (In the common Greek, of the Lord Jesus). The word “Lord” is wanting in the chief MSS. which support the Vulgate. “That the life also of Jesus,” &c., are understood by some as referring, not to the future glory of the children of God (as in Paraphrase), but to the proof of Christ’s Resurrection, in consequence of rescuing so miraculously out of the very jaws of death, those who were thus exposed for his sake, so that the life of Jesus now risen may be clearly manifested and seen in our bodies rescued by him from death; for, had He not lived, He could not have rescued them. Others understand these words as referring to a typifying of His Resurrection; for, as our constant exposure to death was a type of His passion and death, so was our deliverance from these imminent perils of death a type of His Resurrection. “In our bodies.” In Greek, ἐν τῶ σηματι ἡμῶν, in our body.

11. This verse is illustrative of the preceding. “That the life of Jesus,” &c., may also mean, that the life of Jesus risen from the dead may be made manifest by His having saved those perishable bodies amidst such deadly perils; and hence, our preservation furnishes a confirmatory proof of the Resurrection of Jesus.

12. The conclusion drawn by the Apostle is, that by these sufferings, death is exercised in himself and his colleagues, by which means their spiritual life is advanced. Others, with St. Chrysostom, understand the words of this verse to convey a reproach to the Corinthians, who were living in ease and abundance, while the Apostles were exposed to danger and want of all sorts. The former interpretation is the more probable. In all this, the Apostle indirectly and obliquely reproaches the false teachers as having encountered no such dangers or privations for the faith, and as having no such testimony of divine deliverance and interposition in their favour.

13. He assigns a reason why the Apostles, in the midst of dangers, preach intrepidly it is because they really and firmly believe, unlike the false teachers, who, in dangerous circumstances, are become like “dumb dogs not able to bark.”—(Isaias, 56:10), “Having the same spirit of faith,” which David had, proceeding from the Holy Ghost, when in Psalm 115 he says, in the midst of the dangers which menaced his life: “I believed” (the perfect tense is put, by a Hebrew idiom, for the present, “I believe:” or, it may mean, I have believed and still continue to believe, in the promises of God made to me by Samuel, that one day I should ascend the throne; for, it is to this he refers in the 115th Psalm), and, therefore, on account of the firmness of this faith, “I have spoken” I have proclaimed, and do proclaim it aloud, knowing that God will preserve me. Some interpreters understand the word thus: having the same faith, with you, emanating from the Holy Ghost, we too believe, and, therefore, as did he of whom it was written, “I believed,” &c. It is better, however, to understand it of the same faith, with David. Hence, the faith of the saints of old is the same with ours. The mode of believing may be different; for they believed implicitly, what we believe explicitly; but “the same spirit” was the author of their faith and ours. Those, therefore, who believe firmly in their hearts, shall not be afraid or ashamed to profess this interior faith openly, when its external profession becomes a matter of duty.

14. “Raised up Jesus.” In the common Greek, raised up the Lord Jesus. (The Codex Vaticanus has not the word Lord). “With Jesus.” (In the common Greek, δια Ιησου, through Jesus). The Codex Vaticanus has, συν ιησου, the Vulgate reading retained by St. Jerome. This firm belief in their future resurrection animates the Apostles to proclaim it aloud and preach the gospel intrepidly amid the most appalling dangers. “And place us with you.” He uses this form rather than place you with us, to show the great value he attaches to them, so as to prefer them to himself in glory, since he is only to come in for a share of glory of which they will be in possession.

15. It is not without cause that he placed them first; for they, or rather their salvation, is the end for which all his labours are designed. From making them sharers in his own glory this good shall result, viz., that the benefits of the gospel being more widely diffused and more extensively communicated, may redound to the glory of God, whilst the many on whom they are conferred will join in returning God thanks for them. Acts of thanksgiving, therefore, contribute much to God’s glory. The Greek, την ευχαριστιαν περισευσση εἰς την δοξαν τοῦ θεοῦ, admits the construction of Erasmus, viz., that the grace abounding through many may abound with thanksgiving unto the glory of God, in which the verb “abound” has a transitive signification, as in chapter 11, verse 8.

16. It is the hope of future glory in heaven that animates the just in the midst of sufferings and persecutions. By the “outward man,” is meant the outward and sensible portion of man, viz., his frail and corruptible body. This is attenuated and worn by sufferings. But the “inward man,” the invisible soul, from these same sufferings receives vigour, and is renovated from the oldness of sin to the newness of truth and justice.

17. The Greek reading runs thus:—τὸ γὰρ παραυτικα ελαφρὸν τῆς θλιψεως καθʼ ὑπερβολην εἰς ὑπερβολην κατεργαζεται, for the present lightness of affliction from excess to excess worketh, &c. From excess to excess, or, as we have it, “above measure exceedingly,” means that this weight of eternal glory, which our present light and passing afflictions merit for us, is also ineffable, superlatively immense. This form of expression is common with the Hebrews to express what is ineffably great in its kind; or, the words may mean, that this glory inexpressibly exceeds the sufferings undergone here to gain it. The lightness of our sufferings, and their momentary continuance, are contrasted with the weight and eternal duration of the glory, that shall one day be exchanged for them. “O! our tribulation:” “our” is not in the Codex Vaticanus, as in the above quotation.

18. “While we look not at the things which are seen.” The Greek word for “look,” σκοπουντων means keeping steadily in view. Oh! were we, with the eyes of the understanding, and in the light of faith, to consider the nothingness of earthly enjoyments and pleasures, in duration exceedingly brief, and even this very brief enjoyment alloyed with bitterness and remorse and disappointments of all sorts; and on the other hand, were we to contemplate the things of the invisible world, their never-ending duration, their intensity exceeding all human comprehension; were we but to “consider in the heart,” on the awful import of these words, “EVER,” “NEVER;” ever to continue, never to end; what a stimulus to walk in the way of virtue, and keeping God always in view, to look to the remuneration he has in store for us; what a consolation under the crosses and afflictions with which this loving Father may visit us, in order to chasten us with the rod of discipline, and wean us from the nothingness of earthly pleasures. O God! increase in us a spirit of lively faith, so as to view temporal and eternal things, the fleeting affairs of this visible world, and the never-ending concerns of the invisible world, as they are; ever to bear in mind that there are two worlds, the visible and invisible—the one to pass away, as regards us, very soon, nay, sooner than we may imagine; the other never to end, to continue as long as God shall be God—and be influenced in our conduct, with reference to them, according to their relative importance.








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