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

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle, as ambassador of Christ, exhorts the Corinthians to correspond with the graces bestowed on them through the Apostolic ministry; and, in order to stimulate them the more, he tells them that the present is the acceptable time referred to by the Prophet Isaias (1, 2). In the next place, he recounts the virtues which distinguish both himself and his fellow-labourers, while, at the same time, he tacitly reproaches the false teachers with the total absence of these necessary virtues, so befitting every minister of the Gospel (3–11). He then apologizes for the freedom with which he thus addresses the Corinthians, by assuring them of his intense affection for them, from which alone this unreserved freedom of speech proceeded (12). He mildly reproaches them with a want of correspondence, by making a return of affection for himself (12, 13). As ambassador of Christ, he exhorts them to avoid all intercourse in religion with the Pagans, and assigns several reasons of propriety and congruity for this (14–16). He finally concludes with a quotation from the Old Testament, wherein God tells his people to have nothing to do with the unclean, and, in case of compliance, holds out the promise of the highest rewards.

Paraphrase

1. As co-operating, therefore, with Christ in the work of your redemption, we exhort you not to receive in vain—that is, not to render unavailing—the great grace of redemption, applied to you through our ministry.

2. For, God has promised, through his Prophet Isaias (49:8), that in an accepted time, he would hear his Son praying for the salvation of the world; and, that in the day of salvation he would assist him, while labouring in the same cause. Behold, now is the acceptable time referred to by the Prophet; now is the day of salvation, of which you should avail yourselves.

3. While co-operating with God in the work of your redemption (verse 1); we take care to give no cause whatever for offence to any person, lest our ministry should be brought into disrepute or censure of any kind.

4. But rather, in all things, we commend and exhibit ourselves to men as becomes the ministers of Christ, in the exercise of much patience, in enduring daily and ordinary wants, in grievous necessities, in anguish and trials of the most distressing nature.

5. In enduring stripes, in chains and imprisonment, in tumults of the people stirred up everywhere against us, in sustaining labours for the preaching of the gospel, in want of rest and sleep, in fasting, whether voluntarily undertaken, or resulting from want and necessity.

6. We exhibit ourselves, as becomes the ministers of Christ, in purity of mind and body, in the knowledge of the truths of faith, and in the power of explaining them by human examples—in the exercise of lenity towards those who offend us—in an accommodating sweetness of temper and of manners—in a line of conduct which will manifest and display the gifts of the Holy Ghost—in unfeigned and efficient love of our neighbour.

7. In preaching the pure, unadulterated word and holy truths of God, which derive their efficacy from the divine power; by being girt with the armour of justice both on the right and on the left, i.e., in making prosperity and adversity the instruments of virtue.

8. We pursue a course of virtue, as well when despised, as when honour is rendered to us, when men speak ill, as when they speak well of us. We are regarded by many as impostors, teaching errors; but unjustly, since we are faithful heralds of God’s truth. By many we are regarded as contemptible and obscure, but still, we are known and prized by God, who values our ministry.

9. Our death is regarded as always inevitable, owing to the risks we run, and still, through God’s interposition, we live. We are publicly chastised, and still, we are not put to death.

10. In consequence of the many evils we endure, we are regarded as sorrowful; still, we interiorly rejoice in the Lord. We are considered to be poor and needy; and still, we enrich many. We appear like men destitute of everything; and still, we possess all things in Christ.

11. We enter on this recital of our virtues and sufferings, solely from motives of the purest friendship and affection; for, O Corinthians! our mouth is opened to communicate to you freely and unreservedly our thoughts. Our heart is dilated from the vehemence of our affection for you.

12. You are not straitened, you rather hold a spacious place, in our heart and affections, but you do not fully correspond with our feelings, as your bowels are contracted in your affection for us.

13. But in order to make a return of mutual love for us—I speak to you as to my beloved children—become enlarged in your affection for us, as we feel towards you.

14. Bear not the same yoke with unbelievers. For, what agreement can there be between justice and injustice? What fellowship or commerce can exist between light and darkness?

15. What concord can there exist between Christ and Belial? Or what communion can there be between a believer and an unbeliever?

16. Or what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For, you are the temple of the living God, as God himself testifies in the Holy Scriptures:—“I shall dwell in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they, in turn, shall be the people specially consecrated to me.”

17. Wherefore, go out from the midst of the profane and separate yourselves from all intercourse with them, and be not polluted by their uncleanness.

18. And should you do so, I will not leave you desolate or devoid of all comfort. I shall be to you a father, and you shall hold the place of sons and daughters with me, saith the Lord Almighty.

Commentary

1. “Helping.” The Greek word, συνεργουντες, means, co-operating in the great work of redemption and reconciliation with God. “Grace of God,” viz., the great benefit of redemption and reconciliation through Christ, applied to mankind by the ministry of the Apostles. Under it are included the particular graces necessary to attain the great end of redemption. “In vain”; rendering it useless and of no avail to you for want of due correspondence.

2. For the purpose of conveying a stronger inducement to the Corinthians to correspond the more faithfully with divine grace, and to attend to their salvation, he says that the present is the time of grace and salvation referred to by the Prophet, Isaias (49:8). These words of the Prophet are generally understood to have been spoken by the Eternal Father to his Son, promising that at a future day, at a time acceptable to all, and to be desired by them, when he was to call the Gentiles to the faith, he would listen to his prayers in their behalf, and assist him in the work of salvation. The prophetic quotation is read in the past tense, although it has a future signification, a thing not unusual in prophetic writings. “Behold now is the acceptable time referred to by the prophet,” “now is the day,” &c. The fulfilment of this promise has been reserved for the time of the New Law, which may be justly termed, the law of grace.

3. “Giving no offence,” &c. (In Greek, μὴδεμίαν ἐν μηδενὶ διδόντες προσκοπήν, giving no offence in anything). This verse is to be immediately connected with verse 1; and verse 2 is to be read in a parenthesis. “We co-operating,” &c., verse 1 (…), and “giving no offence to any one,” lest by any irregularity of life, or any conduct unbecoming our state, our ministry should be brought into disrepute and rendered useless, “exhort you,” verse 1. The first duty which every minister of religion owes himself and the gospel is, to avoid scandal of every kind; otherwise, his preaching will be as contemptible, as his life. “That our ministry.” In Greek, ἡ διακονία, that the ministry.

4. In the next place, he must not only be irreprehensible, but, a pattern of all virtues. “Let us exhibit.” In Greek, συνιστανοντες, exhibiting ourselves, i.e., commending ourselves in everything as becomes the ministers of Christ. “In much patience.” He particularizes the instance in which patience is to be practised, viz., “in tribulation,” i.e., ordinary wants.—(See Paraphrase). These three instances, in which patience is to be exercised, increase in intensity. “Distresses” are more severe than “necessities,” and the latter more severe than “tribulations.”

5. Under “stripes” is included stoning. “Seditions” refer to tumults of the people driving the Apostles from place to place.

6. “In “chastity.” i.e., purity of mind and body. This is the precious ornament of the Christian priesthood. By many divines it is assigned as a mark of the true Church, inasmuch as it is never practised among heretics, nor can it; because the persevering practice and preservation of this amiable virtue is most difficult, and requires the continual aids of divine grace, which grace is principally imparted through the sacrament of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, of which those outside the Church are totally bereft.

“In knowledge.” This word bears the same signification here as in chap. 12, 1 Epistle, viz., the faculty of explaining the truths of faith by examples derived from human things. A knowledge of the sacred sciences, viz., Scripture—Theology, Dogmatic, Moral, and Ascetic—should ornament the Christian minister. “The lips of the priest should guard knowledge.” “If he repel knowledge, God will repel him.”

“Sweetness.” That urbanity of manners which accommodates itself to the wants and dispositions of all. “In the Holy Ghost,” i.e., in the manifestation of all the gifts of the Holy Ghost. “In charity,” &c. In sincere charity and love of our neighbour, manifesting itself not only in word, but in work and in truth.

7. “In the word of truth.” The words, exhibiting ourselves, &c. (verse 4), are here continued. We exhibit ourselves in preaching God’s word unadulterated and unalloyed. “In the power of God.” These words are generally connected with “the word of truth,” thus—which word derives its efficacy from the power of God, who alone can impart and increase. Some commentators understand “virtue,” or “power of God,” to refer to the gift of miracles.

“Armour of justice on the right hand and on the left.” By “right and left,” are generally understood prosperity and adversity, which the Apostles made the arms or instruments of justice. Prosperity, the season for exercising humility and moderation; adversity, the season for patience and fortitude. “Justice” denotes, in a general manner, the practice of the different Christian virtues.

8. We exhibit ourselves as ministers of God (verse 4). (These words are understood in the different members of these sentences). “By honour and dishonour,” by practising the several virtues suggested and dictated by each kind of treatment. These are the arms of justice, on the right and on the left.

9. “Dying;” owing to continual exposure to the most imminent risks. “Chastised,” by being whipped with scourges. Still, they are “not killed,” because God interposes to save them.

10. “Needy;” owing to their renunciation of all temporal possessions. “Enriching many,” with spiritual blessings, and also with alms collected for them among the faithful. “As having nothing”; no dominion over property. “Possessing all things”; all they wish for are the necessaries of life, with which God supplies them. They possess all things, as to use, just as much as if they were their real owners. Moreover, they possess all things in God, in whom every good is eminently contained. It is deserving of remark, that in recounting the several virtues practised both by himself and his colleagues, the Apostle marks out a line of conduct which all future ministers of the gospel should pursue, after his own example. He, at the same time, indirectly strikes at the false teachers, by insinuating that their lives were distingnished by none of those apostolic virtues.

11. He excuses himself for having enumerated the several virtues practised by himself and his colleagues in the ministry, and says, he did so from no motive of self-praise, but from pure affection—from a wish to communicate to them freely his thoughts and the overflowing feelings of his heart, as friends are wont to treat with friends. He also, in expressing his affection for them, wishes that they would take in good part the reproach which he is about addressing to them (verse 14), for holding intercourse with the Pagans.

12. While his bowels are enlarged and his heart dilated to give them all a spacious place in his affections, they, on their part, are wanting in a return of the like generosity towards him. It is likely, that the insinuations of the false teachers, as well as his own stern rebukes, and his denunciations of their prevalent vices, had estranged many of the Corinthians from the Apostle.

13. In this verse, he exhorts them to enlarge the bowels of their affection for him, as he had done for them. “Having the same recompense.” The Greek is, την δε αυτην αντιμισθίαν, according to the same recompense—κατα, is understood—by making a return of the same love and affection which I have for you.

14. The Apostle, as ambassador of Christ, cautions the Corinthians against a practice dangerous alike to their faith and morals—viz., that of contracting very intimate engagements with infidels. It would appear that he alludes particularly to inter-marriages with the Pagans. He cautions the faithful against contracting new marriages with them. As to the marriages already contracted, he disposed of that question (1 Epistle, chap. 7 verse 13); and the diriment impediment, disparitas cultus, was not instituted for six centuries after this period. The yoke, then, which he dissuades them from bearing with the infidels—a yoke of disparity, as the Greek word, ετεροζυγουντες, implies—is the contracting any close engagements with them, such as would endanger their faith or morals, particularly, the most lasting of all engagements, that of marriage. This prohibition he grounds on the inequality that exists between both parties, and the incompatibility of their union. On the one side, are Christ, justice, light, faithful, temple of God; on the other, Belial, iniquity, darkness, unbeliever, idols—things in themselves perfectly opposed and incompatible.

16. In this verse he undertakes to prove, from the 26th chapter of Leviticus, that the Christians are the temples of God. The passage quoted here, literally regarded the tabernacle or portable temple of the Jews: of it, God says—“I will place my tabernacle in the midst of you, and my soul shall not cast you off. I will be to your God,” &c.—(Leviticus, 24:11, 12). The Apostle quotes the passage with a change of the second person into the third. “I will dwell in them, their God: they, my people.” The words express the special protection which God meant to extend to the Jewish people, and, in a more particular way, to the spiritual Israel of the New Law. In their mystical, or allegorical sense, they refer to the soul of the just man, which is a kind of movable temple of God.

17. He grounds the prohibition, secondly, on the precept given to the Israelites, to fly the impurities of the Babylonians.—(Isaias, 52:2). For, if it were imperatively enjoined on the Jews to fly any intimate association with the Pagans of Babylon, much more obligatory is it on the Christians of Corinth, called to a higher state of sanctity, to shun all dangerous communications with Pagans, of still more corrupt and dissolute morals.

18. It is not well ascertained from what part of Scripture the words of this verse are quoted. They are generally referred to chapter 30 of Jeremias. Others refer them to chapter 43 of Isaias. From whatever place taken, they certainly refer to the adoption of the children of the New Testament, and both sexes are referred to, “sons and daughters,” because, both sexes are concerned in the intermarriages with the Pagans, the abuse particularly referred to by the Apostle in this passage.








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