Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:Spiritual Gravitation
2 Corinthians 10:5
The thought of the Apostle in this passage is a very simple and natural one; it is a contrast between the warfare of the hands and the warfare of the mind and soul. There were many things to remind him of the warfare of the hands. But, like all men of fine contemplative genius, he was aware of a force mightier than the force of armies which was always working in the world, viz., the force of ideas. If the world is hostle to Christ today, it is because Christians have not been obedient to Christ, because with us those staple thoughts and ideas, out of which temper and conduct grow, have not been brought into captivity to Him.
I. The first thing to observe, then, is that any conformity to Christ which does not include the thought—by which I mean the innermost intents of the mind and will—is vain and partial, and vain because it is partial. The reason for the comparative failure of Christianity is simply the failure of Christians to be Christians.
II. The second thing to be observed is, that the thought can be disciplined; and it is necessary to say this, and to insist on it, because many of us assume that there is something elusive in thought, something so wayward, subtle, and intractable, that it lies quite outside the control of the will. Professor Huxley once defined genius as a mind under perfect control—a servant always at heel, ready at any call to do its duty, and quick to respond to any demand that the will can legitimately make upon it The process of education itself is nothing more or less than the art of controlling and disciplining the thought And so it is in the Christian life: we must begin by the discipline of the thought.
III. But, thirdly, we need to ask by what means this captivity of thought may be gained? We may answer the question by asking another. What is the nature of that force which alone can control a man's thought with any adequacy, or can give him an impulse and mandate for its discipline? The only captivity which thought endures is the captivity of the ideal. Every man has some ideal, and his ideal is the governing factor in his thought Three final suggestions we may think over at our leisure. First, goodness is a fine art, and is not a matter of magic. Secondly, the thought is not brought into captivity to Christianity, but to Christ. Lastly, learn to recognise the vast scope of the Christian religion.
—W. J. Dawson, The Comrade Christ, p. 207.
2 Corinthians 10:5
Mr. Gladstone wrote at the age of twenty an account of his religious opinions in which the following prayer occurs: 'O heavenly and most merciful God, implant in me a godly fear of Thee, root out from me my ungodly fear of men; let the blessed Spirit, who despises not so humble an office, condescend to purge my unclean heart, to take away from it my own wavering and vacillating resolutions, and place in their stead a permanent and habitual sense of Thy presence, a lively faith, a love hearty and unconstrained, a looking unto Jesus for redemption, unto the Spirit for grace. May every thought be brought into the obedience of Christ, and may I walk in the footsteps of my beloved sister, my once suffering but now glorified sister, though in heaven still my sister.'
References.—X. 5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No. 1473. H. C. Beeching, Seven Sermons to Schoolboys, p. 64. Newman Smyth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 245. H. P. Liddon, Sermons Preached on Special Occasions, p. 96. J. R. Illingworth, University and Cathedral Sermons, p. 144. H. P. Liddon, University Sermons, p. 156. W. Pulsford, Trinity Church Sermons, p. 24. J. H. Jowett, From Strength to Strength, p. 103. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 367; ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. pp. 31, 142.
2 Corinthians 10:7
The intensity of human individuality is for ever surprising and shocking our anticipations. It overleaps all our categories; it refuses to conform to our conventions. Individuality is under obligation to declare and fulfil itself. It can no more be bound down by our schemes of classification than Samson by the withes of the Philistines. Try to tie it up to a beam of your own invention, and it will walk off with the beam and all. You can but accept the facts. By the same right by which you are what you are, he is what he is. Why should you wish to impress yourself upon him? Why should you require him to conform to your anticipation?
God alone can judge him, for God alone has made him for Himself. God has thrown into him a distinct and separate purpose of His own devising. God alone knows what the purpose is, and to God alone he answers for what he makes of it.
I. God has not exhausted His creative powers in creating us. He has new things in view, and here is one of them. The very certainty with which you yourself recognise the Divine intention in your own making ought to render you anxious to recognise the freedom and elasticity with which that same Divine intention expresses itself in others. They are so different from you, so strange, so odd, so incredible, so unintelligible, so incalculable, so funny. Yes, but you and they all witness to one God, who commits to each his special destiny. Each has his own equal right to exist. No one can override any other's claims.
So, gazing out at the endless swarms of individuals who pass before us, in infinite variety of surprise, unable to account for their peculiarity and diversity, we fall back, again and again, on this recognition by St. Paul of our common origin, and of the common authority to which we all lay our claim, and say: 'If any man trust to himself that he is God's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is God's, so are all these'.
II. 'As he is God's, so are all these.' Is not this the only true democratic principle? Is not this what we mean by the equality of all men? We think that we have all arrived at this recognition of equality. It is a commonplace, a platitude. But, if so, do we also recognise the religious ground on which it rests, the spiritual assumption which justifies it? This equal right of every individual man to be himself has God for its background. How else is it explained? It is the Divine origin of each separate personality that endows it with this inalienable sanctity.
III. Belief in God, in and through Christ, has endowed every separate personality with this sacred right to be itself. Yet, it is just where we get to conscious belief in God that we find it most difficult to recognise this right. This is the exact point which my text brings out. It is because we are convinced of our own true relationship to Christ that we cannot but suppose that this relationship must be universal. In other and minor matters, in the rough and tumble of ordinary affairs, every individual may have his own strange way of saying things. We can allow, perhaps, for a mixed hubbub of voices in the world's business, or in politics, or in matters of sentiment; but when we come to the Eternal God, when we are dealing with loyalty to Jesus Christ, when we come to the realities of spiritual faith, then, surely, we must expect to find our own experiences verified in others.
Just as this man knows Christ for himself alone, so all may know Him. In this Christ shows Himself absolute and universal, not in the sameness of His manifestation, but in its utter diversity. He, the same Christ, can cover every individual difference There is no one individuality for which He has not a special and individual disclosure of Himself to make. His revelations will be as varied as the individuals who receive them. His fertility of resource will be adequate to every new demand and level with every fresh variation in human nature. Therefore, let the true believer who trusts that he is Christ's own be perfectly prepared to find that others whom he cannot understand, with whom he inevitably collides, whose judgments he disputes, whose sentiments are wholly the reverse of his own, are, nevertheless, just as much Christ's as he is. There is no reason why this same loyalty to one Lord should not express itself in a thousand divergent ways through a multitude of differing characters.
—H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxvii. p. 353.
References.—X. 10.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. p. 99; ibid. (5th Series), vol. iii. p. 384; ibid. vol. x. p. 20; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 119; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 226. X. 15.—Ibid. vol. viii. p. 75. X. 15, 16.—Archbishop Temple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 321. X. 16.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 300. XI. 2.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 250; ibid. vol. X. p. 186; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 278.
But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's.
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:
That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.
For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.
Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.
For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:
Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,
To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.
But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.