2 Corinthians 5
This leads the apostle to open out the power of life we have in Christ, and its results. “For we know that if our earthly tabernacle-house be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens. For also in this we groan, longing to clothe ourselves with our dwelling which is from heaven, if indeed50 also when clothed51 we shall not be found naked.” (Vers. 1-8.)
What calm and confident knowledge the apostle here predicates of Christians as such! And what a contrast with the dark uncertainty of unbelief, or with its impious audacity! The eternal things are none the less sure in hope because they are not seen. For we know that, if death destroy the earthly tent we live in, we have a building of God. The body in its present state he compares to a tabernacle to be taken down, in its future to a building from God as the source, and to a house not made with hands, and hence everlasting in the heavens, its suited and purposed sphere for ever. As we already heard, God who raised up the Lord Jesus shall also raise up by Him those also who sleep, and then present us all together faultless before the throne of His glory: here details are entered into with clearness and discrimination. It is one of the few passages which treat of the intermediate state, as well as of the resurrection or change of the body for glory, and therefore of the deepest interest to the faithful personally and relatively. And in a few brief and plain words adequate light is given, without the smallest indulgence of irreverent curiosity, for all that concerns the family of God after death as well as the change at Christ’s coming. One cannot conceive a communication more worthy of God, or more characteristic of His word generally, while it bears the deep impress of His blessed servant who was inspired to give it.
Of course theology is here little more than a Babel of discordant tongues; and even the more pious and learned seem unable to answer with precision what is meant by the building we have of God. Some will have it that this house not made with hands is heaven itself, but how then could it be said to be “in the heavens?” How could we be in this case said to be clothed with our house or “dwelling which is from heaven?” The house and heaven itself are carefully distinguished. Others again, with less error but with an imperfect view of the passage as a whole, think only of the resurrection body. But it does not follow that the passage throws no light on the state of the soul between death and the resurrection, or that it treats solely of what is to happen after Christ’s second coming.
The lowest and most mischievous of these interpretations is that of Olshausen and others who admire petty philosophising,52 and contend that the house entered at death is an ethereal corporeity adapted to the heavenly condition of the soul, either intermediate between death and the resurrection, or (as bolder spirits say) to the exclusion of the body which is not to be resuscitated and changed. The intermediate and glorified vehicle of the soul is directly at issue with the plain and decisive language of this very passage. The house is described not only as in the heavens, but as “everlasting.” Scripture shuts out therefore all notion of a temporary body, for the soul in heaven before the resurrection of the body we now have. And a man must be a sceptical Sadducee who denies that He who raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies by (or, by reason of) His Spirit that dwelleth in us. (Rom. 8:11) There is intermediate blessedness for the believer apart from his body with Christ on high; but the resurrection from the dead awaits His coming.
In opposition to the true bearing it is argued:
1. That heaven is often in scripture compared to a house in which there are many mansions (John 14:2); or to a city in which there are many houses (Heb. 11:10, 14; Heb. 13:14; Rev. 21:10); or more generally to everlasting habitations. (Luke 16:9.) But we have already seen that, whatever be the figures used of the portion of the glorified saints in other scriptures, the house in this passage cannot mean heaven, because it is said here to be from heaven and in the heavens.
2. Whatever the reasoning to show that, as the soul now dwells in the body, heaven will be its house after death, it is inconsistent with the thoughts and language of the context.
3. Again, the effort to press that the discipline given here of the house agrees with that of heaven elsewhere is vain, if it were only because the state on which the soul enters after death is so far from “everlasting,” that the change we await is at Christ’s coming. The body is not in heaven now, nor is it said to be brought down to us from heaven; but Christ is there and is coming thence when we shall have in power and actuality what we have now in faith.
4. And this is the true force of
ἔχομεν, not in the least as conveying that the house is one on which we enter immediately after death, but its certainty to faith. That it is synchronous with death is mere assumption, and would involve the idea, not of heaven, but of a new vehicle for the soul which we have already seen to be wholly inconsistent with this passage and all truth. Hence it is not said that when our tent-house, or the body is dissolved, but if it should be. This leaves it equally open when, as now, the building from God is entered, and only declares the certainty that such a house of permanence we have. The present in Greek, as in other languages and our own, is frequently used (when required) to express, not merely actual time, but a truth apart from time in its abstract character or certainty. This must be, from what we have observed, its force here. To give it the meaning of actual fact now going on introduces nothing but confusion and error. What the apostle expresses is certainty of possession. He speaks of incomparably better habitations, supposing the dissolution of the present; but the time and way of entering on it had to be learnt from other scriptures. He does speak of being absent from the body and present with the Lord a little farther on, but neither of being in a new body while absent from the body, nor of heaven being like a body meanwhile, which seems, if possible, more absurd, as both thoughts are alike baseless. Matthew 22:32 speaks only of the resurrection. Luke 20 38 adds that the souls of the deceased live to God, though away from men, before they rise. Nor is there any doubt, if we believe Luke 16; 22; 2 Corinthians 5; and Philippians 1, that it is far better with the departed saints, and that they are in paradise, the brightest part of heaven, with Christ. (Cf. Heb. 12:23.)
If death come, the resurrection body, already fully described in 1 Corinthians 15, is sure, in all its contrast with tent or any other building of time or of this creation, crumbling to rain as it is. And the blessedness of what we thus have in hope is such that only the more do “we groan in this, longing to have put on our house which is from heaven, if indeed also when clothed we shall not be found naked.” (Vers. 2, 3.) That is, the brightness of the life he now had in Christ was so hindered by the body as it is that he could but groan in his ardent desires after the glorified condition with which Christ will invest him. It is the groaning not of a disappointed sinner nor of an undelivered saint, but of those who, assured of life and victory in Christ, feel the wretched contrast of the present with the glory in prospect. Only he adds the cautious proviso, that is, supposing we are really Christ’s. The anxiety expressed more plainly at the close of 1 Corinthians 9 is not quite gone from the beginning of 2 Corinthians 5.
Hence one must reject every attempt to tamper with the conditional rendering of verse 3. The ordinary text
εἴ γε (or
εἴγε) has excellent support, not only in the vast majority of the manuscripts, but in the antiquity and goodness of some, as the Sinaitic, Rescript of Paris, and others; and this is adhered to by most critics. But Lachmann and Tregelles prefer
εἴπερ with the Vatican, Cambridge, and a few other authorities. But the alleged distinction (of Hermann’s notes on Viger) is unfounded in the New Testament, as elsewhere also. It has been even remarked by one of remarkable penetration that the converse is true, and that the true difference is:
εἴπερ puts the case that a thing is;
εἴγε the possibility that it is not.
Εἴγε, says J. B. Lightfoot, leaves a loophole for doubt;
εἴπερ is, if anything, more directly affirmative than
εἴ γε. Assuredly this seems rather confirmed by their distinctive origin, for as per is intensive, ye is restrictive. But the usage appears to indicate that the context must be taken into consideration in order to decide the true bearing. So Meyer and Ellicott confess that it is the sentence, and not the particle, which determines the rectitude of the assumption. It is utterly false that, either in or out of the New Testament,
εἴγε as a matter of course means “since” any more than
εἴπερ always expresses doubt.
The various reading
ἐκδυσάμενοι, “unclothed,” in the Clermont, Augian, and Boernerian manuscripts, etc., accepted by many fathers and even by a few critics, is a mere effort to get rid of difficulty. The sense may be plainer, but it is worthless. The true reading
ἐνδυσάμενοι is most pertinent and forcible, unless indeed we translate
εἴγε “since,” which reduces the clause to a platitude: “since when clothed we shall not be found naked,” or “seeing that we shall verily be found clothed, not naked,” which is a poor tautology unworthy of scripture, and as far from Pauline as possible. Translate it, “if at least, even when clothed, we shall be found not naked,” and the propriety is as great as its strength. For the solemn fact is, that there is a resurrection of unjust no less than just. All therefore are to be clothed. An hour is coming when all that are in the tombs shall hear the voice of the Son, and shall go forth, those that have practised good to a resurrection of life, and those that have done evil to a resurrection of judgment. The resurrection of the body for all will be the clothing of all, though not of all at the same time nor with like result, but with the most marked contrasts and unchanging issues. For when the wicked are raised, they may and shall be clothed indeed, but shall be found naked. They have not the wedding robe, they have no righteousness before God; they rejected, despised, or did without Christ; they have nothing but sins, and cannot escape everlasting judgment. Whilst in the body here, they might pass muster; when clothed with the resurrection body (for all must rise), those who here lived and died without Christ will be found naked. The apostle therefore solemnly warns, in this passage of the richest comfort for the true, that some might prove false. The everlasting and heavenly glory will be for us at the resurrection, if at least when clothed we shall be found not naked: a seeming paradox, but not more startling than true. Blessed they, and they only, who now have and have put on Christ.
The words “clothed” or “unclothed” refer to the being in or out of the body; “naked” to being destitute of Christ. This distinction was overlooked by Calvin, as it has been by others since. They conceive that the idea was to restrict the clothing to the righteous; and hence that the wicked are, stripped of their bodies, to appear naked before God; whereas believers, clothed with Christ’s righteousness, are to be invested with a glorious nature of immortality. Had it been observed that “not naked” alone refers to the putting on Christ now with its everlasting consequences, the confusion would have been avoided. The apostle speaks of the common portion we have in Christ (in presence of death, as by-and-by of the judgment-seat), of the triumph assured in His life who died but is risen and alive again for evermore; but this in no way hinders a passing and grave caution to such as might boast of gifts without grace or conscience.
Other speculations, such as of Grotius, are hardly worth a notice; and that of Meyer followed by Alford (“if, as is certain, we in fact shall be found clothed, not naked”) demands no more words, having been disposed of already. Nor need we discuss at greater length Hodge’s attempt from the same rendering to sustain his notion that the apostle here refers not to the risen body but to a mansion in heaven. The simple but profound truth of God delivers from every mist of error.
Having given so solemn a word of warning for conscience, the apostle returns to the groaning and the longing spoken of in verse 2 in order to clear the truth more fully.
“For also we that are in the53 tabernacle groan, being burdened, because54 we desire not to be unclothed but clothed upon, that what is mortal should be swallowed up of life. Now he that wrought55 us for this very thing [is] God, that gave56 us the earnest of the Spirit.” (Vers. 4, 5.)
The true knowledge of the living possession of Christ, far from neutralising one’s sense of the groaning creation, deeply increases it. Peace and joy in believing there is most really and to the full; but it is in Him who suffered here and is glorified above the sorrow and death that He tasted and the sins which He bore in His own body on the tree. Our body is the tabernacle in which we are, a part itself of the creation made subject to vanity; and we who are in it groan under the oppressive sense of its utter ruin, not because we are not delivered in Christ, but the rather because we are and feel deeply therefore what is under the bondage of corruption. We know that deliverance is at hand, not merely for our body but for all that is now travailing in pain, and that Christ will have the glory, as all creation will have the joy in that day.
Difficulties have been made about the phrase, which opens the next clause; but it seems rather needlessly, for
ἐφ᾽ ῳ, the true reading, is not uncommon in our apostle, whose use of it quite falls in with its regular application in all correct Greek to express the condition, or occasion, under which a thing or person is characterised, and may be rendered “for,” “seeing,” “in that,” or “because” qualifying what precedes. Compare Romans 5:12, Philippians 3:12, Philippians 4:10, with the clause before us, in all of which may be found a like sense substantially, though modified by a different context. “Wherefore,” or “in which,” seems as feeble as misleading. The fact is that it is but a special case of its general sense as the ground, condition, or occasion of anything — the term on which a thing is based.
Here the apostle qualifies our burdened groaning in the tabernacle, as no selfish desire to escape trial, however aggravated. Yet no man experienced this so deeply, variously, or unremittingly as himself; none therefore was so exposed to wish that such a path should be closed by departure to be with the Lord. But this he deprecates for the saints as well as himself, not for that we wish to be unclothed but clothed upon, that what is mortal should be swallowed up by life. He is contrasting the power of life in Christ at His coming with going to Him in the separate state. No doubt this is better, far better, for us than abiding here in sorrow and suffering. But the apostle thought of Christ’s glory in this scripture, as of the need of souls in Philippians 1. Hence in the latter he recognised the value of his staying for their help, and that so it would be. Here he expresses the exceeding blessedness of bringing the body under the power of that life which he already knew for his inner man in Christ. Nothing less than this therefore could satisfy him.
To be “unclothed” is to be rid of the body by death when the believer goes to be with Christ. But this is expressly what he did not wish, however blessed in itself, for the very reason that the blessing was only for himself in His presence. What he desired was fresh glory to Christ when He comes; for then and only then is the believer “clothed upon.” He resumes the body then, no longer like the first Adam, but like the Last, once having borne the image of the earthy, thenceforward bearing that of the Heavenly. We will have put on our house which is from heaven, according to our longing desire. For it is not even necessary to be “unclothed,” that is, to put off the body by dying. All turns on the coming of Christ who is our life in all its fulness. If He tarry and call us meanwhile to be with Him, we shall of course be “unclothed;” but if He come while we wait for Him here, we shall be “clothed” upon without the putting off of our tabernacle. For from the heavens we await Him as Saviour, who shall transform our body of humiliation into conformity to His body of glory according to the power which He has even to subdue all things to Himself. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last tramp; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Hence it is said here “that what is mortal shall be swallowed up by life,” not merely raised up out of death, but the mortal in us yielding to the superior and all-transforming power of the life in Christ, the body no longer as it was in Adam, but as in the Second man coming again from heaven.
The New Testament apostle goes considerably and characteristically beyond the Old Testament prophet, though both statements be true and one writer be inspired as really as the other. Yet the truth is not quite the same; for Isaiah speaks of Jehovah swallowing up “death” in victory [or, for ever], and this will be verified ex abundanti at Christ’s coming, when there will be not only the raising of the dead in Christ but the arrest of mortality in the living saints, or, as it is here figuratively designated, the swallowing up of what is mortal by life. Even such a resurrection of the faithful would be a manifest triumph of gracious power over utter ruin: how much more that mortality should never work out into death, but be absorbed by the all conquering power of life in Christ!
Nor does the apostle allow the smallest uncertainty in the hope before the believer; nay, he affirms an actual and divine pledge which cannot fail. “Now He that wrought us for this very thing [is] God that gave us the earnest of the Spirit.” (Ver. 5.) How blessed to have come under the operation of His grace, even while here we groan in the tabernacle! But so it is. We have life in Christ, yea, everlasting life, and everlasting redemption. God, who cannot fail, does not begin to leave His work an unfinished thing. He that wrought us for this very thing, the swallowing up of the mortal by the life which triumphs for ever, the self-same portion as Christ, is God, as indeed He only would have thought of it or could have so wrought; nor this only, for He gave us the earnest of the Spirit that we might taste the joy of coming glory, having its pledge even in our utter weakness. It is not the “anointing” us here as elsewhere, which has a larger force, not yet the “sealing” us, but that aspect of the Spirit given to us which is in relation to Christ’s coming again, and our entering on the inheritance with Him. It is “the earnest of the Spirit” given in our hearts, that we might not rest here, vainly contenting ourselves with what is present, or groaning without a divine taste of that which we shall share with Christ, as even hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that was given to us.
It is instructive to notice how the coming of the Lord is not only urged continually in the scriptures as the constant and proximate expectation of the saints, but underlies all and accounts for much even where not a word is said about it directly or openly as here. It is the failure of the divines, and even of commentators, in perceiving this which has exposed them to such poverty (if not perversity) of interpretation in speaking of this momentous passage, which ought not to present a difficulty to a single believer, but to be the cheer of every christian heart, as evidently intended of God. Had the coming of the Lord been a practical truth living in the souls of good men like Dr. John Guyse and the mass of even orthodox and godly Protestants, could they have applied these words to that which is immediately after their death, merely allowing that, as the happiness of the soul in heaven will be followed and completed by the resurrection of the body, the apostle might also have that in his ultimate view? No, it is not true, (whatever the happiness of the separate state with Christ, of which we shall hear anon,) that he is here treating of “the transcendent undefiled felicities of an immortal life, which the soul shall enter upon as soon as ever it is separated from the body,” but of the resurrection or change when Christ comes. Of this theology stops short; and hardly any other cause has produced wider or deeper effects on saints in Christendom than such habitual and systematic forgetfulness of our proper hope. On the other hand, nothing has contributed more than its recovery to awaken the faithful by self-judgment to their past low estate and their true posture of waiting for the Lord, yea, going out to meet Him, according to His own parabolic prediction.
Such then is the power of life in Christ which we possess now. We look for glory even for the body if it were dissolved, for mortality to vanish before it if Christ came, without any need of death, which was already vanquished. God has wrought us for this very thing, the same glory as Christ, and meanwhile has given us the earnest of the Spirit.
“Therefore being always confident, and knowing that, while present in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by appearance [or, sight]), we are confident and well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore also we are zealous that, whether present or absent, we may be agreeable to him.” (Vers. 6-9.)
The good courage of the Christian is unbroken by death, though he looks not for death as a man does. His confidence is founded on Christ, he knows God for him, and he has the Spirit as earnest of all he hopes for. All things are sure, and among them life or death: but Christ governs all, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. Neither death nor life nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are courageous then at all times, whatever the way of God with us meanwhile, and know that, while at home in the body, we are abroad from the Lord. This is not our rest, it is polluted. He is not here but risen and in glory, and our hearts are with Him where He is, and we look for Him to be like Him as well as with Him. But this is not all. We know that, while sojourning in the body as now, we are away from the Lord. This is neither the ground of our confidence, as Calvin most strangely misconceived,57 nor is it an exception to it as Romanists and Rationalists have thought. It accompanies our good cheer and falls in with it as a part of our christian knowledge, and it accounts for our readiness of mind to quit the body when summoned, and to go home with the Lord. The connection of
εἴδοτες is both grammatically and logically with
εὐδοκοῦμεν, though afterwards resumed in another shape.
The wisdom of God is apparent in this. For here we have one of the few scriptures which give us the light of God on the intermediate state of the Christian: and it is of great moment that the immense blessedness of the final victory should not cloud that state of bliss which intervenes.
There is on the one hand no excuse for the unbelief which makes everything of going to be with Christ after death and stops short of the only adequate answer in our resurrection and change at Christ’s coming by the power of His resurrection. But on the other it is a real slight of God’s grace and of Christ’s redemption to darken the condition of the disembodied soul in order to heighten the splendour of the resurrection morn. It is not true that the apostle when looking to the dissolution of his earthly tabernacle was comforted only by the building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; for in this very context he shows that we choose rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. And in fact inability to look at death or Satan in the face is a proof of weakness, not strength, of faith. The apostle does exactly the right thing in the Holy Ghost: for while he does present in the forefront the full triumph of life in Christ, he does not misrepresent departure to be with Him as bare and ghastly, or the state as airy, shadowy, or fantastical. It is of course unworldly, but not therefore inert; for it is to be with Christ which is far better than remaining in the flesh, though far short of the triumph we shall share when He comes. Never does the apostle treat it as sepulchral gloom and pale moonlight, which is the mere depreciation of the human spirit vexed with the perversity of such as blot the glorious hope of resurrection from their Bibles. Again, leaving out Christ. death is a parting, not a meeting; but is it a sorrowful parting if we go to be with Him in paradise? No doubt it is not our one hope; but is it then the cheerless parting, the sorrow without hope, which unbelief makes it? Such exaggeration is mischievous, most of all in those who call on the saints to wait for Christ’s coming; for what is false in their statements acts powerfully to discredit what is true, and thus to hinder souls instead of helping them. The balance of truth is lost, and such as on scripture warrant look for the blessedness of those with Christ who fall asleep are stumbled by the doubt cast on it and indisposed to receive what may be doubtless truly said of the triumphant result of His coming.
As death then will own itself vanquished in every saint, yea, mortality itself in the living saints be swallowed up of life when Christ comes, so even now death itself in no way hinders the saint from enjoying the presence of the Lord. Both truths are clearly revealed here and in this order. They are due to Him and the redemption He has accomplished for us; they are of the utmost moment for the heart of every saint. It is ignorance to overlook either; it is of the enemy to misuse one to destroy or enfeeble the other.
The parenthetic verse 7 has given much trouble to scholars, though the general sense is plain enough. But
εἶδος in the New Testament, as in ordinary Greek authors, seems rarely if ever used like
ὄψις for sight, but for “appearance” (as in Luke 9:29), or “form” (as in Luke 3:22; John 5:32, as also derivatively in an ethical sense in 1 Thess. 5:22). Every intelligent reader of Plato and Aristotle knows its philosophic bearing as modified by their respective theories. But “species,” or “sort,” or “form,” cannot be meant here. We are shut up therefore by New Testament usage to the alternative “appearance,” unless we admit the sense of “sight” with our authorised translators, though its occurrence in this subjective meaning seems doubtful in any author, sacred or profane. The substantial meaning however amounts to the same. We walk by faith, not by appearance, being absent from the Lord and heaven. If we look at the unseen and eternal, it is by faith, not on the things or persona themselves, as we shall when actually there.
Hence the apostle sums up with a somewhat irregular but all the more forcible emphasis,
δέ being used like our “well,” or “why,” or “nay.” “We are confident and well pleased rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.” (Ver. 8.) Granted, that it is a state imperfect for man, and short of the glorious consummation according to the counsels of God. But grace has intervened even now; and as the God who spake light to shine out of darkness, shone in our hearts here below for the shining forth of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, so our departure is, if we value His presence, incomparable accession of enjoyment. For we go to no abode of dimness unworthy of Him and His blood, but to the brightest realms of heaven where He is in everlasting joy and glory. The Lord Jesus receives our spirits; as it is to be with Him. No wonder we are pleased rather to go from our home in the body, and to come to our home with the Lord.
“Wherefore also we are zealous, whether present or absent, to be agreeable to him.” (Ver. 9.) The common version conveys an utterly misleading idea, which if fully received would destroy the gospel; and the more so as
φιλοτιμούμεθα is rendered “we labour” or “endeavour,” and
εὐάρεστοι “accepted,” to the danger of insinuating salvation by works in the most bare-faced manner. Already accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1) we aspire — it is our zealous aim — to serve Him well, whether present or absent. This is in His hands, and our confidence either way is unbroken; but our ambition, if we have any in the Holy Ghost, is to be agreeable to Him. As His favour is better than life, so would we devote ourselves to His pleasure who delights only in what is good, holy, true, lowly and loving.
The apostle now introduces the very solemn consideration, not exactly of judgment, but of the judgment-seat of Christ. Judgment of course is included, but the judgment-seat embraces more, as we shall see.
“For we must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each may receive the things [done] in [literally, by] the body according to what he did, whether good or evil. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men; but we have been manifested to God, and I hope also to have been manifested in your consciences.” (Vers. 10, 11)
Grace is not at variance with righteousness, but on the contrary reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Nor can any truth be more indisputable or universally applicable than the manifestation of every man, saint or sinner, before the Lord. There is the utmost precision in the language as always in scripture. Never is it written that we must all be judged. Indeed this would contradict the clear declaration of our Lord in John 5 that the believer has eternal life and does not come into judgment (
εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται). It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; whereas we, believers, are not all to die, but all to be changed: in fact, none of us alive when Christ comes shall fall asleep but be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven without passing through death, mortality being swallowed up of life. But if no believers shall be judged, all must be manifested, saint no less than sinner, that each may receive the things [done] by the body (or, as the Authorised Version says, done in it), according to what he did, whether good or bad.
Hence it may be noticed that the form of the phrase favours the universality of the manifestation. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, where no more is meant than all of us Christians, it is
ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες, whereas here it is
τοὺς γὰρ πάντας ἡμᾶς, which lays greater stress on the totality, and makes it thus absolute. Accordingly the language suits the aim of comprehending Christians within an area which has no exception.
So again it is not a question of rewarding service as in 1 Corinthians 3:8, 14, but of retribution in the righteous government of God according to what each did whether good or bad. This covers all, just or unjust. It is for the divine glory that every work done by man should appear as it really is before Him who is ordained by God Judge of living and dead. Only as the believer is by grace exempted from judgment both as a partaker of everlasting life and as having in Jesus a perfectly efficacious Saviour, his standing before the judgment-seat assumes the character of manifestation, and in no way of a trial with the awful possibility of destruction. There is not the smallest compromise of the salvation he now enjoys by faith; and he is accordingly glorified before he stands there. He will give account of himself to God and be manifested; but there is no condemnation depending on the issue then, as there is none now to those that are in Christ. This may not be reasonable in man’s eyes, but it suits the God of all grace and is due to the glory and suffering of the Son of God, and harmonises with the testimony of the Holy Spirit, whose seal will not be broken or dishonoured in that day. And as it is for God’s glory, so it is for the perfect blessing of the believer that everything should stand out in the light and he himself should know even as he is known.
Nothing will blind the eye then, no unsuspected motive warp the heart or mind before the judgment-seat of Christ. The merciful care, the overruling power, of God in all our ways will appear in their astonishing wisdom and goodness, no longer concealed by the mists of this life. We shall know perfectly what debtors we were to grace, and the resources and activity of that grace in our chequered history and experience even as saints, and the boundless patience of God to the last, as well as His rich mercy at the first. Even now what a comfort for us to have renounced the dishonesty of the natural heart, to judge ourselves unsparingly in presence of love that never fails, to be in the light of God, and have no guile in our spirit as those who know Him who by redemption can and will impute nothing to us! And this is true to faith now that we believe in Him who suffered once for us that He might bring us to God: not a cloud above, not a spot within. The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. Perfect love casts out fear. We love Him who first loved us, and shirk not but welcome the light which makes everything manifest. “We have been — we are — manifested to God.” It is the mighty and abiding effect of Christ’s work, which made us meet for sharing the inheritance of the saints in light. We no longer walk in darkness as once when we had on true knowledge of God; we walk in the light as He is in the light.
Yet are there times when what is always true in principle is applied powerfully in fact to the Christian whom God gives in quiet retirement, often in a sick chamber, to review his ways and examine himself alone with God, when energy or self-love or flattery do not enfeeble a holy self-judgment; and all the more deeply, as he firmly holds to the assurance of God’s changeless favour. What is thus verified in a high degree by the way will be complete and perfect at that day, when we already caught up and glorified in the body shall be manifested before the judgment-seat without a trace of the shame that either hides or with pain confesses. It is great gain to have such times on earth, though the process be but imperfect, greater still the more it approaches an habitual state. How full the blessing when all is absolutely out in love and light with Christ!
But, as we have seen, the manifestation has an end here described, that each may receive the things [done] in [or, by] the body, good or bad. Even in the saints all had not been good; and all has its result, though not to jeopard the grace that saved by Christ. But as God is not unrighteous to forget the work of faith and labour of love, so failure and wrong entail loss; and the soul itself will in full intelligence and unmurmuring adoration bow and bless Him who orders the place of each in the kingdom, and who (while never abandoning His own sovereignty) will take note of the greater or less fidelity and devotedness of each in service or ways.
Thus will God be vindicated, displayed and enjoyed in all that He is and does; and thus will the saint have perfect communion with all, in not a single detail any more than as a whole missing the joy and blessedness of what He is to all His own and to each for ever.
But the manifestation of the wicked, as it will be at a considerably later time, so it will have a wholly different character and effect. The judgment-seat in this case will be the judgment of the great white throne after the reign of the thousand years, as for the righteous it will be before that, when the dead small and great are (not manifested only but) judged each according to their works. (Rev. 20) They refused the Saviour; they stood in their own righteousness or were indifferent about the lack of it, thinking nothing of God or counting Him like themselves. They had no life, as no faith, in Christ; they rise to a resurrection not of life but of judgment, for God will judge all who believe not by Him whom they despised. And if the righteous be saved with difficulty, with a difficulty which nothing but sovereign grace in Christ could surmount, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear? It is eternal judgment dealing with evil, and the issues are as sure as awful and endless.
“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men; but we have been manifested to God, and I hope also to have been manifested in your consciences.” (Ver. 11)
The language here again confirms and necessitates the universality of the manifestation already noticed. For as there is no reason to soften down “the terror of the Lord,” so there seems no force in our persuading men if it does not mean the heart of the saint urged in love by the tremendous sense of divine judgment impending on the heedless yet guilty sinner. How deep and loud and constant the call for those who believe to arouse those who believe not, while the day of grace lingers, that they may not unwarned brave that judgment which will be their irremediable ruin to “persuade men” on the one hand of the wickedness, the folly, and the danger of sin; on the other of the reality and freeness, of the fulness and certainty, of salvation in Christ. Fearing always ourselves, no less than knowing His love, we realise for them what unbelief easily forgets till too late, and would be therefore the more in earnest to call to repentance in the light of the gospel of God’s grace. And in this we are the more free, because we have been and are manifested to God. Our guilt is gone; we are justified, and are children of light, though once darkness — light in the Lord. Hence we speak what we know and press a remedy, a deliverance, we have proved. We are already manifested to God; so that the manifestation before the judgment, let it be ever so profound or minute, awakens no alarm for ourselves but anxiety for “men,” for all in their natural state, who have not Christ. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men; but we have been manifested to God; and I hope also to have been manifested in your consciences.” A most pressing motive was that judgment-seat, with the terror of the Lord for men, to preach the gospel far and wide; and the more because consciously before God, as he humbly but not without a reproof adds, “and I hope also to have been manifested in your consciences.” Of the former he was sure and speaks absolutely; of the other he could only say “I hope also,” not because it ought to have been doubtful, but because their state was not all he could desire. And a state that is not good is apt to suspect evil in those who reprove it. The Corinthian saints, though in a measure restored and restoring, had not dealt with the apostle as became them. Love ought always to be able to count on love; but he had to say of them that, the more abundantly he loved them, the less he was loved.
The apostle felt, as we have seen, that he could appeal to their consciences, now that self-judgment was begun in the Corinthians. We have been and are manifested to God; and I hope also to have been manifested in your consciences. This might have seemed, to ill-disposed men, savouring of self-complacency. It is really what every saint walking in the truth with integrity of heart is entitled to say, whatever an enemy might insinuate: a blessed state and statement doubtless; but what does not grace give to and effect in the Christian? And when strife and party-feeling are rebuked and hushed, conscience cannot but approve what is of God, even in those most defamed like the apostle. In this confidence of love he had written, and quickly guards the sheep from any misleading shaft; and this for their sakes rather than his own. A calumny indeed injures not the assailed, but those who are influenced by it.
“For we are not again commending ourselves to you, but giving you occasion to boast on our behalf, that ye may have [it] with those boasting in face and not in heart. For whether we are beside ourselves, [it is] to God; or are sober, [it is] for you. For the love of Christ constraineth us, having judged this, that if58 one died for all, then the all were dead [or, died]; and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for them died and rose.” (Vers. 12-15.)
Nothing can be conceived more admirably than the apostle’s delicacy, as far from indifference to the saints as from lording it over them, and equally far from the arts of those who, while ingratiating themselves with the Corinthian assembly, in order to exalt their own reputation and lower the apostle, were blinded by the enemy to attribute to him their own unscrupulous ways. He loved the saints with an unsullied conscience and an unselfish heart, and he counted on their confidence, now that grace had begun to work restoratively. As he did not seek to commend himself by what he said of his ministry, so neither did he again by appealing to their consciences as to his ways. He was but affording them occasion for boast, as he says, “on our behalf, that ye may have [it] with those that boast in face [or person], and not in heart.” (Ver. 12.) For, on the one hand, holiness and truth go together, care for God’s glory and love of His children; and, on the other, those who however fair in his presence aimed at undermining the apostle, were serving not the Master but their own belly.
But was he not inconsistent and capricious, at one time so ecstatic that none could follow his transports, at another so sedate as to chill his brethren and abridge their liberty? Not so; “For whether we are59 beside ourselves, [it is] to God; or are sober, [it is] for you.” (Ver. 13.) Cold is the heart that knows no rapture before God as one thinks of His grace in Christ. Such certainly was not St. Paul’s case, as we may see in many a doxology which interrupts a chain of closest reasoning, and yet more when the love of Christ or the counsels of God are before his eyes. But the same Paul can come down to the most ordinary questions of daily walk, can regulate the relations of husband and wife, or of master and slave, can prescribe for a weakly man, and cheek a woman’s taste for dress. There is one name, and but one, which draws out and accounts for both feelings, raising the heart above all that is seen and temporal, yet giving the most lively interest in the smallest detail of the life that now is. And He who, bears that name is both God and man in one person.
“For the love of Christ constraineth us, having judged this, that, if one died for all, then the all were dead [or, died]; and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for them died and rose.” (Vers. 14, 15.)
If transported when turning to God, the need of saints and desire for the Lord’s glory in them awoke sober thoughts; nor this only, for the love of Christ urged his soul toward men, sinners no less than saints, in loving service and faithful testimony of the truth. If there was the solemnity of manifestation before the judgment-seat of Christ, there was the constraining energy of His love. There was no vain conceit of man’s improveableness, no crying up of intellectual culture, nor even the most distant hope of good from further moral training. He had judged this that, if one died for all, then the all died or were dead. Christ’s death for all is the proof that it was all over with mankind. If He went down in grace to the grave, it was just because men were already there, and none otherwise could be delivered. In this way of death is Christ here known, not a living Messiah to reign over the quick, but One who died for all, for all were under death; and it is a question of man universally, not of Israel only, and of the power and triumph of life in Christ over death.
Hence, if nothing short of this is the judgment of the Christian as of the apostle, if there is no slighting of the fatal effects of sin, if death is seen and owned to be written on all, the death of Christ, though so unsparing in its import becomes the ground of deliverance; for we have judged also that He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves. There is then life in Him risen, and this not in Him only, but for those who believe. He is our life. And such is the meaning of “those who live;” not merely those alive on earth (though this be implied, of course) but living of His life, in contrast with “all dead.”
It is contended, as I am aware, that
ἀπέθανον can only mean “died,” and not “are” or “were dead.” But this is an oversight from pressing too technically the aoristic force, so as to clash with English idiom. We may see how harsh it would be to absolutely reduce us to the English preterite by a glance at the same or a kindred word in the case of Jairus’ daughter. Even the most servile of translators gives us Matthew 9:18 as “My daughter is just dead” (
ἄρτι ἐτελεύτησεν), though he represents verse 24, “For the maid did not die but is sleeping” (
οὐ γὰρ απέθανεν); and Mark 5 as “My daughter is dead” (ver. 35), but “The child did not die” (ver. 39); and Luke 8, She did not die.” Is it not evident that the nature of the case modifies the aorist? Although strictly
ἀπέθανεν expresses only the fact that one died, still, death being for the present final, it may be used for, as it implies, the condition of death: if one died, one is dead. But where express precision is intended, the perfect appears as in Luke 8:49, “My daughter is dead,”
τέθνηκεν. Yet in verses 52, 53, it is in both cases
ἀπέθανεν. To say here “She did not die,” and “she did die,” is mere pedantry, not good English; and in this connection the Authorised Version more fittingly gives “she is not dead,” and “she was dead.” It is not that the aorist is ever used with impropriety, or confounded with the perfect; but that the fact in Greek is enough, where English gives the state.
The same thing is no less appropriate here, where death spiritually, not physically, is in question. Grammar does not touch the question, whether the death is of all men as such, or of the saints;
ἀπέθανον might be used either of death by sin or of death to sin. There was intention, it seems, in retaining the same word for all as for Christ, though a different expression for men might have been used, as in Ephesians 2. But this would have interfered with the aim, which is as much as possible to link His death in grace with theirs in sin.60 “If one died for all, then the all died,” or “were dead.” And that this is the universal condition of mankind, is made the more apparent by the further judgment that He died for all, that those who live, etc. It is not
ζῶντες as including all for whom He died, but
οἱ ζῶντες as some out of all, “those that live” in contradistinction to all dead. It is the solemn judgment of faith that all are dead, whatever appearances may say; it is its no less sure but happy judgment that Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to Him who for them died and rose. What men call a judgment of charity is Satan’s cheat, and as far from the truth as from real love. It is the delusion of trusting appearance and feeling and reason against God’s word. True love according to God owns that all are dead, but in the faith of Christ’s death seeks that others too might believe and live, and that those who live should live to Christ.
The reader will observe that Christ’s resurrection is associated only with “those who live.” This again confirms the special class of the living, as only included in, and not identical with, all for whom He died. Those who would narrow the all for whom He died to the elect, lose the first truth; those who see the special blessedness but responsibility of the saints, those that live, lose the second. He died for all; He was raised again for the justifying of those who believe, and who consequently had life in Him; that they might live no longer to themselves, as of old in their sinful folly, but to their dead and risen Saviour. It was not only “the terror of the Lord” that acted on the apostle’s soul, but the constraining love of Christ. His outgoings of heart, and labours of love were not bounded by the church, however dear to him; as we saw, he would not only feed the flock, but “persuade men.” He knew what the judgment-seat must be to sinful man, but he knew also the efficacy of Christ’s death, and the power of His resurrection. If Christ died for all, he earnestly sought all, and preached to all, urgent in season and out of season. The judgment which faith gave him seems therefore, like the context before and after, to take in all men, no less than the saints; whereas another line is brought in, out of harmony with what we have, if we speak of death to sin only, limiting the range of the first clause to the elect, instead of seeing its universality.
Thus the apostle sees death come in for all, and judgment awaiting men as such; and, because this was the fact for all, Christ dead for all. Promises avail not, nor the kingdom: so complete is man’s ruin. Else a living Messiah would have sufficed. But no! only a Saviour that died could meet the case; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live to themselves, but to Him who for them died and rose. This closes the door, not for Him only who died, but for those that by and in Him live, on the world and man. Not “all” alas! but only “those who live,” really live to Him who died and rose for them. All outside Him and them is death; and they, now living, are called to live to Him: how could those who rejecting Him have not life?
This is practical Christianity. They are bound, as they owe all, to the Saviour, but to Him not in this world, but gone out of it as dead and risen for them. It is Christ who determines and characterises all for the Christian. It is not Christ as He was when coming into the world on this side of the grave; nor Christ as He will govern the world by-and-by in power and glory, but Christ who for them died and rose. Thus is He known to the Christian, and thus is the Christian to live. Nor is it, as sense and tradition reckon, that in the midst of life we are in death, or exposed to it, but that now in the midst of death we by grace live, but would live and own our obligation to live to Him who dead and risen is in a new sphere, to which we too belong, though still on earth, as the apostle proceeds to set forth, man as well as self being done with to faith, and ourselves belonging to Him. Thus He who is the source of life is also the object of life to the Christian; and this in His full character of death and resurrection, so as to act the more on the affections. For if He died for us in grace, He rose for us in power, that we might devote ourselves thus set free to His service and glory.
The sin of Adam ruined creation here below. It fell in its head. Not less but more, as is due to the surpassing glory of His person, has the death and resurrection of Christ changed all gloriously for faith. The apostle draws the consequence for the present characteristic knowledge of the Christian.
“So that we henceforth know no one as to flesh:61 if we have even known Christ as to flesh, yet now are no longer knowing [him]; so that, if one [is] in Christ, [there is] a new creation; the old things passed; behold, they [or, all things]62 are become new.” (Vers. 16, 17.)
Man as he is in his present life, with all its objects, pursuits, and interests, is morally judged in the cross of Christ, where alone God is glorified as to sin. Where are earthly rank, grandeur and power? Where are intellectual activity and learned attainment? Where is mental acuteness or far-reaching all-embracing thought? Where the wisdom of the wise, or the understanding of the prudent? Where even are moral exercise, and reverence in religion? All are closed in death, all proved worthless in presence of perfect holiness and most lowly love. It is no question now of thunders and lightnings, and of Jehovah descending in fire, and every heart quaking for fear. The same God descended in grace, yet all that was of man cast Him out in the person of Jesus; and so death is stamped on all. Man judged himself in judging Him, and proved his own worthlessness, either with the pride of vain knowledge, in not knowing Him who made the world, or in receiving Him not, whom the living oracles attested and every testimony that should have gone home if man had not been deaf, yea, dead. Christ’s death under man’s guilty hand proved the moral death of all; and as all played their part in it, so all were sentenced before God by it.
But He is risen; and thus by divine power and grace a door is opened, not of hope merely, but of life and salvation in the midst of a waste of death. Doubtless the mass of men go on as heedless as ever, the Gentiles abusing their power, the Jews striving to drown their judicial misery; but we, if none else, by faith beholding the dead and risen Christ, are in the secret of God now so clearly revealed in His word; we, perhaps primarily the apostle and his fellow-labourers, but we Christians also in contrast with all under death. Beyond question Paul entered into the full truth of all this, as no one else did; but surely it is no apostolic prerogative to know none according to flesh, to value nothing before God which flows not from Him who is risen from the dead.
The apostle goes even farther. “But if even we have known Christ as to flesh, yet now no longer know we him.” This is so strong that it is impossible to go beyond it. For Christ was the just cause of every expectation of blessing here below. In Him all promises centred, not only a rod out of Jesse’s stem, but a root of Jesse, to which the Gentiles should seek. All hopes for men living on the earth were buried in the grave of Christ: not because of any defect of power or grace in Him, but because man is dead Godward, and how could He reign at God’s expense? How take pleasure in governing a nature at enmity with God? No; He died, not only as the full witness of man’s state, but to lay a righteous ground of deliverance to God’s glory.
No doubt the Jews looked for Him to reign after an earthly sort, exalting the chosen nation of whom He is the chief. But we know Him only as a dead and risen Christ; and if even, as the apostle adds, we have known Him according to flesh, that is, on this side the grave, yet now we know Him so no more. Our association is with Him in that new and heavenly glory, where the death through which He passed has met our evil, and now He is risen and gone on high, and our life is bid with Him in God. The apostle does not say that He ever did not know the Lord thus; but that, if it were even so, we now only know Him as the risen and heavenly Christ. The lustre of an earthly Messiah was quite swallowed up in the surpassing glory of His now place and condition. And this it is which imprints its heavenly character on Christianity. “As is the Heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” Had we been Israelites, of the tribe of Judah, of the family of David, we know Christ now in a brightness beyond the sun at noon-day, which utterly dims the light of promise to which we had formerly turned fondly with all our souls.
Nor is this all; for there is power in Him as well as an object that we know. It is not a question of apprehending Christ no more as Messiah, nor even of only knowing Him above. The life that is in Him has won the victory for us already and entitled us to regard and speak of ourselves according to His new estate. So that, if one is in Christ, [there is] a new creation the old things passed; behold, they [or, all things together] are become new.” We do not wait for the kingdom, still less the eternal state, before we know and can say so if any are in Christ, as every Christian is. A new creation can be predicated of such an one, Christ in risen and heavenly glory being the Head. What is true of Him can be said of His, as being in Him. The old things have passed; behold, all things together (
τὰ π.) are become now. Faith sees the end from the beginning and looks for all the consequences according to Christ risen. It is no question, as so many make it, of examining ourselves within and seeing how completely we are changed in principles and path as well as spirit and end, since we believed in Christ, though there is a vital change and self-judgment be incumbent on us. It is what faith knows and can say, because of being “in Christ” and knowing Him only as risen, not connected with man on the earth, for this is closed in His death for ever. It is true of “any one in Christ.” Whatever he may have been, Gentile or Jew matters not; if in Christ, there is a new creation, and from the starting-point the end is as sure as the beginning is the great all-including fact in Christ’s person.
The marginal reading, “let them be” a new creature, was probably due to Calvin, whose notion at any rate agrees with it; but it destroys all the force and beauty of the passage by making it no more than exhortation. On the other hand, it is no question of mere experience, which would reduce the language miserably. It is faith judging and speaking according to Christ, in whom the believer is. Thus new creation has all its scope. But it is of all moment to be ever measuring and forming experience by faith, and not to lower faith by experience.
Nor is it a question of new creation alone, great as is the power requisite for it, and precious as its exercise is in presence of death and ruin. Man can avail nothing. It is a question therefore of God; and love and righteousness would reconcile the lost and guilty foes to God, without which His glory must be compromised. Hence it is written, after “all things [or, they] are become now,” “And they all [are] of God that reconciled us to himself by Christ63 and gave to us the ministry of the reconciliation: how that it was God in Christ reconciling [the] world to himself, not reckoning to them their offences, and putting in us the word of the reconciliation. For Christ then we are ambassadors, God as it were beseeching by us, we entreat for Christ, Be reconciled to God: him64 that knew not sin he made sin for us, that we might become65 God’s righteousness in him.” (Vers. 18-21.)
One object of reconciliation, as we read in Col. 1 embraces all things in heaven and on earth. But this is future, and awaits the appearing of Christ. Meanwhile believers are already reconciled, being not only born of God but redeemed. In virtue of the work of Christ God can act freely, not reinstating merely but making good their relationship, as it suits His own nature as well as theirs, according to His love and for His glory. Traditional orthodoxy errs in insisting on the death of Christ to reconcile His Father to us. Scripture never speaks thus. But if it declares that God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son in order that the believer should not perish but have everlasting life, it is no less peremptory that the Son of man must be lifted up in order to the same blessed result. (John 3:14-16.) Still more dangerous is the error which leaves out that God is light in the anxiety to press that He is love. Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. We must not let the needed expiation of our sins by the blood of Christ be weakened by the blessed fact that we are also reconciled to God. The enmity was on our side, not on His; but what was our evil nature, what our sins, in His eyes? Does not God abhor iniquity and rebelliousness, hypocritical form or even indifference to His will? And, if He abhor, has He no majesty to vindicate, nor authority to judge? After sin and before judgment came Christ, who gave Himself up not only to manifest God in this world but to suffer on the cross. Hence, instead of nothing but righteous judgment awaiting guilty man at the end, the Lord Jesus has so met and even glorified God as to sin in His death, that divine righteousness now justifies the believer; and the reconciliation is so complete that in virtue of His redemption we stand in a wholly new relationship which derives its character from Christ risen from the dead. In due time all things in heaven and on earth shall be made new accordingly. Even now if one is in Christ, it is a new creation. The rest will follow in its season, whether for our body, or for heaven and earth; but for us reconciliation is a fact now. God reconciled us to Himself by Christ, as surely as He gave the ministry of reconciliation.
For the saving grace of God has a service suited to itself. It does not, like the law, govern a people already in relationship with God; it calls, as Christ did, not the righteous but sinners to repentance. The word of truth it proclaims for all to hear is the gospel of salvation; and those who hear not only live but are saved by grace through faith, quickened with Christ, raised up together, and made to sit down together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that God might display in the coming ages the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Reconciliation therefore is a term of rich meaning, and goes far beyond repentance or faith, quickening or justification. It is, if we may borrow the figure which lies at the root of the word, God’s settlement of account in favour of him who, if he have nothing to pay, submits to His righteousness. Divine love in Christ has undertaken all and has set down the enemy and lost one, not only in deliverance, but in full favour, boasting in hope of God’s glory, yea even now in God Himself through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a question of our dispositions and feelings only but of relationship with God, out of which we were as sinners, into which His grace has now brought us who believe, not according to Adam unfallen, but according to Christ dead, risen, and glorified, in virtue of His redemption outside us, though of course not without our being born anew.
But let us follow the apostle’s explanation of the ministry of reconciliation: “How that it was God in Christ reconciling [the] 66world to himself, not reckoning to them their offences, and having put in us the word of the reconciliation.” (Ver. 19.) By a change of form in the participles, there appears to be intimated, first, the continuous aspect of Christ’s presence here below, and, secondly, the gospel charge deposited in His servants when He was no longer here. God put in us, says the apostle, the word of the reconciliation. But what was He doing when the Reconciler Himself was here? It was not the law, which forbade all approach and registered every transgression; it was God (or, God was) in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning to them their offences. This is not Christ’s death, but His living presence; nor is it consequently that He reconciled the believers by His death, but the bearing of God in Him toward not Jews only but a guilty rebellious world; and it was reconciling — Jew or Gentile, it matters not, if it was God there and thus in Christ — reconciling the world, and consequently not reckoning to them their offences. Was it not thus He bore Himself to the woman in Luke 7? to the Samaritans in John 4? But why enumerate? It was His special aspect in Christ here below, dealing in grace, not law, and hence indiscriminately, not reckoning to them their offences. On the one hand, He came to seek and to save the lost; on the other “him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out.” For the bread of God is He that came down from heaven and gives life to the world. As He was far beyond the rnanna, angels’ food (Ps. 78:25), so He is for the world, not for Israel only. For this is the will of His Father’ that every one that sees the Son and believes on Him should have life eternal, and He will raise him up at the last day. Christ’s presence, or God’s in Him, was the full proof that fallen man is irremediable. Before the flood he was left to himself; and such was the corruption and violence that God had to sweep all away, save Noah’s family in the ark. After the flood in due time the great trial of law was carried on in the chosen and separate nation; but they transgressed in every way, people and priests, judges and kings, till there was “no remedy,” even after prophet on prophet was sent in patience truly divine. Last of all He sent to them His Son, saying, They will reverence My Son. But when the husbandmen saw Him, they said among themselves, This is the heir: come, let us kill Him, and let us seize on His inheritance. And they caught Him, and cast Him out of the vineyard and slew Him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard comes, what will He do to those husbandmen?
Such is the divine account of human responsibility as tested in Israel even till judgment. But the display of grace in Christ here below is no less true and of infinite moment; and man’s rejection of God in grace was as evident and complete as his total failure under law. For though Christ was here and the fulness of grace and truth in Him, receiving publicans and sinners, not reckoning to them their offences, they crucified Him as they had forsaken Jehovah for an idol.
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; and over human iniquity at its worst God triumphs in Christ, yea in His cross. Hence, when the Son of man was cast out of the world, when it is no longer God in Christ reconciling the world and rising above every offence, He put the word of the reconciliation in chosen vessels; and as we have had the character of God’s action in Christ in the days of His flesh, so here follows their character as sent out to testify of Him. “For Christ then we are ambassadors, God as it were beseeching by us, we entreat for Christ, Be reconciled to God: him that knew not sin he made sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness in him.” (Vers. 20, 21.) The dignity is indeed great. They represent, not Levites, nor priests, nor yet the high priest, but Christ dead and risen, and this in the aspect of divine grace, God as it were (it was not meet to speak absolutely) beseeching by us: we entreat on behalf, or instead, of Christ, Be reconciled to God. Such is the gospel call to the world in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. The grace of God and of Christ is stamped on every word; and human assumption as wholly excluded from its nature, as human worth or means from that new creation where all things are of God, flowing through Christ risen from the dead.
Calvin expounded verse 20 as the apostle addressing himself to believers. He declares that he brings to them this embassy every day. Christ therefore did not suffer that He might expiate our sins once only, nor was the gospel ordained merely with a view to the pardon of those sins which we committed previously to baptism, but that, as we daily sin, so we might also by a daily remission be received by God into His favour. For this is a perpetual embassy, which must be assiduously sounded forth in the church till the end of the world; and the gospel cannot be preached unless remission of sins is promised.67 This is as great at an error, if not so pernicious, as the broad-church rationalism which teaches that the world is reconciled to God. The contrary of this last appears from this very verse. The apostle exemplifies the gospel call he was commissioned to declare in the words, Be reconciled to God. This exhortation does imply that they were not yet reconciled; and no boldness of assertion, no tortuous reasoning, can elude the plain expression of scripture. Not less plainly does the apostle contradict the first error in verse 18, which states that God reconciled us to Himself by Christ — a fact accomplished for the believer, as other scriptures treating of the subject confirm. It is false that the apostle is here addressing himself to believers; he is giving a specimen of the true call to the unconverted. Neither here nor anywhere else does he testify that he brings to the saints such an embassy as this every day.
Another apostle, not less truly inspired of God, expressly declares that Christ did once suffer for sins; as the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 10:11-14) pointedly sets aside the Judaism of a daily provision to meet daily sins by the revelation that Christ, having offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity (
εἰς τὸ διηνεκές) at God’s right hand . . . . for by one offering He has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified. It is not denied that we need our feet washed day by day, to use the expressive figure of our Lord; but this is the washing of water by the word in answer to His advocacy, not a fresh application of blood or another reconciliation into God’s favour: strange doctrine from the head of Calvinism. The truth is that none of the Reformers knew the blessed comfort of Christ’s having come by water as well as blood; and the effort to make the blood do the work of the water also has impaired in the minds of Protestants generally the full efficacy of the blood that cleanses from every sin. Of Romanists we need not speak, as they refused to profit by the candle of the Reformation.
It will be noticed that the critical text drops the argumentative particle with which the Authorised Version opens the last verse. The sentence is not so much a reason for the call that precedes as an explanation which the apostle adds in continuance, yet more enforcing the call. Him that knew no sin — not merely is it a fact, but no other supposition is admissible — He [God] made sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness in Him: a most full and blessed statement of the way in which grace secured its victory when guilty man seemed to have lost the last possible hope through Christ, by rejecting Him even on His errand of reconciling love. In that rejection to the death of the cross God wrought another thing, even atonement; He made Christ sin, laying for us His solemn unsparing judgment of sin on His holy head, that we might become God’s righteousness in Him. Thus was our reconciliation effected by propitiation and substitution, the two goats of atonement-day, which find their meaning in the work of Christ on the cross, as we may see both parts distinguished in Hebrews 9:26-28. He became a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:13, 14.)
The aoristic, not present, subj. is the true form, for “we might become,” as all critics allow following every manuscript of value. Why Scholz and others read
γινώμεθα, it is hard to say, for every authority he cites is against him. Indeed it would be hard to show what manuscript reads the present, not even Matthaei or Scrivener citing a single cursive for it. Yet Dr. Hodge also says the apostle uses the present tense, because this justification is continuous: doctrine and criticism equally erroneous. For Christian justification is regularly spoken of as past, e.g. in Romans 5 as a fact, in Romans 6 as a state. But this last is the perfect. Where the present is used, it is abstract.
The Christian will notice the peculiar manner in which God’s righteousness is here predicated of “us.” Elsewhere it is what is revealed in the gospel, and declared both to vindicate His dealings with saints of old and still more fully at this time. (Rom. 1, 3) It is what the zealous but unbroken Jew did not submit to (Romans 10), losing that blessing in refusing Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us righteousness and all else we need. (1 Cor. 1) It is of God by faith, in contrast with one’s own. (Phil. 3) But here and here only are we said to become such, a fact as truly accomplished in the believer as the incomparable work of Him in whom He believes. Christ in virtue of His work was set at God’s right hand in heaven: no other seat was adequate to express God’s sense of His death in which sin was judged and God for ever glorified. Therefore did He raise Christ from the dead and set Him in the heavenlies; or, as the Lord said, the Spirit should convict the world of righteousness by His going to His Father and their seeing Him no more. Had there been righteousness here, the world would have received Christ to reign; but the world proved itself under Satan’s dominion by casting Him out, as God showed His righteousness by receiving Him in the highest place above; and there, associated with Him, we become God’s righteousness in Him. His righteousness wrought not only in thus exalting Christ but in justifying us according to Him. Nothing can exceed the energy of the inspired expression as to both sin and righteousness to the Saviour’s praise and our blessedness.
2 Corinthians 6
The apostle now follows up the striking specimen he had given of the ministry of reconciliation toward the close of 2 Corinthians 5 by an appeal to the Corinthians themselves. There we saw how erroneous it is to treat verse 20 as a call to the saints; for he is illustrating the word they had to preach to the world. Here the opposite error is common through fear of compromising the security of the believer; and the more so, as men like Olshausen say, It is undeniable that the apostle assumes that grace when once received may be lost: the scriptures know nothing of the dangerous error of the advocates of predestination, that grace cannot be lost; and experience stamps it as a lie. This the more orthodox Calvinist, like Hodge, attempts to meet by saying that the apostle is only exhorting men not to let God’s grace be to no purpose in making His Son sin, as it regarded them; that is, that a satisfaction for sin sufficient for all and appropriate to all had been made and offered to all in the gospel. But this is incorrect. It is a direct exhortation to the Corinthians, and not a declaration of the method in which the apostle preached, like the concluding verses of the preceding chapter. He is not exhorting all men, but the Corinthians who bore the Lord’s name not to receive the grace of God in vain. Were there no
ὑμᾶς, “you,” expressed, it might be so argued; but there it stands, not in 2 Corinthians 5:20 but here, a distinct and effectual disproof of those who would assimilate the two; and its reserve to the last place gives such an emphasis to the pronoun that the only wonder is how grave and godly men should have ignored its force. The aorist inf.
δέξεσθαι does not necessarily imply, as Meyer alleges in at least an early edition, a past reception of His grace, but may mean the act complete and decisive irrespective of time, which is thoroughly if not more consistent with the application to the Corinthians. What the apostle has in view is the danger of easy-going self-satisfaction in those who already called on the name of the Lord. So He Himself in the parabolic marriage of the king’s son had warned, first, of despising or maltreating the messengers of the gospel; secondly, of indifference to what alone suits those who come, of wearing one’s own garments instead of having put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism would aggravate, not hinder, the most condign judgment.
“And working together we also beseech that ye receive not in vain the grace of God (for he saith, In an acceptable season I listened to thee, and in a day of salvation I helped thee: behold, now aright acceptable season; behold, now a day of salvation), giving none offence in anything that the ministry be not blamed.” (Vers. 1-3.)
There is no authority for inserting “with him” as in the italics of the Authorised Version, though supported by many commentators.68 It is an unscriptural familiarity, if not irreverent. 1 Corinthians 3:9 gives it no real countenance; for the messengers are said to be, not fellow-workers with God, but His fellow-workmen, or journeymen together doing His work. So here, but by and on behalf of Him they work together, and exhort not men only to believe the gospel, but those who already professed faith not to receive His grace in vain. And “beseeching,” while just applied to those without in token of the incomparable goodness of God to His enemies, is not less suitable in urging on His professing saints to beware of all inconsistent with His grace. The security of His children is unquestionable, not so much through their perseverance as men say, but by His power through faith: but the Corinthians needed and received faithful entreaty, for their ways were not such as became the gospel. They were compromising His glory who Lad called them to the fellowship of His Son; and the apostle, instead of comforting them with the blessed assurances at the close of Romans 8, would here exercise conscience as well as affection in presence of God’s grace.
Nor is this enfeebled but strengthened by the following verse in which Isaiah 49:8 is applied. It is a quotation from that section of the prophecy in which Jehovah arraigns the Jews not for idolatry but for rejecting the Messiah; and it is affirmed to be a light thing in consequence to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved of Israel. Jehovah would also give Him, thus cast off by His own people, for a light to the Gentiles, that He might be His salvation unto the end of the earth. If man despised and the nation [Israel] abhorred, His glory as on earth should be secured among kings and princes, whereon follows the word here cited. It is the principle, not the mere fact, which is taken up.
There is no need of supposing in this case that a promise to the Messiah included at the same time His people, though we see how strikingly this appears in the use made of Isaiah 50 by the apostle in Romans 8. Here the blessing to the Gentiles is expressly mentioned, so that it seems more akin to James’s use of Amos 9:11, 12, in Acts 15. And this is confirmed, it would appear, by the fact that the apostle breaks forth into a strong expression of the grace God is now showing, surpassing as it does the actual fulfilment in the days of the kingdom, when the earth shall be raised and the desolate heritage is enjoyed; when the prisoners shall go forth and those in darkness show themselves; when hunger and thirst shall be no more, and heat and sun shall not smite, but the merciful Jehovah shall guide even by the springs of waters; when the mountains shall be made a way, and the scattered return from every quarter under heaven; when the heavens themselves shall sing and the earth be joyful in Jehovah’s mercy and comfort for His afflicted people. Yet in presence of such an anticipation, bright as it was in the apostle’s heart, there shone a light brighter by far in Him who is exalted into a new and higher glory at God’s right hand, which leads him to say, “Behold now a right acceptable season, behold now a day of salvation:” words suggested by the prophecy, but designedly rising above them in strength as expressive of God’s present display of grace in the gospel.
Then, resuming the thread of his exhortation to the Corinthians, the apostle shows how far he was from refusing to measure himself and his service by that which he meted to others, “Giving none offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.” Who knew better that inconsistency above all things undermines preaching or teaching? Christianity is real and living, not dogmatic only, still less official: else it becomes of all things the most contemptible; just as when genuine it is heavenly and of the Holy Spirit, as the moral expression of Christ in those that are His. In Moses’ chair sat the scribes and the Pharisees: it was a duty to do and keep all things whatever they might bid, whilst not doing according to their works; for they said and did not. But unreality, as it is a lie against Christ, destroys the weight of christian teaching, which derives its power from the Spirit of God. And no more eminent witness of his own words ever lived than the apostle, not more to endure the heaviest burdens for Christ’s sake than to bear those of any or of all others. His life, not only as a whole but in every detail, was a comment on his ministry; and who so vigilant to out off occasion from those who sought it?
It is a right and needed thing to begin with giving no offence in anything which might occasion blame to the ministry. How often there is unguardedness of which the enemy takes advantage, against not merely the servant but the objects of his work and above all the Master whom He serves! The apostle however would go much farther: —
“But in everything as ministers of God commending ourselves, in much patience, in affliction, in necessities, in straits, in stripes, in prisons, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings, in pureness, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in kindness, in [the] Holy Ghost, in love unfeigned, in [the] word of truth, in [the] power of God.” (Vers. 4-7.)
Earlier in the Epistle (2 Cor. 3) we have seen the character of the ministry. In contrast with the ministry of death and condemnation, as set out in the law graven on stone, it is of the Spirit and of righteousness, the Spirit given and righteousness revealed to the believer in virtue of Christ’s redemption. Later (2 Cor. 5) we saw its source in the God who reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and gave to suited instruments, called and qualified by sovereign grace, the ministry of the reconciliation: how that it was God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning to them their offences, and having put in us the word of the reconciliation. And as all the thoughts and feelings of men fall immeasurably short of the simple but deep truth of God here made known, so does the apostolic statement of the spirit and manner of its exercise rise above all the practices and theories of Christendom, never so alien, never so low, as when it indulges in the haughtiest pride. And no wonder, for it is then most remote from Christ; and Christ here as everywhere alone gives us the truth. Under law priesthood was the characteristic, the intervention of a representative class charged with maintaining before God the interests of His people who could not draw near into His holy presence for their own wants or His blessing. Under the gospel ministry is no less characteristic, as being the instrument of God’s active love, both in reconciling His enemies as it goes out to the whole creation under heaven, and in building up the faithful who in one Spirit were all baptized into one body and were all given to drink into one Spirit. Christ is the fullest expression of this love in its activity both, to the world and to the saints; and those who desire the will and the glory of God have Him before their eyes as the test of all.
So we know it was with the apostle; and such is the revelation here of the spirit in which God would have His ministry exercised. He never meant it only for the pulpit, as men say, nor for set occasions, nor in a little or a larger sphere of one’s own, nor as a matter of vested rights or of personal authority. Conversion did not of itself correct the tendency even in the apostles toward a direction the most opposed to Christ. “There was also a strife among them which should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth.” (Luke 22) So here the first quality set before us is “in everything as ministers of God commending ourselves;” if not as His ministers, what are we? Worse than useless. And that as a fixed purpose of the soul, not now and then, nor in specified duties only, but in everything as God’s ministers commending ourselves.
It maybe noticed that in this version “as God’s ministers” is placed before the participle, whereas in Greek it follows. The reason is that our idiom does not admit of the order which is correct in the original because of its definite case-ending. The Authorised Version really expresses
ὡς θεοῦ διακόνους which is the reading of the Clermont manuscript, and the more extraordinary, because the corresponding Latin is “sicut Di [ Dei] ministri.” The Vulgate falls into the error of translating
ὡς θ. διάκονοι “sicut Dei ministros.” If the same order were sought in English as in Greek, it would necessitate, I think, the addition of “should;” for there is a difference of sense attaching to the difference of construction, and the apostolic phrase expresses precisely what the context requires. Were it the accusative,
διακόνους, the meaning would be commending ourselves69 as competent to be God’s ministers, whereas with the nominative
διάκονοι, as it is, the force is that in everything we in the capacity of His ministers commend ourselves, etc.
What then is the prime quality which is looked for? “In much patience” or “endurance.” So the apostle in 2 Corinthians 12:12, where he sets “all endurance,” or patience, before signs and wonders and works of power as apostolic vouchers. God Himself is called the God of patience no less than of comfort or encouragement, and this with a view to grant the saints to be like-minded one toward another, according to Christ Jesus; nor is there a happier proof of moral power in His servants than such constancy in the face of suffering, opposition, trial and temptation. When impatient, one is overcome of evil instead of overcoming it with good in the lowliest form.
Then follows a threefold cord of the several ways in which endurance is put to the proof: “in afflictions, in necessities, in straits.” “Afflictions” or tribulations (
θλίψεις) are cases of pressure which every saint has in the world. We are set for this, and must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom of God. Necessities (
ἀνάγκαι) express distresses which take the shape of need or constraint, and so, as the early Greek writers noticed, indicate an advance in suffering; as straits (
στενοχώριαι) point to such troubles as shut a man up without space to move or turn.70
Next come specific inflictions, “in stripes, in prisons, in tumults.” As to the first of these three, the apostle further gives us the fact that from the Jews he five times had received forty stripes save one, and been scourged thrice. As to “prisons,” we know of but one, recorded minutely in Acts 16, doubtless for its momentous connection with the first planting of the gospel in Philippi; but 2 Corinthians 11:23 speaks of the apostle’s being “in prisons more frequent,” so that we know such shame to have been abundantly his lot. There remains in tumults” (
ἀκαταστασίαις), which some apply to the forced changes of the apostle’s unsettled life, comparing 1 Corinthians 4:11 with Isaiah 54:11, Isaiah 70. And so not moderns only, but apparently Chrysostom. Nevertheless New Testament usage does not support such a meaning, but either a “riot” in the world or “confusion” among saints; and here the context confirms the former: a trial shocking to one of well-ordered habits. But we see in the Acts how often it befell the apostle in his preachings; and doubtless very much more frequently than that history records.
Then we pass on from inflicted to voluntary trials, “in labours, in watchings, in fastings,” which are not the least witness to sustained devotedness. The language so clearly intimates one’s own agency here that it might have seemed needless to say a word more. But scripture fares as no other book; and this at the hands of friends as well as foes. Dr. Bloomfield will have it that this application to voluntary sufferings is, not only unfounded, but devised to afford countenance to monkish austerities; and that
κ. may very well refer to his corporal labours at his trade,
ἀγρ. to the abridgment of rest to make up by over-hours at night for evangelising by day, and
ν. to the scanty fare that must follow such a trade. But 2 Corinthians “is the true parallel, and not merely 1 Corinthians 4; and in the former we have “fasting” distinguished expressly from “hunger and thirst,” clearly as voluntary from involuntary suffering. No! the apostle’s “labours, watchings, fastings,” had to do with the gospel and the church, as well as individual souls, and were quite above the circumstances of trade good or bad.
But now we turn from circumstances and sufferings to quite another class, to qualities which God looks for in His service: “in pureness, in knowledge, in longsuffering, in kindness, in love unfeigned, in [the] Holy Ghost, in [the] word of truth, in [the] power of God.” There is thus not only perseverance in the face of antagonism and enmity, but the exercise of all that is holy and wise, long-suffering and gracious, and all this, not in mere amiability but in love unfeigned, yea in the Holy Spirit, and hence in the word of truth and in God’s power, not more human wisdom and ability, that its excellency might be of Him, and not from the man though by him.
There is a slight change in the middle of verse 7 indicated by a difference in the preposition and beginning with the needed arms of the christian servant. We have
ἐν (“in” or “by”) no longer, but
διά. Even the latter cannot here, or elsewhere, be restricted to the sense of “by means of;” for though this might suit the first occurrence, it does not fit in with the two which follow, but rather “through,” or “with” as with the genitive it sometimes means (as in 2 Cor. 2:4).
“Through [or, with] the arms of righteousness on the right and left, through glory and dishonour, through ill report and good report, as deceivers and true, as unknown and well-known, as dying and behold we live, as chastened and not put to death, as grieved but always rejoicing, as poor but enriching many, as having nothing and possessing all things.” (Vers. 7-10.)
As the Holy Ghost naturally precedes love unfeigned, and the word of truth is accompanied by the “power of God,” so “the arms of righteousness” in full equipment follow. Some here as elsewhere take “righteousness” as that which is secured by justification before God. But this is to mistake both the figure and the context. As a figure it is a mistake, inasmuch as armour is used to protect one against the assaults of an enemy, which God assuredly is not to the believer. Hence, where we have details as in Ephesians 6, we see beyond controversy that we are told to put on the armour in order to withstand the powers and wiles of evil; not to stand before God, in which case we hear of a robe, not of arms. Clearly then righteousness in the practical sense is in question, rather than the righteousness of God. And the context equally requires it; because the apostle is insisting here, not on the standing of the believer, but on the avoidance of all which could expose the ministry to reproach, and on the cultivation of all that should approve it to universal conscience, representing God aright in a world where everything is opposed, and spite of a nature which is enmity against Him, and this in an earthen vessel as weak as the pressure of circumstances was great and varied and constant, so as to test the workman in every conceivable way.
Next we have a series of contrasts, not more paradoxical in appearance than strictly true. “Through glory and dishonour, through ill report and good report.” Who among mankind ever touched the extremes of both as he who thus portrays the path of service according to God? Who over served the Lord Jesus so superior to circumstances? Who less elated? Who farther from depression? Revered as a divine being and afterwards stoned, now suspected of murder and immediately after regarded as a god, he experienced vicissitudes only loss wild and rapid among the saints themselves, and among none more remarkably than at Corinth and in Galatia, where he had to vindicate even his apostleship among his own children in the faith, ready enough to bow down to arrogance and pretension.
Then by a simple transition we come to instances of ill or good report: “as deceivers and true, as unknown and well-known.” Never was it true of Paul, never can it be with a thoroughly devoted and unworldly servant of God, that all speak well of him. So did the Jews of old to the false prophets, not to the true. Faith loves not, but refuses, the chief place in feasts, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. The servant cleaves to His name whom the world know not, and so is unknown; yet as with the Master grace in service cannot but make itself felt in a world of need and misery — it cannot be hid.
The clauses which follow have a rather distinct character, sliding from matters of report into actual fact: “as dying and behold we live, as chastened and not put to death, as grieved but always rejoicing, as poor but enriching many, as having nothing and possessing all things.” If the Lord alone, when challenged as to who He was, could say of Himself as man here below, Absolutely that which I also say to you, the Truth in word and in deed, in everything and in every way; Paul inspired of God could speak with so much the more freedom as his heart entered into the spirit of seeing God according to Christ with largeness and with humility, with tenderness and with courage, with unwearied patience and unflagging energy, with a purity and a love, with a jealousy for Christ’s glory and an exercised conscience before God, never seen so combined in another. Out of all this he exhorts, feeling all acutely yet moved by nothing, and making no account of life itself, that he might finish his course with joy and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, not only testifying the gospel both to Jews and Greeks, and preaching the kingdom of God, but also announcing to the saints all the counsel of God. What suffering did it not involve! What faith and perseverance under discipline and sorrow! Yea, surely, joy in the Holy Ghost was there if in any, and triumph by grace over all seeming disadvantages. He knew, if any servant did, the force of the Lord’s word in Mark 10:29-31, as poor but enriching many, as having nothing but possessing all things.
Having closed the blessed sketch of christian service from its source and power to its moral characteristics and effects, the apostle now turns to the saints with the expression of unhindered affection. There had been a barrier to that expression in their state; but God had wrought in grace, and they had in a great measure judged themselves, and faith working by love looked for all that is worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing. Hence he could say
“Our mouth is open unto you, Corinthians, our heart is expanded: ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels; now for the same requital be expanded also yourselves.” (Vers. 11-18.)
Love was no longer driven back, for God was at work; and joy and thankfulness open the lips, as sorrow isolates where sympathy fails. So he can and does speak freely. “Our mouth is open unto you, Corinthians.” He similarly names the Galatians (Gal. 3:1), and the Philippians (Phil. 4:15); but each with a characteristic difference. The Galatians he blames severely, as senseless and bewitched, for turning aside from faith and the Spirit to law and flesh. To the Philippians he mentions that they alone had the privilege of communicating with him at the beginning of the gospel as now when the apostle was drawing near his close. The personal address to the Corinthians lies between those two. He could not accord to them that token of confidence in their spiritual simplicity and unworldliness which the Philippians had enjoyed first and last; whilst he is pouring out the fulness of his heart on the restored condition of the Corinthians instead of the stern censure on the Galatians. “Our heart is expanded,” he says. There can be no doubt that this is the word and sense intended. But it is an instructive fact that the two oldest and best uncials unite in a positive and evident error. The Vatican and the Sinaitic uncials give your, not “our.” Such facts should correct the exaggerated confidence of some in a few very ancient copies. The context has its grave importance where the external authorities differ. Here there can be no doubt that the mass of other and later authorities is right. The argument requires “our” imperatively, if ever so many voices had pronounced differently.
There was no narrowness in the apostle. His heart was ever large; and now he could show them so. It was in their own affections the Corinthians were contracted. (Ver. 12.) There was free and full room in his heart for them, but not in theirs for him. They had been lax, and he is about to warn them solemnly on this head; they were still narrow. How great an error to count narrowness fidelity, whereas it may well go as here with laxity! In the apostle we see large-heartedness with real holiness; and they too go together. But the apostle counts yet more on grace, and as he had declared how his heart was expanded, instead of being shut up, he adds, “and for the same requital71 (or, for requital in the same), I speak as to children, be expanded also yourselves.” (Ver. 13.) Love never fails; and that their affections should answer his was the only recompense he sought at their hands.
The Corinthians were not only straitened in their affections. They were lax in their associations. Had Christ been the object, the new life had not been hindered in either way; for as He creates, directs, and sustains the affections according to God, so does He guide and guard the feet in the narrow way, His own path outside and above the world. Where He is not before the heart, the world in one form or another fails not to ensnare, fair excuses which cover unholy alliances escape detection, and His honour somehow is ere long compromised.
The apostle’s jealousy was alive to this danger in a love that bound together Christ and the church. Love speaks and acts freely, though with tender consideration. The apostle comprehends in his wide warning not only idolatry, but every kind of worldly association as defiling and unworthy of the Christian, because it suits not Christ nor the presence of God. If blessed with Christ for eternity, you cannot without sin have relations with the enemy in time.
Some have narrowed, if not perverted, the passage, by restricting it to an exhortation against the marriage of a believer with an unbeliever. But while the principle undoubtedly condemns the contracting of any such union, it is clear on the face of it that, strictly speaking, this cannot be the direct intent; for the corrective insisted on is exactly what one ought not to follow, even in so sad a case. Thus a Christian woman who had sinned in marrying a worldly man ought not to come out or be separate from her husband; and she might expect the strongest censure from God and His children, not promised blessing, were she to act thus rashly, whatever the purity of her motives. In fact, 1 Corinthians 7 is the true and direct weapon for the question of marriage; our passage has a far larger bearing. It is the prohibition of every evil connection for a Christian, and it calls for thorough clearance from all; and no wonder, since the Christian has Christ for his life, righteousness, and hope, even now by the Spirit able to behold His glory without veil. It is incongruous, it is treason, if one has taken Christ’s yoke, to accept also that of the world which rejected and crucified Him.
“Be not diversely yoked72 with unbelievers; for what partnership [is there] for righteousness and lawlessness? or what fellowship [hath] light with darkness? and what consent of Christ with Beliar73? or what part for a believer with an unbeliever? and what agreement for God’s temple with idols? for ye are74 [the] living God’s temple, even as God said, I will dwell and walk among them, and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Vers. 14-16.)
The figure with which the paragraph opens is obviously taken from the law which forbade yoking together heterogeneous animals, as the ox and the ass in ploughing. (Deut. 22:10.) It is not now the Jew severed from the Gentile, but the Christian separate from the world in every shape and degree. Principles, motives, interests, ways, are not only different but opposed; what common ground is possible? But this is not all. Faith is the life-breath of the Christian, and his only avowed power the Holy Ghost, whom the world cannot receive as neither seeing nor knowing Him; and He works to reduce every thought to the obedience of Christ in absolute judgment of the world and its prince.
In detail what can be stronger than the clenching blows of every clause? First the apostle points to the radical difference of principles, low or high, righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness. Next he points to their characteristic heads, Christ and Belial. Then he contrasts the partisans or followers, believers and unbelievers. Lastly he closes with their joint place as God’s temple, contrasted with idols. Thus all that forms the life outward and inward is embraced so as to exclude alliance with the world and claim the saints wholly for Christ apart from the world. This in no way bars doing good to all, or especially seeking the salvation of any. On the contrary, the truer the separateness to Christ, the more forcibly can grace be preached to the world as a lost thing, and Christ the only Saviour. For righteousness was ever looked for in a saint; light, now that Christ was revealed, is characteristic of a Christian.
It is not here said that the body of the saint is the temple of God, as we see in 1 Corinthians 6, but that the saints are His temple; and it is added that accordingly God said, I will dwell among them and will walk among [them], and will be their God, and they shall be my people: an Old Testament promise and privilege (Ex. 29; Lev. 26; Ezek. 37:7), but better enjoyed now, when His presence is given, not in a merely sensible sign as then, but in the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven since Pentecost. Redemption in figure or in reality, as often observed. laid the ground for God’s dwelling thus.
With this great privilege is ever bound up the imperative obligation of separation to God from all evil. Holiness becomes, and must be in, the dwelling-place of God. No doubt the heathen then as ever are characterised by all sorts of corruption morally: but it is not from heathenism only but from every evil that God calls out the believer and insists on habitual avoidance and judgment of it.
“Wherefore come out from the midst of them and be separated, saith [the] Lord, and touch not an unclean thing; and I will receive you and will be to you for Father, and ye shall be to me for sons and daughters, saith [the] Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us purify ourselves from every pollution of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” (Vers. 17, 18; 2 Cor. 7: l.)
If privilege abide and be deepened since redemption, more obviously moral truth is seen with increasing clearness and force. The conscience is purged by blood, the heart by faith. God must have His own holy, for He is holy; and this not only in an inward way, without which all would be hypocrisy, but in outward ways also to His own glory, unless He would be a partner with us to His own dishonour. He will have us clear from associations which are worldly and defiling; He will exercise our souls in order to freedom from all that denies or despises His will. He would not force others, nay He refuses not things only but persons also that are of the world; He commands those that believe to come out from those that believe not, and to be separated. Indeed the union of the two is so monstrous that it never could be defended for a moment by a true heart; it is only when selfish interests or strong prejudices work that men gradually accustom and harden themselves to disobedience so flagrant and in every way disastrous. For as the man of the world cannot rise to the level of Christ to be together with His own, the Christian must descend to the level of fallen Adam and the world. God is thus and ever more and more put to shame in what claims to be His house, with a loudness proportioned to its departure from His word.
Here again the Holy Spirit led the apostle to borrow words from various parts of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 52:11, Ezekiel 20:34, 2 Samuel 7:8, 14, Isaiah 43:6. Apostolic gift only enforced divine authority, and expressed itself in terms drawn freely from various parts of scripture. Nor could any other way have been chosen so wise or pertinent if the aim was to show the will of God and His promises. It is here to encourage individual submission to His word, as before for the enjoyment of His presence in common. There they were His temple in virtue of His dwelling and walking about among them; here He says, “I will receive you and will be to you for Father, and ye shall be to me for sons and daughters.” It is our new relationship in positive blessing and supposes the divine nature given to us.
But there is another thing of much moment as well as interest to observe. Jehovah as such is introduced under the Septuagintal form of “Lord” (
κύριος) and so without the article; and still more “Lord Almighty.” That is, in Old Testament form Jehovah Shaddai now brings out His New Testament relationship to those who in the obedience of faith come out from among the men of the world to be His sons and daughters. For these are the great relations into which God Elohim enters, as revealing Himself, first to the fathers as Almighty (Gen. 17:1, Gen. 27:8, Gen. 35:11, Gen. 48:3), then as Jehovah to the children of Israel (Ex. 6:3, etc.), lastly as Father, which was reserved for the Son to declare, not only out of the fulness of enjoyment and in testimony, but bringing us into it in virtue of His death and resurrection (John 20:17, etc.) And to our souls what more instructive than the fact everywhere patent, that those saints who cling to the world, which is enmity against God and involves in what is unclean at every turn, never seem to rise into the liberty of God’s sons, especially in their public worship, but habitually drop into language more befitting the days when God was dealing with a nation and dwelt in the thick darkness, instead of being revealed as He now is in and by His Son, according to His true nature and that relationship which is so sweet to the believer as led by the Holy Ghost, the relationship proper to us now, though of course He be evermore Jehovah Shaddai?
Clearly too the possession of these promises is the great incentive to personal purification in practice. Nor is anything more hateful than the position of separateness from the world along with indifference to holiness. There are those who inculcate what is personal only and apologise for ecclesiastical evil as if it did not compromise them in the Lord’s dishonour; there are others whose zeal is solely for ecclesiastical purity and whose personal ways are light and loose and far below those of many a saint in humanly formed and ordered societies. Both classes are condemned by the solemn words before us: the first by 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, the second by 2 Corinthians 7:1. May we, as having proved the truth and blessing of the former, have grace to find the constant value of the latter also, and to cultivate purity outward and inward, perfecting holiness in God’s fear! We have thus a double relationship in His grace. God dwells and walks in us as His temple, plainly a collective blessing; and besides, He is to us for Father, as we are to Him for sons and daughters, which is no less surely individual. But both are founded on coming out in separateness to God from among the worldly, with responsibility to touch no unclean thing. The apologist for ecclesiastical antinomianism argues that the apostle is actually speaking of heathen impurity. Granted: it was the unclean thing there and then; but he was led by the Spirit to write with such breadth and depth as to cover everything that defiles. Is it meant that uncleanness is now consecrated or ignored? Is it denied that evil is most of all evil when coupled with the name of the Lord Jesus? Is not such an association the deceit, power, and triumph of the wicked one? To cleanse ourselves from every pollution is our clear and habitual duty as God’s temple and family.
2 Corinthians 7
The apostle returns to the expression of his affection towards the Corinthians, as he desired their love.
“Receive us: we wronged none, we corrupted none, we overreached none. For condemnation I do not speak; for I have said before that ye are in our hearts to die with and to live with. Great [is] my frankness toward you, great my boasting in respect of you: I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction. For also when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but [we were] afflicted in every way; without fightings, within fears. But he that encourageth the lowly, God, encouraged us by the coming of Titus, and not by his coming only but also by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in your case, declaring to us your longing desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I the more rejoiceth. Because if also I grieved you in the letter, I do not regret, if also I did regret;75 for I see that that letter if also for a time grieved you. Now I rejoice, not that ye were grieved but that ye were grieved unto repentance, for ye were grieved according to God that in nothing ye might suffer damage from us. For grief according to God worketh76 repentance to salvation not to be regretted; but the grief of the world worketh out death. For, behold, this very thing that ye were grieved according to God, how much diligence it wrought out in you, nay self-clearing, nay indignation, nay fear, nay longing desire, nay zeal, nay avenging! In everything did ye prove yourselves to be pure in the matter. Wherefore, if also I wrote, [it was] not for the sake of him that wronged, nor for his sake that was wronged, but for the sake of your diligence for us (or, ours for you)77 being manifested unto you before God. On this account we have been encouraged; but78 in our comfort we rejoiced the more exceedingly over the joy of Titus, because his spirit hath been refreshed by you all. Because if I have boasted to him anything of you, I was not put to shame; but as we speak all things to you in truth, so also our boasting of you to Titus was truth. And his affections are more exceedingly toward you, calling to mind the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him. I rejoice79 that in everything I am confident in you.” (Vers. 2-16.)
Thus does he call for room in their hearts: a touching appeal when we reflect who and what he was, who and what they were. The lack of love was certainly not in him; nor was lowliness absent from him who deigns to repudiate the unworthy insinuations whispered against him, which they had better see whether they might not be more applicable elsewhere: neither injustice nor corruption nor fraudulent gain were true of him. He was careful to exclude even the appearance of these evils. But if the Holy Spirit work in the saints, Satan is ever busy and knows how to avail himself of all circumstances to detract and undermine, especially where love should most abound. In speaking thus however the apostle is careful to guard his words from the semblance of a condemnatory spirit. As he had already implied in 2 Corinthians 6:11, they were in his heart to die with and to live with. He that is familiar with the Latin lyric may remember the well-known line which resembles this sentiment in form — how different in reality! “Tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam libens.” And how infinitely superior, in strength as in purity, is this outpouring of unselfish affection, where the Christian begins with dying together, whilst the heathen can but end with it!
Far from a word to wound their spirits now restored, he can and does speak freely and in the strongest confidence. “Great [is] my frankness toward you, great my boasting in respect of you: I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy in all our afflictions.” Sorrow closes the heart, joy opens it; and now the apostle’s gladness of heart was proportionate to the depth of his pain over saints so dear in the Lord. “For also when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way: without fightings, within fears. But he that encourageth the lowly, God, encouraged us by the coming of Titus, and not by his coming only but also by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in your case, declaring to us your longing desire, your mourning, your zeal for me. so that I the more rejoiced.” It was not only in Troas he was full of heaviness and anxiety, but also in Macedonia whither he had gone in the hope of hearing the latest tidings from Titus. There he had yet more pressure of trouble till the good news came. Deeply interesting and affecting it is to hear the apostle opening his heart thus freely and to know how distracted and burdened he had been by all. . . “Our flesh” (ver. 5) is a peculiar expression, signifying (I suppose) his human weakness as such; “afflicted in every way” describes the circumstances (“without fightings, within fears”) inward and outward. But God does not fail. He is the encourager of the depressed as He resists the proud; and He it was who now appeared to cheer the distressed apostle by the coming of Titus, above all by the tidings of what grace had wrought in the Corinthians, restoration in affection, and, as we shall see later, in conscience too.
The reason or explanation of his former severity, given in the verses that follow, is highly interesting and important in various respects. It is not “a” but the letter, clearly referring to the first epistle to the Corinthians. Did our translators wish to conceal this? It is not the only instance here of want of faith in men of God; for Calvin also shirks the truth, when he contends that
μετεμελόμην “I repented” is used in the passage improperly for being grieved. For (argues he) when Paul made the Corinthians sad, he himself also shared in the grief and in a certain way inflicted sadness on himself at the same time. It is therefore just as if he said, Though I unwillingly pained you, it grieved me too that I was forced to be harsh to you; now I cease to grieve on this account whilst I see it has been useful to you. Otherwise if we own that Paul was concerned at what he had written, Calvin thought it would involve the grave absurdity that the former epistle was written under inconsiderate impulse rather than by the direction of the Spirit.80 So Erasmus considered that the supposition was not the face.81
But there is not the smallest need for toning down or altering the language. It is indeed, however common, an erroneous view of inspiration, which does in no way preclude the working of motive as we see in Luke 1:1-3, any more than deep exercise of mind as here. We are bound to accept the plain words of the apostle, which show his anxiety after he had written an unquestionably inspired epistle. “Because if also I grieved you in the letter I do not regret, if also I did regret; for I see that that letter if also for an hour grieved you. Now I rejoice not that ye were grieved but that ye were grieved unto repentance; for ye were grieved according to God that ye might in nothing suffer loss from us.” He recognised the indubitable fruit of the Holy Spirit’s operation through the very epistle which had harassed his spirit after he had written and sent it off. He had no question more. It was of God, as he was divinely convinced and reassured; but now in his joy at their restoration he could tell them all his feelings freely, even a passing regret for having written the first epistle, truly inspired of God as it was, though joy abounded the more now for the blessing that had resulted.
It is a mistake to call even an inspired man infallible: none but Christ was, and He was pleased to write neither Gospels nor Epistles, without overlooking of course what He commanded His servants to write in the great and final book of the Canon. But the Spirit of God guided and kept the vessels of His inspiration, so that, maintaining the individuality of each writer, He should give a result perfectly according to God. In the first Epistle the apostle distinguishes between the fruit of his spiritual judgment and the positive commandments of the Lord; but he was inspired to give us both in 2 Corinthians 7. Here he is inspired to tell us how his spirit was agitated even about that inspired epistle, in no way as to its absolute truth, but through his anxiety lest the very desire to win his beloved children back might not have estranged them for ever.
Further, we have precious light from God here as to that great work in the awakened soul, repentance. it is quite distinct from regret or change of mind. Even sorrow however deep is not repentance, though sorrow according to God works it out. Again, it is not correct to confound repentance with conversion to God, which is surely a turning from sin with earnest desire for holiness. Repentance is the soul as born of God sitting in judgment on the old man and its acts, its words and its ways. And as repentance for remission of sins was to be preached in Christ’s name, so He was exalted to give both. It is not a changed mind however great about God in Christ, which is rather what faith is and gives; it is the renewed mind taking account of the man and his course according to God’s word and nature. Hence it is said to be not about God, but “toward God” or Godward; for the conscience then takes His side in self-judgment before Him, and all is weighed as in His sight. It is of course of the Spirit, not intellectual but moral. “Surely after that I was turned, I repented.” It follows conversion and consequently that application of the word which arrests the soul by faith, though it be not yet the faith of the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, which brings into peace.
Here of course it is the repentance of saints who had sinned. But it is the same principle, and in contrast with the world’s grief which, knowing not God, gives itself up to despair and works out death. However overwhelmed may be the believer, God takes care that there shall be enough hope in His mercy to guard from the despairing fear which Satan wields for his deadly purposes.
And what a picture the apostle draws of God’s recent work in the repentant Corinthians! “For behold this very thing, that ye were grieved according to God how much diligence it wrought out in you, nay self-clearing, nay indignation, nay fear, nay longing desire, nay zeal, nay avenging! In everything did ye prove yourselves to be pure in the matter.” (Ver. 11) Of course its precise character was modified by the generally bad state of the assembly before grace thus used the first epistle. No indifference now, but earnest care; no extenuation of the evil, but thorough cleansing of themselves; a burning sense of indignation, fear, longing desire, zeal, and revenge, all had their place; so that he who had sternly reproved them could say that they had proved themselves clear in the matter: a, if not the, grand aim of the Spirit in discipline, and not merely getting rid of the offender.
Sometimes in a case of disciplinary truth, it is a question as at Corinth of the assembly’s state as a whole. Before the first Epistle they were wholly ignorant that all were involved in the evil which was before their eyes, and which they did not know they were bound to judge. When we read that they were puffed up and had not rather mourned, we must bear in mind that they were quite inexperienced, and that the mind of the Lord as to dealing with wickedness in the assembly or its members, had not yet been revealed to them. Still as saints they ought to have felt the sin and scandal deeply, and if they did not know how to act, they should have betaken themselves to mourning in order that he that had done this deed should be taken away out of the midst of them. Spiritual instinct should have felt thus and laid it with shame and earnest desire before the Lord who never fails. But that epistle was blessed of God, in dealing with their souls, not only as to the offender, but, as to their own state, and thus gave occasion for the apostle to open his heart so painfully burdened, and sorely agitated with all the fervour of a real love which only overleaps its old channel because of the temporary repression.
Where souls since then, in the face of these epistles, have tampered with grave evil whatever it be, where palliation has been at work, where ingenious excuses have blunted the sense of right and wrong, as may be at any time among Christians, it is a state of things worse in some respects than that at Corinth. For there ignorance of the duty of the assembly in discipline prevailed, and we cannot wonder at it, though the sin was appalling. The mere getting the wicked person outside, important as it may be, is not what comforted the apostle’s heart, but the working of deep and united moral feelings all round. “In everything ye have proved yourselves to be pure in the matter.” Where there had been such indifference to their complicity, even though in ignorance of their responsibility as at Corinth, the saints had to clear themselves and prove it for the Lord’s vindication. But it is, I doubt not, a general principle, and always incumbent. Merely to have done with the offender would show in others an unexercised conscience, or but judicial hardness. The happy contrast with all this was here manifest. They had indeed been grieved according to God.
Hence the apostle adds that, if also he wrote to them, it was not for the sake of the wrong-doer nor of the one wronged, but for the manifestation to them before God of their diligent zeal for them or of the apostle’s for them. (Ver. 12.) It seems passing strange that the early clauses should seem obscure; as to the latter in opposite ways the copies singularly differ, some as the Sinaitic and the Boernerian yielding no good sense. Whatever the adversary had wrought for a while, their true zeal for the apostle was made plain to themselves at last before God. This is the best supported sense.
“On this account we have been encouraged; and in [or in addition to] our encouragement, we rejoiced much more abundantly at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” Grace had given the happiest issue to that which fleshly energy or ease had ruined for a time. And joy abounded not in them only but more in Titus, most in Paul himself. And there were other grounds beyond, though connected with, their present state. “Because if I have boasted anything to him over you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also the boasting about you before Titus was truth; and more abundantly toward you are his bowels, while calling to mind the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him. I rejoice that in everything I have good courage in respect of you.” Such an allusion to his feelings towards the Corinthians, when they must have been conscious of their temporary alienation, and deplorably low state, would more than ever seal their affection, as it proved his to have been true from first to last. His heart was not inconstant, nor was his tongue insincere. He loved, if also he had blamed his beloved children at Corinth, and they could now appreciate all better, as he could tell out all freely, however delicately. How blessed it is when grace thus reigns through righteousness, as it perfectly did by Christ unto eternal life!
2 Corinthians 8.
The apostle was now free, so far as the state of the Corinthian saints was concerned, to introduce the great duty of remembering the poor. Even the most honoured servants of the Lord were forward in this work, and not least Paul himself. This he would lay on the heart of the Corinthians. As he sought not his own things, he could plead for others; and he would draw out the affections of his children at Corinth toward saints suffering from poverty in Judea, whither he was going.
Yet we may notice how the character of the man comes out. He did not like the task of appealing to others for pecuniary help even though for others. The directness of his language in the first epistle is therefore in the strongest contrast with his circumlocution in the second. The need was deeply on his own heart; and he has no more doubt of the generous feelings of the Corinthians than of their ability, so far as circumstances were concerned, to respond; but the delicacy with which he deals with all is most marked and instructive. Personal influence has no place; faith and love are called out actively; the cheering example of saints where such devotedness could have been least expected opens the way; and Christ is brought in, carrying it home with irresistible power for those that knew Him.
“Now we make known to you, brethren, the grace of God that is given in [or, among] the assemblies of Macedonia; that in much trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches82 of their liberality; because according to power [I bear witness] and beyond83 power [they gave] of their. own accord, beseeching of us with much entreaty84 the grace and the fellowship of the ministering unto the saints; and this not as we hoped, but their own selves they gave first to the Lord and to us by the will of God; so that we exhorted Titus, that, even as he before began, so he would also complete as to you this grace also; but as ye abound in everything, faith and word and knowledge and all diligence and love from you85 to us, that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but through “the diligence of others proving the genuineness of your love also.” (Vers. 1-8.)
|| D E read
διὰ τὴν etc., that is, on account of. Elzevir differs from Stephens in falsely reading
ἡμετέρας “our,” with a few cursives, instead of
How blessedly the grace of God” changes everything it takes up And what can it not reach in its comprehensive embrace? Where is the demand too hard for it to entertain? Or the evil too deep for it to fathom? What sin is beyond forgiveness? Whose misery or of what sort can it not turn into an occasion for the all-overcoming goodness of God? See here how that which is among men but “filthy lucre,” an especial object of the covetousness which is idolatry, becomes the means of exercising faith in love, to the glory of God and the exceeding blessing of His children, while it draws out the wisdom of the Holy Ghost through the apostle, who did not deem it beneath the fullest consideration in all its details.
First, the mighty influence of example is brought to bear on the saints in Corinth. (Ver. l.) Nor is this surprising; for are they not one family with its common interests, yea, one body with its fellowship undivided and immediate? Granted that the wants are in carnal things; granted, that it is no question of pleading rights or claims. But a relationship in the Spirit is no less real and far more momentous than one in the flesh; and, if there be suffering, love feels accordingly. In the next place God took care that the first to respond should be saints not in the wealthy city of Corinth, but in the long desolated and impoverished district of Macedonia, that the work might be of God’s grace, and in no way a matter of worldly circumstances. Even in writing to the Corinthians the apostle had reminded them, as all experience shows, that the confessors of Christ are for the most part from the poor and obscure and foolish: and we know that in the Macedonian assemblies at this time the saints were no exception to the generally distressed condition of the country. On the contrary, we are expressly told here of their poverty down into the depths. They gave no gifts of superfluity; it was faith working by love, whilst they were proving themselves a great trial of affliction. The circumstances of Macedonia might have seemed eminently unfavourable; the reality of their liberality was the more evidently from a divine source; for in the face of tribulation their joy abounded, and their deep poverty, instead of appealing for aid to others, abounded unto the riches of their open-hearted generosity. (Ver. 2.) It was unselfish devotedness, loving others better than themselves; and as God gave them the grace that so wrought, so the apostle names it in love to the saints in Corinth, and, indeed we may say, to us all, that our hearts too should go forth in no less love. For love is as energetic and fruitful, as it is holy and free; and God would have not a grain of the good seed lost.
Nor does love calculate what it can spare nor what it can effect. (Ver. 3.) The heart animated by love thinks not of its own trials or deep poverty, but of those it hears to be suffering in any special degree, and acts at once. At least the apostle testifies of the Macedonian saints, that according to means, and beyond means, they gave of their own accord. No earthly incentives were here; no pressure of agents, no rivalry of donations, no moving appeals among multitudes, no circulated lists to shame or to stimulate, no personal or party aims of any kind. It is the grace of God given from first to last; and as God treasures it, so His servant testifies of it so much the more because those in whom it wrought thought nothing of it in the love that felt only the need of its objects.
But this is not all: the Macedonian saints, far from being solicited.. were themselves the suitors of Paul and his companions, and with much entreaty begged of them the grace and the fellowship of the ministering unto the saints, that is, to be allowed a share in the grace or favour of thus caring for the suffering saints of Judea.
It will be noticed that the Authorised Version, following the common Greek text, contains the words, “that we would receive” (
δέξασθαι ἡμᾶς), which again involves the insertion of “take upon its” in verse 4. But as the former is not warranted by the best authorities, so the latter is needless and indeed worse; for both additions enfeeble and falsify the sense, which is, that the Macedonian saints might have the grace and fellowship of the service which was to be done the poor saints, not the mere idea that the apostle would receive their collection and undertake its distribution.86
But the apostle goes farther in his fine sketch of Macedonian devotedness; for it was not only spontaneous, but beyond all expectation of himself, accustomed as he was to live in the walk of faith every day. “And this not as we hoped, but their own selves they gave first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” Is not this the reflection, yea reproduction, as far as it goes, of Christ’s love in giving Himself? Doubtless directly and necessarily there is a perfection in Christ’s offering which is altogether unique. He gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour; it was all this and more to God and for us, as nothing else could be. But these humble and loving saints, the grace of God in whom is commended to the Corinthians, did not merely go beyond their means, but beyond the apostle’s hope, who did not wish to be burdened with the wants of others those who were themselves in the depth of poverty. And no wonder that they thus exceeded, seeing that, as he adds, “their own selves they gave first to the Lord, and to us by the will of God.” Had they not caught a vivid impression of the Saviour’s love, where God always had the first place, whatever His infinite compassion for man? When love for the saints follows in their case, it is qualified by that which was the constant motive of Christ, “by the will of God.” It is not only consistency with His will, though this of course was true, but His will was the spring of the self-sacrifice.
This acted on the heart of the apostle up to the point of beseeching Titus to carry out what he had formerly begun among the Corinthians when he delivered the first epistle. (Ver. 6.) Paul’s love for them was holily jealous that their love should not slacken and that an early promise should not wither in the bud. And Titus was the meet instrument, as he before began, so also now to complete as to87 the Corinthians this grace also.
“But, as ye abound in everything, faith and word and knowledge and all diligence and love from you to us, that ye abound in this grace also.” The apostle exhorts the Corinthians too, as he had Titus. They had their part now, and as God had enriched with everything else, were they to fail in this grace? Nay, He looks that they should abound in it also. (Ver. 7.) Yet he is careful that it should not be by injunction but of grace. “I speak not by command, but through the diligence of others proving the genuineness of your love also.” (Ver. 8.) What a blending of tenderness, delicacy, and of faithfulness withal!
We have seen how powerfully the thought of the Lord acted on the saints of Macedonia, who in spite of their deep poverty had so exceeded the apostle’s expectation. Now he brings His grace to bear on those of Achaia whom he had ground to believe awakened to feel accordingly.
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes he being rich became poor, in order that ye by his poverty might become rich. And I give an opinion in this, for this is profitable for you who began before not only the doing, but also to be willing a year ago. But now also complete the doing, that even as the readiness of the willing [was there], so also the completing [may be] out of what ye have. For if the readiness be there, [one is] accepted according to what he may have, not according to what he hath not. For [it is] not that others [should have] ease and you distress, but on equality: at the present time your abundance for their lack, that their abundance also should be for your lack, so that there should be equality; as it is written, He that [gathered] much had nothing over, and he that [gathered] little had no lack.” (Vers. 9-15.)
The parenthesis of verse 9 is eminently instructive, not only for that which would act powerfully on the Corinthians as on all saints who appreciate the grace of our Lord, but as a sample of the way the Spirit of God turns what was in Christ to every exigency of the individual or of the church. Nor does any other motive act with equal power in holiness. And it could not be otherwise; for who or what can compare with Christ? To His grace, though it be really immeasurable, two measures are applied, the infinite glory of His person in itself, and the depth of humiliation to which He submitted for us. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes he being rich became poor, in order that ye by his poverty might be made rich.” Wealth consists in fulness of means and resources, and poverty in their utter lack. As a divine person our Lord had no need for Himself, and all things at command for others absolutely. He was rich indeed, yet for our sakes became poor, not in the letter only but in spirit to the uttermost. See the picture summed up in Philippians 2, and expanded or detailed in all the Gospels, the perfect pattern of One who hung in dependence on His Father and never used a single thing for Himself throughout His career. He waited on and lived on account of the Father; it was His meat to do His will and finish His work. He had no motive but the one of pleasing His Father, whatever the cost. The fast of forty days in the wilderness was doubtless a special scene of trial which ushered in His public ministry; but it was His ordinary life to count on the care of God while doing His work without an anxiety on the one hand, and on the other without independent resources. But His poverty went down into depths unfathomable in the cross when giving His life for the sheep. I do not speak merely of His garments parted among them and of their casting lots upon His vesture, image though it was of extreme and helpless destitution. Deeper elements were there than man’s eye saw, when all forsook Him and fled. God forsook Him too — His God. What remained then? Nothing but the unsparing judgment of our sins. Was He not the “poor man” then as none other was, never morally so high, yet never so abject, and this not circumstantially alone but in all the unspeakable abandonment of that hour? As He said prophetically in Psalm 22, “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men and despised of the people . . . . . I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”
But He was heard from the horns of the unicorns, and in resurrection declares His Father’s name unto His brethren, in the midst of the congregation praising Him. What tongue of men or of angels can adequately tell the change? None but His own when He passed from the abyss of woe where was no standing to the everlasting and immutable ground of divine righteousness where the once guilty objects of grace are set in Him without spot or stain or charge before God, who delights to show them His estimate of Christ’s redemption, and gives the Holy Spirit to seal them unto the day which will declare it. Yet is this but part of the riches of grace wherewith Christ now enriches us who believe. And the blessing of Jehovah is not only for us an exhaustless treasure, but it will go forth with wide-embracing fulness when Messiah’s praise shall be “in the great congregation.” Then all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto Jehovah; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him. For as surely as the Father will surround the Son with His children in His house in heaven, the kingdom is Jehovah’s, and He is the Governor among the nations, and the earth is to be blessed in that day no less than the heavens be filled with the rich harvest gathered into the granary on high, when for the dispensation of the fulness of times He will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. Truly we by His poverty have been enriched, though not we alone but every soul who ever has been, and ever shall be, blessed. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship; all they that go down to the dust shall bow before Him; and none can keep alive his own soul. Such is the grace, the known grace, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and these the ways of our God, not now only but in the ages to come for His own glory and to His praise, whose humiliation and redemption have wrought such wonders, as yet only seen by faith, soon to be displayed before every eye. How sweet to associate it with the gracious consideration of the poor saints and the supply of their need at Jerusalem! How worthy of God thus to bring Christ into that which otherwise had been but an exercise of benevolence and compassion!
The apostle adds his judgment of its profit for the Corinthian saints themselves (ver. 10), who began before not only the doing, but also the willing a year ago. He could therefore with the more delicate propriety urge the completing of their purpose out of what they had. Grace repudiates constraint, but values, encourages, and directs readiness of mind: without this, what is the worth of giving? Is the gift acceptable? or the giver? But if the readiness be there, one is accepted according to what one has, not according to what one has not. Sentiment disappears; reality takes its place. Truth accompanies grace; and equity follows. For it is not that others should have ease and the Corinthians pressure, but on equality; and, as the application is made, “at the present time your abundance for their lack, that their abundance area should be for your lack.” This is fortified by God’s way and word as to the gathering of the manna of old; when God adjusted the supply to the demand with a wisdom and power which precluded superfluity no less than deficiency. He that gave the manna from heaven measured it exactly, whatever the differing measures in man’s hands. And we have to do with the same God, who regulates all in the assembly with assuredly no less care and love.
In the rest of the chapter the apostle dwells on the care taken that the administration of the bounty should be not only beyond suspicion, but clothed with dignity and godly confidence by the known character of those entrusted with it. For it is not enough that the end should be divine, but that the means also should approve themselves to every true conscience. If lucre be apt to be filthy, if covetousness be idolatry, if the love of money be a root of all evil, the Spirit of God knows how to bring in Christ into every detail, and to turn both way and end into blessing to God’s glory.
“But thanks to God that giveth the same zeal for you in the heart of Titus, in that he received indeed the exhortation, but being very zealous of his own accord he set out unto you. But we sent together with him the brother whose praise in the gospel [is] through all the assemblies, and not only [so] but also chosen by the assemblies our fellow-traveller with this grace that is being administered by us unto the glory of the Lord [himself]88 and our89 readiness; guarding against this, that none should blame us in this abundance that is being administered by us, for we provide90 things honourable not only before [the] Lord but also before men. And we have sent with them our brother whom we proved to be zealous many times in many things, but now much more zealous by great confidence that [he hath] in you. Whether as regards Titus, [he is] my partner and fellow-labourer toward you; whether our brethren, [they are] messengers of assemblies, Christ’s glory. The showing forth then of your love and of our boasting for you show forth91 unto them92 in the face of the assemblies.” (Vers. 16-24.)
The apostle thankfully owned the grace of God in giving Titus to feel as he zealously felt himself about the Corinthian saints in the matter, so that while he met the desire, yet too zealous as he was to require it he was ready to set out of his own accord unto them. He speaks as if it were already done; because in the style adopted in letters the facts would be made good when Titus had reached Corinth with this epistle. How eminently suited to comfort as well as rouse to a holy zeal the saints themselves when such a servant of the Lord as Titus so promptly responded to the apostle’s heart, confident as both were that, whatever appearances indicated to those who judged superficially, grace had wrought in them, really and would yet flow through them to God’s glory abundantly! If Timothy was like-minded with him to care for the state of the Philippians with genuine feeling at a later day, the Corinthians might now learn no less, as they were already prepared to do, how Titus shared the zeal of the apostle in carrying out the proffered bounty of Corinth, which bad been so slow of execution as to compromise them.
Thoughtful too as ever that Christ’s glory should be sustained in His servants, He would not expose Titus to unworthy, however unwarrantable, question; and so he associated with him in this service “the brother whose praise in the gospel is throughout all the assemblies.” So well known was he by this description to the Corinthians that no direct designation was needed, though men of other times have found it so vague as to afford grounds equally plausible for many, equally uncertain for any one in particular. Of one thing we may be assured that, whether or not Luke was intended, “whose praise in the gospel” has nothing to do with him in respect of the inspired account of our Lord which induced many of the ancients to appropriate the description to him, any more than to Mark. Barnabas and Silas have been conjectured; as also Aristarchus, Gaius, Trophimus, etc. But none of these guesses seems less happy than that of some speculative Germans, who have applied
τὸν ἀδελφόν to a supposed brother (after the flesh) of Titus, not seeing the incongruity of such an one, if indeed he existed, for the work in hand. The object and character of the association would have been frustrated by selecting one so near to Titus. But we do know the further consideration that, whoever he may have been, he was chosen by the assemblies to travel with the apostle and the rest who were to carry the offering of love from the, Gentile saints to their poor brethren in Judea.
Here we see an important principle in exact accordance with the direction of the twelve in Acts 6. As the christian multitude gave the means, they were left free to choose the administrators. This was as wise as gracious. The apostles kept aloof from all appearance of favouritism, and adhered to their own work with prayer, the condition of power. They might solemnly establish the seven over their business of serving tables; but they called on the disciples in general to look out from among themselves men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom in whom they had confidence. Such were the proceedings in the assembly of Jerusalem; and a like method was adopted among the Gentile assemblies, where many joined their contributions for the need at Jerusalem as we learn in verse 19. Where the saints gave, they chose according to their best judgment for the due application of their gifts, whether in one assembly, or for the special work of many assemblies. But in no case did they meddle with the ministers of the word. These the Lord gave, not the church; and the church, instead of choosing, received those whom the Lord chose and sent, not merely the higher ones, as apostles and prophets, but the more ordinary, as evangelists, pastors and teachers. For they too all rest on the same principle of the Lord’s gift, and not man’s. And hence it is an utter confusion to mix up two things so different as the Lord’s sole title to give and send His servants in the word, and the assembly’s title to choose those in whom the saints have confidence to administer their bounty.
The case before us falls under the latter. “The brother” un-named was chosen by the assemblies “our fellow-traveller with the grace that is being administered by us unto the glory of the Lord [Himself] and our readiness;” as indeed the apostle had directed in 1 Corinthians 16:3, 4. The moral reason of the caution follows: “guarding against this, that none should blame us in this abundance that is being administered by us, for we provide things honourable not only before [the] Lord but before men.” (Vers. 20, 21.) It is not lack of faith, but rather faith working by love which would cut off occasion from men, as well as walk with pure conscience before God. The allusion is to Proverbs 3:4 in the LXX.
The next verse, as well as that which follows, proves that the apostle added another brother. “And we sent with them [i.e. with Titus and the one already described] our brother whom we proved to be zealous many times in many things, but now much more zealous by great confidence that [he hath] in you.” (Ver. 22.) Still less is it possible for us to determine who is this second brother meant; because we have not even so many marks as attached to the first. But two particulars fitting him for the work are mentioned: the apostle’s experience of his proved zeal often and variedly; and again the exceeding warmth of his own zeal now by his (hardly Paul’s) great confidence in the Corinthian saints. For the margin of the Authorised Version is more correct than the text, at least in my judgment. None could be so unsuitable an associate as a near relation, if the aim were, as it was, to inspire confidence in the donors.
It seems to be clear from verse 23 that Titus stood relatively in the higher position of the three who were to accompany the apostle: “Whether as regards Titus, [he is] my partner and fellow-labourer toward you; whether our brethren, [they are] messengers of assemblies, Christ’s glory.” Is it not then incredible that the apostle would have thus classified or described men so eminent as Barnabas, Silas, Luke or Mark? Not to say that it was only at a later day that he expresses his re-assurance as to the last. Could he yet write that Mark was serviceable to him for ministry? or that he was among his fellow-workers for the kingdom of God who were such as had been a consolation to him? Renewed confidence may be gravely doubted then, though it came at length; and the apostle was glad to say so as soon as he could to the Lord’s praise.
It is well to note how the expression “messengers [
ἀπόστολοι] of assemblies” illustrates the difference of a charge from men however delicate and weighty as compared with a gift or charge from the Lord like an apostle. These brethren, while beautifully and graciously styled “Christ’s glory” as being active in the display of His excellency, were deputed envoys of certain churches who entrusted them with their contributions for Judea. Not only did he decline the sole administration of the gift himself, but he directed and sanctioned the choice of more than one and gave their task dignity in all eyes by associating the two brethren, not only with Titus who shared the highest confidence of the saints, but with himself. Our Authorised Version, however, is quite right in not rendering the word “apostles” (which is appropriated to the envoys of the Lord in the highest rank of His work) and in preferring “messengers” here and in Philippians 2:25, where it is said of Epaphroditus who was the bearer of what the Philippian saints sent at a later day of the apostle in Rome. To translate the passage in our text or in Philippians 2, “apostles” can only be from inconsiderateness, or still worse — the desire to level down the apostles of Christ by levelling up the messenger or messengers of churches. The source of the commission is the measure of their difference. To confound them is to degrade the Lord or to deify the church, the great effort of the enemy by those who know not the truth, however they may look in opposition to each other. For here it is that the highest and the lowest ecclesiastically meet: the one by exalting a merely human caste of church officials to the place which the Lord gave His apostles; the other by reducing the apostles of the Lord to those chosen by the assemblies or delegates of the people. They both agree, one superstitiously, the other rationalistically, in unbelief of Christ’s gracious power in providing for the perfecting of the saints.
Having thus summed up what he had to say of his companions, of moment for the Corinthian saints at this time, he calls on the saints to give the proof of their love and of his boasting about them to those brethren in the face of the assemblies.
γε CKLP and almost all cursives, and fathers;
περ B D E F G, 17, 80, etc.
ἐκδ. is the strange error of Dp.m. F G etc., contrary to all the set.
52 It is false and anti-scriptural that “without body there is no soul,” that “the continuance of the soul as a pure spirit without a body is to the apostle an impossibility: the doctrine of the soul’s immortality is like the term, strange to the Bible. And no wonder, a self-consciousness in a created being necessarily supposes the limit of a bodily organisation.” This denies angel and spirit really, as well as what scripture teaches of the separated soul.
53 D E F G, etc., with many versions and fathers read
τούτῳ “this,” contrary to B C K L P and the great majority.
ἐπειδή St. (not Elz.) with a few juniors.
55 D E F G etc.,
καί is added by some uncials and most cursives, contrary to the best authorities.
57 Thus he writes (Comm. in loco, ed. A, Tholuck, Halis Sax., i. 459), “Copula quae mox sequitur, resolvi debet in causalem particulam, hoc modo: Bono animo sumus quia scimus nos peregrinari a corpore, etc. Nam haec cognitio nostrae tranquillitatis et fiduciae causa est.”
58 The mass of authority and of the highest character omits
εἰ “if,” which Text. Rec. has with corr. C, etc. Vulg., Cop. and Arm. and many fathers. it seems a mere slip to omit it, because of the
59 The Five Clergymen, like others, argue for “have been beside ourselves,” but while there is a propriety in the aorist as transient, our English idiom seems to require a present here, as in many other cases. The sobriety was continuous.
60 Chrysostom takes the Greek thus without hesitation, and he surely must have known his own tongue.
Οὐκοῦν ὡς πάντων ἀπολομένων, φησίν. Οὐ γὰρ ἄν, εἰ μὴ πάντες ἀπέθανον, ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν. Hom. xi. in 2 Corinth. tom. iii. 127: ed. Field. Oxon. 1845.
61 Text. Rec. adds
δέ “but” with the majority, but not p.m. B D, etc. F G, etc., and in
εἰ, “and if;” as some also add
κατὰ σ. as to flesh” at the end of the verse.
62 Text. Rec. with most adds
τὰ πάντα before or after
κ., but not “B C Dp.m. F G nor most of the very ancient versions.
63 Text. Rec. adds “Jesus,” with a few uncials and the bulk of the cursives, etc., against the best MSS. and all the ancient versions.
γάρ, “for” is added in Text. Rec., with many uncials, most cursives, and several ancient versions; but the weight of authority is against it, as also yet more in favour of
γενώμεθα, instead of the present form (
65 Dean Alford has no reason to identify “us” in verse 18 with the” world” in verse 19. There is marked difference in the two verses, and no room for the confusion of the saints with the world. Nor was he the worst instance of such confusion.
66 There is no real ground for Bishop Middleton’s remark (Doctrine of the Greek Article, pp. 350, 351, Rose’s ed. 1845) that
κόσμος here and in Galatians 6:14 is one of those words which partake of the nature of proper names, and so dispense with the article exceptionally in these two instances. The true reason has nothing to do with its emphatic position, and simply is that the word is used characteristically in both, and hence, though we cannot so express it in English, more forcibly than if “the” world in either case were presented as an objective fact. Hence the critical reading which drops not only
τῳ in Galatians 6:14 is right. Further, it is not the fact that Plutarch (
περὶ Στωικ. ἐναντ.) omits the article With
κόσμος, for it is inserted in both Reiske’s ed. 1778, x. 348. and Wyttenbach’s, Oxon. 1800, v. 193.The Bishop’s citation was from an old edition and a bad text. Winer and T. S. Green follow in the same wake, classing k. with many other words like
ἥλιος, γῆ, which may drop the article, as nearly equivalent to proper names. This is as to all defect of analysis. They probably misled Alford and Ellicott, but not Dr. Lightfoot, who evidently sees nothing irregular, and simply remarks that the sentence thus (i.e., by the anarthrous form) gains in terseness. So in our passage the entire clause is intentionally and essentially characteristic,
θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῳ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῳ, and
τόν would have brought in fact, which is exactly what is not intended, any more than
ἦν καταλλάσσων = reconciliavit as Wetstein says. It is the aspect or bearing of His presence in Christ, not an accomplished fact (which is expressed by the aorist part. in verse 18).
67 “Observandum hic Paulo negotium esse cum fidelibus. testatur se quotidie id illos perferre hoc mandatum. non ergo passus est Christus ut semel tantum peccata nostra expiaret; neque in hoc institutum Evangelium ut quae ante Baptismum.” etc. 1. Calv. Nov. Opera Omnia, vii. 244, Amstel. 1671.
68 The old interpretation is particularly objectionable, Dei enim sumus adjutores. Bengel on 1 Corinthians 3:9 put the true thought neatly: Sumus operarii Dei et co-operarii invicem.
69 In this case the order would also differ, probably by placing
σ. so as to give the former the more emphasis.
70 “In pressuris, complures patent viae, sed difficiles; in necessitatibis, una, difficilis; in angustiis, nulla.” Beng. Gn. in l.
71 Here we may notice the strange misconception of the Vulgate, followed as usual by Wiclif and the Rhemish. “eandem remunerationem habentes,” “ye that have the same reward,” “having the same reward.” This inverts the meaning: he wanted the reward in the same kind, not that they had it. Tyndale understood the phrase as “I promyse you lyke rewarde with me as to my children;” and Cranmer follows in the same wake. “I promyse unto you lyke reward, as unto children,” taking the accusative as the complement or direct regimen of the verb. The Geneva Version exhibits another variety, nearer the true sense, “Now I require of you the same recompense,” etc. The Authorised Version seems best, not applying any fresh verb, but taking the accusative absolutely, or rather as in apposition with a cognate accusative supposed in the verb following.
72 This opening phrase is very compressed, being a kind of pregnant construction, and to be resolved either with Winer as
μὴ γίν. ἑτεροζυγ. καὶ οὕτως ὁμοζ. ἀπ., or more simply perhaps
μὴγίν. δμοζ. ἀπ. καὶ οὕτως ἑτεροζυγ. The sense is plainly a heterogeneous yoke, not another part of it as Grotius, nor a beam with diverse weights as Theophylact.
73 The MSS fluctuate as to the form of the word,
βελίαλ being the nearest to the Hebrew original, corrupted through Syriac to
βελίαρ which is best supported (m B C P, more than fifty cursives, and other excellent authorities). Some give
74 Good witnesses ( B D L P, etc.), followed by a few eminent critics, read
ἡμεῖς . . . . ἐμέν, “we are,” for
ὑμεῖς . . . . ἐστέ with C Dcorr. E F G K, the mass of cursives, and most of the versions and commentators.
75 Some punctuate thus: “if also I did regret, for I see that that letter grieved you if also for a time, now I rejoice,” etc.
ἐργάζεται p.m. B C D B P, etc.
κατ- Text. Rec. with corr. F G K L, and most cursives, etc.
77 B C E K L P and a great many cursives, etc., etc. Steph.
ὑμῶν τ. ὑπ. ἡμῶν; etc.
ὑπ. ὑμῶν; G, etc.
ἡμῶντ. ὑπ. ἡμῶν; but EIz. with some cursives, Vulg., Gothic, etc.,
ἡμῶν τ. ὑμῶν.
78 T. Rec. omits
δέ, which affects the sentence considerably, and also reads
ὑμῶν instead of
79 Elz., not Steph., adds
οὖν with a few cursives.
80 “Sed quid est quod addit: etiamsi me poenituerit? Nam si fateamur Paulo displicuisse quod scripserat, sequetur non levis absurditas inconsiderato magis impulsu scriptam fuisse superiorem epistolam quam Spiritus directione. Respondeo, verbum Poenitendi improprie hic positum pro Dolorem capere. Paulus enim, quum moerore afficeret Corinthios, doloris partem capiebat ipse quoque, ac sibi quodammodo tristitiam simul infligebat. Proinde ergo est acsi diceret: Tametsi invitus vos pupugi, ac mihi doluit quod vobis durus esse cogerer, nunc dolere ob hac causam desino, dum video utile vobis fuisse.” Calv. Opp. vii. 250.
81 This seems a singular slip in an unquestionably great scholar as to a nicety of Greek phrase; for
καὶ εἰ (when used as a composite, instead of the first as a mere copulative) differs from
εἰ καί in that the former treats the condition as itself altogether improbable, the latter raises no doubt as to the fact, though reduced in moment as much as possible.
82 Text. Rec., with most, reads
τὸν πλ., but p.m. B C P etc., to; pl. as in verse 3,
ὑπέρ instead of
παρά. Krebs seems not to have been aware of this last fact.
84 The addition of d
έξασθαι ἡμᾶς in Text. Rec. is supported by some cursives and versions, against the great mass of good authority
85 Lachmann actually adopts the strange reading of the Vatican MS. supported by other witnesses,
ἐξ ἡμων ἐν ὑμῖν. Internal evidence would be decisive against this if the external evidence were not as strong as it is.
86 Even so difficulty has been felt because of the absence of the finite verb expressed; but it seems plain enough, as Bengel long ago suggested, that
ἔδωκαν, which follows in verse 5, is understood in the earliest clause, and this removes all appearance of what has been styled “a sentence entirely shattered in passing through the apostle’s mind.” But it is no less plain that Bengel was mistaken in supposing that
κοιν. depend on
ἔδωκαν, for they are unequivocally objects of
δεόμενοι, which also takes a genitive of the person. “Hoc verbum totam periochae structuram sustinet, tali sensu: Non modo gratiani, communionem, sive
δόμα, munus illud dederunt, sed plane se ipsos dederunt. Ita Chrysost. Homil. xvi. in 2 Cor. coll. maxime Homil. xvii., ubi repetit
ὑπὲρ δύναμιν ἔδωκαν. Cum eodem verbo
ἔδωκαν cohaerent nominativi illi,
αὐθαίρετοι, δεόμενοι, et ab eodem peudent accusativi,
χάριν κοινωνίαν, ἑαυτούς, sensu facili et suavi.” Gnomon in loco. ed. Stuttg. 1866.
87 I see no need whatever of giving
εἰς ὑμᾶς so wide a rendering as Mr. Green’s “on reaching you,” or even “among you” as is oftener done. it is not for
ἐν ὑμῖν but more exact as it stands. No more is there any real ground for translating
ἀλλά in verse 7 “therefore,” as in A.V. “But” introduces anew appeal.
88 B C Dp.m. F G L many cursives and ancient versions omit
89 Text. Rec. has
ὑμῶν “your,” contrary to the oldest and best MSS which read
90 Instead of Text. Rec.
προνοούμενοι with later MSS (or better
γάρ added as in C. etc.), the best read
προνοοῦμεν γάρ “for we provide.”
91 For Text. Rec.
ἐνδείξασθε with many old MSS, is real in B Dp.m. Ep.m. F G etc.
καί “and” of the Text. Rec. has no adequate authority and encumbers the sense.