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

Analysis

In this and the two following chapters, the Apostle puts forward his defence of himself against the charges preferred by the false teachers and their deluded followers. The Apostolic freedom, with which he corrected the abuses referred to in his first Epistle, gave offence to many. This was artfully seized hold of by the false teachers, and made a subject of accusation against the Apostle. He was accordingly charged with a despotic and tyrannical exercise of authority, so much at variance with the example of meekness and clemency set us by Christ; and so little in character with his own personal appearance, and the tone of his speech when amongst them, which were represented as mean and contemptible. This difference between his language when present, and the lofty style of his Epistles when absent, they ascribed to human, worldly policy. The Apostle commences the vindication of his Apostolic authority with an earnest entreaty to the Corinthians, through the meekness and clemency of Christ, not to force him to exercise his authority amongst them (verses 1, 2). He shows how unfounded is the calumny of his enemies, in charging him with following the wiles of human policy, by describing the nature of the struggle in which he is engaged, and the weapons he is to employ in the spiritual warfare against error. He shows that, when necessary, he is prepared for the vigorous exercise of authority (3–6). He submits to the Corinthians themselves the decision of his cause as between him and the false teachers, and shows how much he is superior to them, looking even to the external evidence of facts. He abstains from referring to certain actions well known to them, lest by so doing he might give colour to the charge preferred against him of attempting to terrify them by the display of authority (7–11). He repels the charge of being menacing in his Epistles and mean in his discourses when present, by asserting that whether absent or present, he is always consistent (11). In a strain of bitter irony, to which he has recourse in self-defence, he taxes the vanity and unmeaning boasting of the false teachers, with whom he would not presume to compare himself (12). He shall not, like them, indulge in extravagant and false boasting, but he shall merely boast of the labours he had actually undergone—labours which, unlike the attempts of the false teachers, had been arranged by Divine Providence (14, 15). Nor shall he, like them, boast of the labours of others, but shall content himself with the glory arising from the faith of the Corinthians, and such other nations as he may have preached the gospel to (16). He shows the object of all lawful boasting, and the proper end of all glory.—viz., Goa.

Paraphrase

1. Now I Paul myself, who am your Apostle, be seech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, which I am accused of not imitating, and, not alone this, but with observing in your presence a different line of conduct from that which I follow in your absence. When amongst you, I am said to demean myself in an humble, submissive manner, and when absent, to display a domineering, haughty exercise of authority.

2. I entreat you, not to oblige me, when I shall have come amongst you, to have recourse to the stern exercise of authority, which I am supposed to employ against some of you, who, seduced by the false teachers, regard us as men who live according to human and carnal affections.

3. (In this, however, they are mistaken), for, although, like other men, we live in this body of flesh; still, in our spiritual warfare with sin and unbelief, we do not follow the rules of human feelings or wisdom.

4. For the arms which we employ in this spiritual warfare are not carnal, but spiritual; and these derive their efficacy from the power of God, for the destruction of the fortifications of our enemies, and for destroying the reasonings of those who oppose the faith.

5. And of every altitude both in human knowledge and language, that opposes itself to the knowledge of God, contained in his gospel, and by which we lead captive every intellect, no matter how exalted or cultivated, to render obedience to Christ, by voluntarily submitting to faith.

6. And we have the same arms in readiness to punish every disobedience; and this power we shall exercise against such as may contumaciously persevere in their disobedience, after the number of those among you brought back to obedience shall have been filled up.

7. In the meantime, see how things are, if we look to the very evidence of facts. (In this point of view am I inferior to the false teachers?) If any of them boasts in being the minister of Christ, let him again and again reflect within himself, that if he be a minister of Christ, so are we also (and hence, in this respect, not inferior to him).

8. I say not inferior to him—for, although I were even to boast still more of the power which the Lord gave us to advance your salvation, and not to injure it, I might not be ashamed of it (as being a fact, and a fact, too, which I proclaim for God’s glory and your salvation).

9. But I shall refrain from so doing, lest I might appear to be only making a display of authority, and endeavouring to inspire you with fear by my Epistles.

10. (“For indeed It is Epistles,” say these my maligners, “thunder forth menances and are full of authority, but his personal appearance is mean, and His language contemptible.”)

11. Whosoever he be, that speak thus, let him know and rest firmly persuaded, that such as we appear to be, when absent, in the language transmitted through our Epistles, the same we shall be in reality and in point of fact, when present.

12. For, we cannot presume to measure ourselves, or enter into competition with certain persons who commend themselves, and despise us; but we measure ourselves by ourselves—that is, by that measure which suits us, and compare ourselves according to that measure, and none other.

13. We will not, like others, glory beyond the limits of our evangelical labours; but we will confine ourselves to the measure of the rule which God has measured to us; or, to the limits which God has assigned to us, according to which rule, our apostleship has reached even to you.

14. For, in this matter, we do not boast beyond what we ought, which would be the case, if we had not come to you. For, in truth, we have come as far as you, the first to preach the gospel among you.

15. We will not, like the false teachers, make the labours of other men the subject of our immoderate and undue boasting. But we hope that by the increase and progress of your faith, our glory in you will be increased, according to the measure of our labour in bringing you to perfection.

16. We also hope to proceed to other provinces beyond you, in preaching the Gospel, without intruding on those marked out for others, and without glorying in the labours of others, i.e., not making the fruits resulting from the culture and preparation made by them, the subject of our boasting.

17. But, whosoever glories, let him glory in the Lord only (from whom all things are derived, and to whom the glory of all things should be referred).

18. For, it is not the man who commends or praises himself, that is deserving of commendation; but the man whom God shows to be deserving of praise, by the works which he enables him to perform.

Commentary

1. “Mildness of Christ.” From the menacing tone of his Epistles, the Apostle was charged with a want of that spirit of meekness of which Christ has given us the example, and which he proposed to us for imitation:—“Learn or me, because I am meek and humble of heart.”

“Modesty,” regards the merciful clemency manifested by Christ towards sinners, and which the Apostle was charged with discarding in his severe treatment of the incestuous man (1 Ep. chap. 5). It is remarked, that the Apostle, in the preceding chapters, speaks of himself in the plural number: because in them he was defending his colleagues, and the gospel ministry in general: while here, he employs the singular; because he is engaged in a defence of himself personally, against the Jewish teachers, who wished to unite the law of Moses with the gospel (11:22).

2. “As if we walked.” &c. The false teachers asserted that the difference of tone observable in his Epistles and conversation, was owing to worldly policy—as if, when present, he sought popularity, and when absent, he wished to inspire them with terror and awe of himself.

3. This calumny he refutes as being opposed to the glory of his ministry—showing also that the charge of adopting carnal or human means made against him was false.—For, though like other men, he lives in a mortal body; still, in his war with sin, he does not follow, etc., (vide Paraphrase).

4. The arms of apostolic warfare are not “carnal;” such as wealth, eloquence, glory, strength, craftiness, &c., which political men employ for their own purposes—“but mighty to God;” such are, the word of God, patience, meekness, prayer. These are, of themselves, powerless; but, they are rendered “mighty” by the power of God, by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and by miracles. “Unto the pulling down of fortifications,” by means of which the enemies of God and of the faith endeavour to protect their errors. He explains what these “fortifications” are. They are nothing else than “the counsels,” or, the acute reasonings of unbelieving philosophy.

5. He continues his metaphorical allusions to fortifications; some of which are unassailable from their artful construction. To these he has already alluded. Others are unassailable from their altitude. To these he alludes here—“and every height, &c.” “Height” has reference to all false teaching opposed to faith, whether coming from Pagan philosophers, Jewish doctors, or heretics. “That exalteth itself against the knowledge of God,” i.e., every thing sublime and profound in secular learning and human science, whereby attempts are made to subvert the true knowledge of God, contained in his gospel. “And bringing into captivity every understanding.” The Greek is, και αιχηαλωτιζοντες παν νοημα, and leading captive every thought (or intellectual reasoning), unto the obedience of Christ, by believing in his gospel. Hence, the will has a share in the assent of faith; from it, faith derives its merit. This obedience is exercised by assenting to truths in themselves not evident; for, faith is “the evidence of things that appear not.”—(Heb. 11).

6. “When your obedience,” &c. To such among them as were seduced into disobedience by the false teachers, or were persevering in sin, notwithstanding his admonitions, he gives time to be reformed; but if they persevere in their evil course, he shall punish them, as they are not to be accounted among those from whom obedience was to be expected.

7. “See things,” &c. A different reading is given in the Greek, which runs thus:—τα κατα προσωπον βλεπειτε; do you look on things according to outward appearances? According to which, the Apostle conveys a reproach to them for judging of things merely by their exterior. According to our reading, the Apostle invites them to judge of his cause as compared with that of the false teachers, even according to external appearances and the evidence of facts. “So are we also.” The Apostle, too, is a minister of Christ, as appears from his life and actions.

8. “Unto edification, not for destruction.” The false teachers, by the dissemination of erroneous teachings, regarding the necessity of uniting the legal ceremonies with the gospel, and by their pernicious example, were destroying the spiritual edifice of sanctity among the Corinthians. The Apostle preached up the abrogation of the Jewish ceremonies, which they endeavoured to retain in full force. “Which the Lord hath given.” The ecclesiastical power is given by God; hence, it should be submitted to with respect and reverence. But it is to be exercised “unto edification”; hence, the ecclesiastical superior should never, in the exercise of power, injure the spiritual interests of his people.

9. The greater number of the Greek copies connect this verse with the foregoing (as in Paraphrase); or, it may be connected thus:—I have made mention of the power which God gave me for your edification, and not for your destruction; and that, lest I might appear to be terrifying you, &c. Others connect it with verse 11, and include verse 10, in a parenthesis, thus:—“But lest I might be thought to be terrifying you by my Epistles, as I have been charged with doing” (verse 9). (“For his Epistles, indeed,” &c., verse 10). Let the persons who thus charge me, know, &c. (verse 11).

10. “His Epistles are weighty,” i.e., menacing; “and strong,” i.e., full of authority, or Powerful in style and replete with argument, as opposed to his personal appearance and conversation. “But his bodily presence (or appearance) is weak,” &c. We are told by Nicephorus, that the Apostle was very small in stature.—(Lib. 2, chap. 37). Hence. St. Chrysostom (Homil. de Principe Apost.), terms him “tricubitalis.” His conversation was also divested of the strength and authority which he displays in his Epistles.

11. He says, in defence of his own character, that whether absent or present, he will always be the same, always consistent.

12. In terms of bitter irony, he says, he could not presume to compare himself with “some,” i.e., the false teachers, who are always praising and commending themselves; but he will measure himself with the measure that best suits him and is most befitting for him—viz., his own self, and thus prefer himself to no one else. In the Greek, the latter part of this verse is read differently from our Vulgate; instead of, “but we measure ourselves by ourselves,” &c., the Greek reading is, ἀλλὰ αὐτοὶ ὲν ἐαυτοις ἑαυτοὺς μετροῦντες, καὶ συνκρείνοντες ἑαυτους ἑαυτοῖς, ου συνιᾶσιν, but they measuring themselves with themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, do not understand. That is measuring themselves according to their foolish imaginations, without following any fixed rule founded on truth, and following their own judgment, they err, supposing themselves to be greater than they really are.

13. He will not imitate the false teachers—whom he here taxes—by indulging in undue boasting. They boasted, as we are told by St. Chrysostom and Theophylact, that they had preached the gospel throughout the earth. But the Apostle confines his boasting to what he really did, to having preached in the places assigned to him in the distribution, which the Apostle made of the different parts of the earth, for the more effectual propagation of the gospel. “A measure to reach even to you.” In this distribution, which was inspired by God himself (“which God measured to us”), Achaia fell to the lot of St. Paul. Hence, he might glory in having preached among them, and that by the ordination of God himself, unlike the false teachers, who boasted of what they never did, while, what they did, was without a divine commission.

14. “For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure,” i.e., in this matter we boast not more than we ought. The words are the same as those of the preceding verse—“we will not glory beyond our measure.” “As if we reached not unto you,” That is, we would have gloried beyond what we ought, if we gloried, as we have done, in coming to you, and had not come. “For, we are come as far as you in the Gospel of Christ;” and hence, we have not boasted unduly of having preached to you, and of having “begotten you in Jesus Christ through the Gospel” (1 Cor. chap. 4), and in saying, “are you not our work in the Lord?”—(1 Cor. chap. 9).

15. He says, he will not, like the false teachers, whom he indirectly charges throughout this Epistle with doing the things, against which he defends his own character, make the happy results of other men’s labours, the subject of his boasting. “Of your increasing faith.” These words are, in the Greek, a genitive absolute, αυξανομενης τῆς πιστεως ὑμῶν, and mean, while your faith is increasing, we have hope to be magnified in you, i.e., that our glory in you shall be increased. The Codex Vaticanus has, ἡμὼν, our faith. “According to our rule,” i.e., according to the extent of our labours. “Abundantly,” i.e., bringing you to perfection. The Greek word for “abundantly,” is, as εις περισσειαν, unto abundance, which may be construed with magnified, thus:—We have hopes to be abundantly magnified in you, i.e., we have hopes that, according as your faith increases, so shall our glory in you be more and more increased. Following the former construction, which is adopted in the Paraphrase, the word “abundantly,” may mean—We have hopes that our glory in you shall be increased; for, the teacher derives glory from the proficiency of his pupils. “According to our rule abundantly.” According as the measure of our labours is increased and extended, inasmuch as they shall not be confined to you, but shall be extended to other regions.

16. His rule or measure, being extended, he expects to preach the Gospel in places far beyond them; not, however, in the districts assigned for the apostolical labours of others, nor with a wish to make the fruits, of which the seeds had been laboriously prepared and planted by others, the subject of his boasting. This is, indirectly, levelled at the false teachers, who wished to claim the merit of other men’s labours.

17. He points out the object to which all praise should be directed—viz., God, the source of all blessings and good gifts, and the end, therefore, to which the glory of all things should be directed.

18. “Is approved;” i.e., it is not our self-praise, or self-commendation, that renders us really acceptable and deserving of praise; but, it is the testimony which God renders to us, by the works which he enables us to perform, and the gifts which he bestows upon us, that shows us to be really deserving of it. Hence, the self-praise of the false teachers should be regarded as suspicious, unless confirmed by the testimony of good works.








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