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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 menaces such among the Corinthians as obstinately persevere in sin with the stern exercise of the Divine power intrusted to him. He says he will proceed juridically against them (verses 1, 2). He admonishes them, not to test the power of Christ with which he has been gifted (3), a power of which they may form some idea from the miraculous manifestations exhibited among them, both by himself and others; with that power he is still gifted; and this they shall know to their cost, if they compel him to exercise it (3–6). Far, however, from wishing to display it, he rather wishes that, by their good conduct, they may deprive him of all opportunity of showing it; for, it is not to be displayed against sanctity, but in its defence (8, 9). He rejoices that they appear strong in virtue, and that from want of opportunity to display power, he himself appears to be weak (9). He writes in this menacing manner in order to be spared the pain of punishing them. He exhorts them to practise all Christian virtues, and concludes by invoking on them the Divine benediction.

Paraphrase

1. Behold, this is the third time that I have been prepared to come to you. And, when I shall arrive, I shall, in passing sentence on sinners, adhere to the precept of the Mosaic Law, wherein it is enacted, that every accusation or charge shall be determined or ratified by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

2. As I had foretold and menaced when present, so do I now menace, although absent, not only those who had then sinned, but those also who have since then fallen into sin, that if, at my coming, they shall have not reformed and done penance, I will no longer spare them.

3. Is it, that you wish to test at your cost whether Christ dwells in me or speaks through me? Surely, in your regard he has shown no signs of weakness, he has rather signally manifested his power in you.

4. For, although he has heretofore in the weak, mortal nature, which he assumed, submitted to be crucified for us, yet, now being resuscitated by the power of God, he lives Immortal and Omnipotent. So is it with us Apostles; like him, we are infirm, but like him we shall also live by the power of God, which we shall display towards you.

5. (Why test our power in Christ?) Test and try yourselves, and see whether you possess the faith which works miracles. Examine yourselves on this point. By such an examination of yourselves, with a view of making an experiment of your faith, will you not easily discover that Christ worketh on you (and still more in me your Apostle), unless, perhaps, that in punishment of your sin, this grace has been withdrawn from you, and you are fallen away from it.

6. But, I hope you will find, that we have not been deprived of that grace, by which the miraculous power of Christ is displayed.

7. (However, far from wishing for an opportunity of displaying this power among you); I, on the contrary, pray God, that you may do no evil deserving of correction. Far from wishing to appear illustrious from the display of the Divine power in the punishment of your sins, I rather desire that you may do everything good, and that we should remain inglorious, apparently destitute of all apostolic authority.

8. For our authority can never be exercised against, sanctity, but always in defending and supporting it.

9. Far from wishing to manifest power, we rejoice, when, in the absence of cause for its exercise, we appear infirm, and you are strong in virtue. On this account we not only rejoice, but pray for consummation in sanctity.

10. Therefore, it is, that being absent, I now write in this menacing manner, in order that, when present amongst you, I may not be constrained to exercise, with too much severity, the power which the Lord has confided to me, to be exercised for your advantage, and not for your ruin.

11. For the rest, brethren, rejoice in the Lord, daily strive to become better and better, mutually exhort and encourage each other to advance in perfection. Be of the same mind. Live in concord and unanimity; act peacefully towards one another, and the God of peace and love shall dwell in you by his grace.

12. Salute each other with a kiss, the sign of holy love. All the Christians here salute you.

13. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who redeemed us with his blood, and the charity of God the Father, the excess of which moved him to give up his Son for the world, and the communication of the Holy Ghost, with whose gifts we are replenished, be with you all. Amen.

Commentary

1. “Behold.” This word is not in the Greek. It may have been introduced here from chap. 12 verse 14; it is, however, read in the Alexandrian and other MSS. “This is the third time I am coming to you.” According to some, he is actually coming now a third time. According to others, he is only prepared to come a third time, having been prevented from coming on the second occasion that he purposed doing so—(chap. 12 verse 14).

“In the mouth,” &c. This is founded on the law of Deuteronomy (chap. 19 verse 15), and, although a judicial precept, it has been retained in the Christian law, because founded on natural equity. “Every word,” i.e., every cause, every accusation, “shall stand,” i.e., shall be determined and ratified. This he adds to show the Corinthians that in inflicting punishment, he will not act with precipitancy. Some interpret the words, “two or three witnesses,” as referring to his own two or three visits, in which he himself will bear testimony a third time, which is equivalent to three witnesses against them.

2. He will not now spare them, as on a former occasion, when, through fear of being constrained to punish them, he declined coming to them (chap. 1). After the words “as present,” the words, το δευτερον, a second time, are inserted in the Greek, as if he meant to say, that he was really twice among them; or, he might be regarded as present on the second occasion, because he was present in desire, just as he “was present in mind” when excommunicating the incestuous man.—(1 Ep. chap. 5) “And now absent;” after these, the words, γράφω, I write, are inserted in the common Greek text. The sentence may be completed without them as in Paraphrase, and they are not found in the oldest manuscripts.

3. “Do you seek?” &c. In the Greek, it is not read interrogatively but affirmatively, επει ζητειτε, whereas ye seek. The meaning, however, is the same as in our Vulgate. “I will not spare;” them (verse 2), because they wish to make a trial, &c. (verse 3). The interrogative form, as in our Vulgate, renders the passage somewhat more impassioned than it is in the Greek. “Is not weak,” as if to say, you need no test of his power; for, it has already been sufficiently displayed in your regard, in your conversion (chap. 12 verse 12); in the punishment of unworthy communicants (1st Ep. chap. 11 verse 30); in the excommunication of the incestuous man (1st Ep. chap. 5)

4. “Crucified through weakness,” i.e., in his weak, passible, human nature. “For we also,” &c., i.e., in like manner, we also, like him, our model, are subject to many infirmities; but like him, “we shall live,” and act, “by the power of God,” which we shall display, when necessary, in punishing contumacious sinners, “towards you;” the Vulgate has, in vobis. The words are altogether wanting in the Codex Vaticanus, and not found in St. Chrysostom.

5. He says they should not seek for a trial of the Divine power residing in him. Let them examine and see whether it does not reside in their own church, on which had been conferred the power of working miracles, and by examining themselves, they shall find it amongst them, unless they have fallen away from it. If they, then, have this power, how much more of it must their Apostle not have? “If you be in faith,” is understood by some, of Theological faith, enlivened by charity—I say, enlivened by charity; because Theological faith, without charity, is no proof of Christ’s presence. It more probably, however, refers to faith of miracles. “Reprobates.” The Greek, αδοκιμοι, means, destitute of this faith and fallen away from it. It by no means refers to Predestination or rejection from it. By saying, “unless, perhaps, you be reprobates,” or deprived of this grace, he indirectly taxes their corrupt morals. The faithful were, at this time, favoured, in many instances, with the gift of miracles. These were certain marks of the presence of Christ in the community or church, in vindication of whose doctrines they were performed.

6. Whatever might be said of their case, be they reprobates from this grace or not, he hopes they will find that he is not destitute of the grace whereby he is enabled to work miracles for the punishment of contumacious sinners.

7. In this verse, he corrects what he said in verse 6, “I trust you shall know,” &c. He prays God, that there may be no occasion or necessity for the manifestation or exercise of this power, so calculated to render him glorious.

What a model of benevolence and humility! The Apostle was traduced and despised as weak, powerless, mean, and contemptible; and though gifted with the power of God, he prefers to appear mean and powerless, rather than appear glorious, through the necessity of exercising this power in punishment of sin. What zeal and love for sanctity! What love for God, and the observance of his holy and immaculate law!

9. He not only rejoices at their advancement in virtue, although by this, he was deprived of an opportunity of displaying the Divine power which dwelt in him, but he also prays for their spiritual progress.

10. And it is for the same reason, he wrote in this menacing style, that he might thus be spared the pain, when he should come amongst them, of exercising the power which God gave him, &c.—See chapter 10 verse 8.

11. “Deal more severely.” The Greek for severely, αποτομως, conveys the idea of lopping off putrid or delinquent members from the body of the church.

12. “Salute one another with a holy kiss,” which is a symbol of holy peace and of pure Christian love. “All the saints,” i.e., Christians here at Philippi, “salute you.” The subscriptions of the Greek copies assert, that it was written from Philippi.

13. Reference is made in this verse to the three persons of the Adorable Trinity.

In some Greek copies we have the following subscription: The Second to the Corinthians was written from Philippi, a city of Macedonia, by Titus and Lucas. The Codex Vaticanus has simply: προς Κορινθιους Β. εγραφη απο Φιλιππων, “The Second to the Corinthians was written from Philippi.”








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