Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1. St. Paul claims that he has espoused them to Christ, and that he was anxious to present the Church as a chaste virgin to him.
2. There was great danger of their losing this virginal purity.
3. If this purity were lost, it would be through the subtlety of Satan acting by means of human agency.
4. This agency threatened the Corinthians even now, some of whom were inclined to reject his authority and become the disciples of these arrogant and self-sufficient teachers.
5. His authority was indisputable. "Not a whit" was he "behind the very chiefest apostles," and this had been demonstrated most signally by his apostolic labours in Corinth. "Rude in speech," according to the Grecian standard of rhetoric, but "not in knowledge;" so that if some of the Corinthians went after another preacher with a different Christ and Spirit and gospel, and would "bear with him" and "might well bear," it would be in contempt of him who had been "made thoroughly manifest" among them as "not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles," and that, too, "in all things." "Bear with him," the new teacher, weaning you away from your former love? Then "bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me." If you accede to his claims who comes to you with such a novel, presumptuous, and overbearing manner, then surely you can tolerate me in the little folly of lowering myself to a comparison with him. I condescend to it for your sakes and for my own. The equal of any apostle, I let myself down to this folly, and "would to God ye could bear with me" in it! - L.
I. THE PASTOR'S EARNEST DESIRE.
1. That his testimony may not be ineffective. Sorely burdened is that pastor's heart whose words seem to fall to the ground. He has a great object in his earnest appeals; if these fail, his strength has been spent for nought, his life fails. To preach on and on, and yet to see no spiritual result, strains his heartstrings till they threaten to snap. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, and, if the people of his charge are merely interested or amused by his preaching, he cries, "Woe is me!"
2. That those to whom he preaches may be truly converted. He desires that they may be united to Christ as a bride to her husband (ver. 2). He is not satisfied with their thinking or speaking well of Christianity, or with their outward observance of religious duties; his longing is for their real redemption and for their thorough consecration to Christ. If he be faithful, he aims to attach them, not to himself, but to his Master. His joy is full only when they are married to Christ, and live as those who are no longer their own. For this he longs, prays, labours, agonizes.
3. That at last they may appear in holiness before Christ. "That I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ" (ver. 2). The true pastor desires, not only that his people should start in the Christian race, but that they should continue, and at last attain to the "crown of righteousness." Flash-in-the-pan conversions please none but fools. Pastoral anxiety is largely the anxiety of watching development. The man of God has the toil and care of building up spiritual life. He counts that labour lost, so far as the objects of it are concerned, which has no abiding effects. The merest flash of thought will reveal the multitude of disappointments certain to crowd upon his soul.
II. THE PASTOR'S CONSTANT DREAD. This dread is lest his converts should fall away. Lest it should be made evident that the good seed has, after all, fallen upon the wayside, or into stony places, or amongst destructive thorns. He remembers:
1. The power of the tempter. Perhaps, like Paul, he calls to mind the fall of Eve, and remembers how much the children are like their mother. He feels the power of temptation in himself; he sees others fall; he wonders whether his own converts will yield. They are his crown of rejoicing when they stand fast; his crown of thorns when they fall.
2. The weakness of the human heart. He remembers the old nature still within them - their infirmities, their tendencies to trust to their own strength. They seem to be easy prey for the devil.
3. The subtlety of false human teachers. So many other gospels besides the true will be preached to them - adroitly contrived, it may be, to pander to the carnality still remaining within them. Called by seductive names - bearing the name of Christ possibly, and yet inimical to his kingdom and person. Philosophies falsely so called, and philosophers as full of confidence and conceit as of emptiness, and yet presenting to shallow judgments the appearance of the fulness of wisdom.
III. THE PASTOR'S JEALOUSY.
1. A watchful jealousy. He will have to give account of the souls entrusted to his care, so dares not be careless. He loves his flock, and therefore watches over it. He watches for the approach of peril, if peradventure he may avert it. He jealously scrutinizes all influences affecting his charge. His Master is the shepherd; he is the watch-dog.
2. A warning jealousy. His keen feelings lead to solemn admonitions when needed. He barks, and, when occasion arises, even bites; faithful are the wounds of such a friend. A short shrift is the desert of a pastor who is but a dumb dog. Pity it is if our feelings are so fine that we cannot rebuke men to save them from perdition. Silver bells are all very well for seasons of festivity, but when the fire blazes forth we must swing lustily the rough alarm bell in the turret. He is a poor surgeon who is too tender hearted to use the knife, if we love people very much we shall be willing to hurt them that we may heal them. An unwarning jealousy is not worth a farthing a bushel, it is a poor sham.
3. A godly jealousy. (Ver. 2.)
(1) Jealousy which centres in the welfare of others rather than in gratification at their attachment to the minister of Christ.
(2) Jealousy which is concerned pre-eminently with the honour of God. The falls of professed Christians bring dishonour upon the cause of Christ.
(3) Jealousy wrought in the heart by God himself. A right feeling, since God has given it place in the pastor's heart.
(4) Jealousy which allies with God. Leading to prayer, communion with God, dependence upon him in every strait. - H.
I. THE PLACE OF CHRISTIAN THE CHURCH. It is as unique as that of the husband in relation to the wife. A place that can know no rivalry. Christ is Head, Lord, Husband. "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." The old testimony is renewed for the Christian spheres, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord." "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." No earthly teachers may push into his place. No claim of Judaic ceremonies may spoil the trust in and devotion to him. "Him first, him midst, him last, him all in all." The bride has but one Husband, even Christ.
II. THE SPIRIT OF THE CHURCH TOWARDS CHRIST. It is that full loyalty which follows upon setting our whole affection on Christ, and which finds expression in all loving submissions and obediences. It is precisely set before us by the great apostle when he says, "To me to live in Christ." "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
III. THE TEMPTATIONS TO WHICH THE CHURCH IS EXPOSED. Answering to the disloyalty of a wife. And such temptations may take forms of subtlety, like those presented by the serpent to Eve. In every age there are things which tend to take the mind and heart from Christ. Nowadays it is worldliness, self-indulgence, the beautiful in art, and the fascination of scientific knowledge. We want now to love and serve so many things much and Christ a little, and still the old message sounds forth, "If a man forsake not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." St. Paul counted "all things loss for Christ," and would have nothing - Mosaic rite, human philosophy, or aught else - come between him and his one Lord. - R.T.
I. THAT IS A DIFFERENT GOSPEL WHICH PROCLAIMS ANOTHER JESUS. The Judaizing teachers acknowledged that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, but they seem to have represented him as merely human, as merely a prophet, as destitute of Divine claims upon the faith and reverence of men. The form of error changes, whilst the substance remains. In our own day there are public teachers who commend Jesus to the admiration and the imitation of men, but who ridicule or despise the notion that he is the one Saviour, that he is the rightful Lord, of humanity.
II. THAT IS A DIFFERENT GOSPEL WHICH BREATHES ANOTHER SPIRIT THAN THAT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. The Judaizers taught the doctrine of the letter, the doctrine of bondage to the Law. In this their religion was contradictory to the religion of Jesus, of Paul, of John, who upheld the religion of liberty, who taught that the heart inflamed with Divine love will itself prompt to deeds of obedience, who discountenanced the merely formal and mechanical compliance with the letter of the Law, as altogether insufficient. In our own day there are those who lay all stress upon the form, upon that which is external and bodily; these proclaim a "different gospel."
III. THAT IS A DIFFERENT GOSPEL WHICH NEGLECTS TO OFFER THE FREE SALVATION OF GOD TO SINFUL MAN. Whether this be the consequence of a defective view of man's sinful condition, or of a failure to enter into the glorious counsels of Divine compassion, or of an unworthy desire to retain a priestly power in their own hands, the result is that, if there be anything that can be called a gospel, it is a different gospel. In truth, there is but one gospel - that which is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, a gospel which is worthy of all love and of all acceptation. - T.
I. THE SENSE IN WHICH APOSTOLIC TEACHING WAS FINAL. In relation to this modern opinion differs from the older opinion, and therefore the subject needs to be treated with extreme care and prudence. When the generally received doctrine of inspiration was that known as the verbal theory, which affirmed the direct communication from God of every word of Scripture, the apostles were regarded as inspired forevery detail of Gospels and Epistles, and appeal to their expressions was regarded as final. We now more clearly see that they were inspired to guide men's thoughts, but not to fetter them, or force them into precise moulds. The apostles do fix the lines along which Christian thought may safely run, but they leave full room for the diversities and idiosyncrasies of men to find free expression. They make a firm stand, and plainly show the boundaries of Christian thinking, but within the lines they leave us free. We properly use our own cultured Christian judgment - in the leadings of the Holy Ghost - upon the value of their arguments, and the precise applications of their counsels. And this appears to us quite consistent with a becoming reverence for these divinely endowed men, and necessary to that personal leading of the Holy Ghost, which we are permitted to realize as well as they. God's truth for the race can be set within no permanent bonds, even though men may call them apostolic.
II. THE LIMITS WITHIN WHICH DIVERSITY CAN BE PERMITTED.
1. There can be no dispute with regard to the great Christian facts.
2. There can be no attempt to alter the supreme position of Christ in his Church and relation to his Church. There is nothing so essentially Christian as the truth of the direct relation of the soul to Christ, a relation that is independent of doctrine, creed, ceremonial, or priesthood, though these all have their place.
3. There are great foundation truths and principles which may be stated in simple and comprehensive terms, but outside of which, or contrary to which, Christian thought cannot safely run. None may take from us our "liberty in Christ," but we may wisely "hold fast the form of sound words."
III. THE WAYS IN WHICH APOSTOLIC TEACHING MIGHT BE IMPERILLED. Unfold and illustrate the following ways.
1. By overloading it with the old.
2. By overstraining it to tit the new.
3. By applying it in a spirit that is out of harmony with its principles.
4. By the pressure of the peculiarities of men who are strongly self-willed.
5. By translating the claims into the things we should like to do, rather than into the things which we ought to do.
6. By permitting the common philosophy and sociology of men to give tone to the Christian revelation, rather than to make Christianity tone them.
IV. THE TESTS BY WHICH SUCH PERVERSIONS OF APOSTOLIC TEACHINGS MIGHT BE DISCOVERED. The all-sufficing tests of any teaching, under the influence of which we may come - whether it be teachings of the pulpit or of the press - are these.
1. Is it in harmony with the first truth of the Christian revelation - the fatherhood of God?
2. Does it uphold the honour, and the supreme administrative rights in souls, of the Lord Jesus Christ?
3. And does it practically tend towards the things that are pure, and true, and holy, and good? Everything, godly is helpful to godliness. In conclusion, argue this point - Can we still safely receive truth upon the authority of men? and if so, are there any limitations under which such reception is properly placed? And are we still open and exposed to the persuasions of self-interested or self-deluded teachers? We have to find out for these times in which we live what is the scorer of "holding fast the faith once delivered to the saints." - R.T.
I. THE PRINCIPLE OF GRATUITOUS MINISTRY IS THE BENEVOLENCE AND SACRIFICE OF CHRIST. Of our Lord Jesus we know that, though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, that he had not where to lay his head, that he had no possessions in this world which was yet his own. The spirit of the Master has in a greater or less measure penetrated the disciples. They have felt the force of the appeal, "Freely ye have received, freely give." No other religion has a supernatural power mighty enough to overcome the selfishness and self-seeking so characteristic of human nature.
II. THE AIM OF GRATUITOUS MINISTRY IS THE SALVATION OF MEN. It is not expected that men should labour without fee or reward in order to supply the ordinary bodily and social wants of their fellow men. The apostle preached at Corinth amidst weakness, weariness, discouragement, and ingratitude, because he sought the spiritual welfare of the population of that wealthy, intellectual, but profligate city. His heart was moved by the spectacle of vice and idolatry which encumbered him on every side, and, being in possession of the true and only remedy, he sought to bring it within the reach and urge it upon the acceptance of all.
III. THE SPECIAL PURPOSE OF GRATUITOUS MINISTRY IS TO REMOVE THE MINISTRY ABOVE THE SUSPICION OF INTERESTED MOTIVES. It is upon this that the Apostle Paul in this passage lays such stress. There were professing Christians who were ready enough to bring the charge of covetousness against the apostle of the Gentiles, and so to undermine his credit and authority. There was one way in which such designs might be surely and conclusively defeated, and, although this was a way involving self-denial to himself, Paul adopted it. He laboured with his hands, he accepted help from the poor Christians of Macedonia, so that he might hold himself altogether flee from any suspicion of working at Corinth for the sake of anything he might receive from the Corinthians. Herein he exemplified his own axiom, "All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient." APPLICATION.
1. Learn the wonderful and unique power of the Christian religion, which alone is capable of vanquishing the sinful selfishness of human nature.
2. Learn the importance of so acting as not to leave room even for suspicion or calumny to injure Christian character and cripple Christian usefulness. - T.
I. OUR BEST ACTS MAY BE MISINTERPRETED. Acts of the greatest nobility and unselfishness have often been. The world's greatest benefactors have tasted the bitterness of being misunderstood.
1. We should not judge of our acts by man's estimate of them.
2. We should not be surprised by any interpretation put on them.
3. We should not be dismayed by any interpretation.
4. We should rejoice that we have a higher, wiser, and more impartial tribunal than the human. Our Master said, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you!" (Luke 6:26) - a pregnant warning to those who live upon the approval of men!
II. MISINTERPRETATION SHOULD NOT HINDER US FROM CONTINUING IN A RIGHT COURSE.
1. We have not to give account to men, but to God.
2. To change our conduct might not avoid misinterpretation, but rather give occasion for it (ver. 12).
III. MISINTERPRETATION MAY BE MET AT SUITABLE TIMES BY EXPLANATION AND JUSTIFICATION OF CONDUCT.
1. It is well to take away occasion for misinterpretation. Misinterpretation, like martyrdom, should not be courted. Both should be borne heroically when they meet us in the path of duty.
2. It is often well to show that misinterpretation is misinterpretation. We should not forget that misinterpretation may
(1) injure our usefulness;
(2) injure those who misinterpret us;
(3) bring dishonour upon Christ.
In this matter we have need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. - H.
boastings are only evil both for him who boasts and for those who hear the boasting; but no rule is without exception, and there are times when a man is absolutely driven to boasting - it is the one thing that he can do, and that he ought to do. It becomes the plain duty of the hour. A man may never boast until he is thus driven to it, and then his boastings will have their foundation in his humility. The apostle's boastings had direct reference to the accusations made against him.
I. THERE WERE BOASTINGS OF HIS JEWISH BIRTH AND RIGHTS. These had been assailed. He was a foreign-born Jew, and the Palestine Jews rather looked down upon all such. It was easy to raise prejudice against the apostle on this ground. He therefore pleads the facts of his pure birth, his Pharisaic relationships, his Jerusalem training, and his manifest Jewish sympathies. He was proud of the fact that no Jew could plead superior Jewish birthrights to his. So far he did but boast of facts of his life that were beyond his own control
II. THERE WERE BOASTINGS OF SUFFERINGS BORNE IN MINISTERING FOR CHRIST. See vers. 21-30, the most amazing catalogue of woes ever written. One wonders how so frail a body could have endured them all. But even this record we feel is holy boasting, for one can but feel that, under all the intensity of the utterance, there is a great sadness of heart in being thus compelled to speak of such things. He never would have said one word about them had it not been that attacks upon his apostleship meant dishonour to Christ, and mischievous hindrance to Christ's work. St. Paul never would have boasted if he had not thus been compelled to boast for Christ's sake. And this is the one law for us. Never put self in the front unless so putting self will glorify our Master. We may even boast if it is clear that our boasting will serve him. - R.T.
conviction be consummated? Precisely here the Spirit perfects his gracious office as the Divine Convincer; and precisely here we must labour with all diligence and prayerfulness in order to convince men that they are by nature the subjects of this prince, and that only Christ, who has "judged" him, can deliver them from his bondage. No closeness of contact with man as mere man will meet the requirements of the case. It is man, the servant of sin because the slave of the devil, with whom the preacher of the gospel has to do, and unless he realize as far as may be the fearful import of Christ's words, "Ye are of your father the devil," it is not likely he will cooperate with the Holy Ghost in bringing men to that depth and thoroughness of repentance which go tar to determine the stability and worth of future Christian character. Depend upon it, our danger at this point is real and serious. What is the human nature with which we are struggling in the daily endeavours of thought and in special sabbath efforts, praying, wrestling, agonizing, that it may be rescued from unbelief and restored to its Father? Inspiration is never content to portray it as merely far gone from original righteousness, dead in trespasses and sins, but the very phraseology takes its deepest import from ideas and images originally associated with Satan. If detached from Satan, such terms as "subtlety," "blindness," "deceitfulness," "bewitched," "craftiness," "beguiled," "wiles," "snares," "captivity," "bondage," would lose the peculiar force which always accompanies them in the Scriptures. And with this use of language the spirit of the New Testament accords when its writers are setting forth human depravity in its special relations to Christ's mediatorial work. Is Judas about to negotiate for the betrayal of Jesus of Nazareth? "Satan entered into him." Is St. Peter over confident, proud of his devotion to Jesus, full of daring? "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." St. John: "he that committeth sin is of the devil." St. Peter: "Your adversary, the devil." St. James: "Resist the devil." St. Paul: "Recover themselves out of the snare of the devil." Surely, then, this uniform tenor of scriptural language, coupled with Christ's most emphatic declaration as to man's incapacity to see Satanic agency in its true light except through the convicting office of the Holy Ghost; surely, we say, this should impress us very deeply as to the urgent need of making prominent in our preaching and teaching the fact of Satan's enormous power over the human soul. Time was when this truth was felt far more profoundly than now, or at least when it filled a much larger space in pulpit thought and Christian literature. And the fruits of it appeared everywhere, not only in a higher order of religious sentiment, but in the amenability of folly and vice to that moral fear which no community can afford to lose. Wickedness abounded then, as now, and yet wickedness was open to the probing of its conscience and to the disturbance of its sensibilities, nor did it commonly have the complacent hardness and the defiant attitude towards the solemn hereafter which it now wears as its familiar aspect. Communities had convictions then on moral and religious subjects, but only sections of communities (speaking generally) have such convictions now. Men of convictions were sure of an audience. Savonarola could not but be heard. Luther had an intense realization of an evil spirit; less of it would have made him less of a reformer. Milton and Bunyan, the two names that Englishmen would choose as the finest representatives of English genius and manhood in the literary spheres they filled, wrote as men who realized that Satan was something more in the affairs of the world than a subject for artistic treatment. We have come to the closing quarter of the nineteenth century, and within the century the land of Luther has given us 'Faust' with Mephistopheles, and the England of Milton and Bunyan has gives us 'Festus' with Lucifer. Insensibly to itself, the pulpit has caught the effeminate spirit of the age, and it discusses sin much more than it grapples with Satan in sin. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." If the most tender and loving soul among inspired thinkers could lay such an emphasis on this truth, assuredly there is a way for this doctrine to be strenuously preached, free from every taint of extravagance and morbid imagination. Depend upon it, when we throw this doctrine into the background of set purpose, or when we let it lapse from our grasp by casual infirmity, we have nothing left but a fragmentary Christ and a depleted ethical Christianity. - L.
I. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF HYPOCRISY.
1. What these hypocrites professed to be: "ministers of righteousness," and "apostles of Christ." They posed as such, and with many of the guileless and unwary they passed as such. As far as profession, pretension, and language went, all was well.
2. What they really were: "false apostles," and "deceitful workers." They had no real grasp of Christian truth; they gave no real evidence of Christian principle; they consequently could do no real spiritual work for the good of the people.
II. THE MOTIVE OF HYPOCRISY. Some characters seem to find a pleasure in dissimulation and deception for their own sake; but usually the motive is
(1) to gain influence over others, and enjoy their respect and support; and
(2) in this way to exalt themselves and secure their own selfish ends.
III. THE GREAT PROTOTYPE OF HYPOCRISY. This is to be found in Satan himself, who "fashioneth himself into an angel of light." It is the wont of the tempter, the adversary of souls, to proceed by fraud, to invent specious pretexts for sin, and to give to vice the semblance of virtue. It is wise to bear in mind that, whilst we have sometimes to resist the devil and his open assaults, we have at other times to be wise as serpents, that we may "not be ignorant of his devices."
IV. THE DISCOMFITURE AND EXPOSURE OF HYPOCRISY. Hypocritical teachers of religion and pretenders to authority may for a time escape detection by their fellow men, and may for a time be suffered by an overruling Providence to lead astray, if possible, the very elect. But the day is coming which shall test every man and shall try every man's work. The earthly course of the hypocrites may be according to their words, according to appearances. But their "end shall be according to their works." By these they must be judged, and, since these are evil, by these they shall be condemned. - T.
I. A STARTLING FACT. We learn from Paul that the most sable of Ethiopians can change his skin and the fiercest beast of prey throw off his warning garb. The blackest devil can appear as the brightest angel. This is, indeed, a transfiguration, the most marvellous of transformation scenes. As an angel of wisdom Satan appeared to Eve; as an angel versed in theology, to Christ, glibly crying, "It is written." Satan was an angel of light. He thus knows well how to play the angel. Herein is he to be feared. It is not the ugly devil we need dread so much as the pretty devil. The old Scotchman's comment on the horned and hoofed Satan of a celebrated picture of "The Temptation" is full of point: "If that chiel cam' to me in sic an ugly shape, I think he wud hae a teuch job wi' me too."
II. AN EXPLANATION OF SOME MYSTERIES.
1. The power of temptation. Men frequently fall before white temptations rather than black ones. Satan is an adept at whitewashing the sepulchre. The voice that calls us to sin sounds often more like the voice of an angel than the voice of a devil. The great adversary transforms his temptations as well as himself.
2. That wrong often seems much like right. Satan is a clever editor.
3. That folly often seems wisdom. A most dexterous counsel is the devil; as we listen to him, folly is evidently wisdom, and wisdom certainly folly. His splendid intellect overmasters ours when we cope with him alone.
III. AN IMPRESSIVE WARNING.
1. To ever be on our guard. We need have our wits about us whilst we have such an enemy about us. To be careless in such peril would be suicidal. Our guard should be severe; none should be admitted within the gates but proved friends.
2. Not to judge by appearances. Our tendency is to do so, and therefore the devil transforms himself. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). We must get below the surface of things. We must take pains to ascertain the right and the good. Every trap is baited, and the fool who concludes that there can be no difference between a bait and a meal, is soon caught.
3. To seek true wisdom and discernment. Conceit in our own unaided powers is just what delights the devil, and he often preaches to us an angelic discourse upon the pleasing theme of our wonderful faculties, before demonstrating our unutterable folly and weakness. We need know that we are know nothings. Self-distrust baulks Satan. When a man is on the pinnacle of pride he can easily deal with him, but when he is in the valley of humility and self-abnegation the enemy gets sorely perplexed. Let us empty ourselves of the wind of conceit and self-sufficiency, that God may fill us with his own wisdom.
4. To ever abide with Christ. Thus alone can we be truly safe. Here alone shall we secure the victory. Christ overcame the devil when he spake least like a devil, and, if we are truly with Christ, no disguise of Satan shall deceive us, and no might of his shall overthrow us. The cress of Christ is Ithuriel's spear, which, touching the tempter, reveals him in his true character. - H.
I. THE SATANIC POWER OF DISGUISE. Illustrate the very various ways in which evil is made attractive. Apply to the temptations of vice and self-indulgence, to mental error, to religious wanderings and backslidings. He said a great thing, who, knowing much of the evils of Christian and Church life, exclaimed, "We are not ignorant of his [Satan's] devices."
II. SUCH POWER ILLUSTRATED IN RELIGIOUS LEADERS. Such as Joe Smith, the Mormon leader. All who seek to delude men for self-seeking ends are really Satanic; they are doing Satan's work. According to the standpoint of the preacher, it may be shown that the methods by which men are deluded still are
Therefore we have the very earnest advice, "Prove [test and try] all things; hold fast that which is good." - R.T.
manner of these "false apostles, deceitful workers," there was nothing false or deceitful in his conduct. What he boasted of was matter of fact; and then he remarks, continuing the ironical vein in which he had been arguing, that the Corinthians were well able to bear with his foolishness, since they suffered fools gladly, seeing that they were wise. "Wise," verily. Then he cites what they had endured from these new teachers. Where was their freedom? They had been brought into "bondage" - moral and ecclesiastical: submission to tyrannical rulers. Where was their self protection against imposition and craftiness, their discernment of men and motives? They had been taken in, captured, devoured, by these designing men. Where was their self-respect? These "fools," whom they suffered "gladly," had exalted themselves and humiliated a Church abounding in special endowments. Where, finally, was their manliness? They had borne insolence, personal ill treatment - had been smitten on the face. Such was his arraignment of these "false apostles," such his indictment of those Corinthians who had allowed themselves to be dominated by these insulting pretenders. Such, too, was the background for a vivid picture now to be sketched. - L.
weak in his intercourse with them on his visit to Corinth. He had not abused them as slaves, nor been avaricious, nor offered them insults. Yes; he must admit that they were strong and he weak, they wise and he foolish, and he confesses the shame he felt. The sharp irony is now dropped, and he proceeds to show what reasons he had for genuine boasting. If he had to vindicate his claims against these men who had transformed themselves into "ministers of righteousness," it was extremely abasing, but he would be bold (boastful), since there was no escape from the painful task. And, as we shall see, he would do it with great deliberation, item by item, the points clearly made, and only such points as were capable of easy verification.
I. AS TO NATIONALITY. These Judaizers, seeking to prop up a sinking theocracy by means of a perverted Christianity, and putting a most inordinate and carnal estimate on their prerogatives as members of an elect race, had made on this score a very earnest appeal to the Corinthians, and especially to the converted Jews. "Are they Hebrews?" By this general race title the chosen people had been early known, and it was still in vogue. If they are Hebrews, St. Paul says, "so am I." Again, "Are they Israelites?" That name was derived from Israel, the name given to Jacob after wrestling with the angel at Peniel, and designated, originally, the union of the tribes as one community under Jehovah's rule, and set apart to bear witness against all idolatry. "Israelite" carried in its import a reference to the nation as representative of the Divine unity, and was, therefore, distinctively religious. St. Paul responds again, "So am I." Finally, as to nationality. "Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I." One by one the honourable distinctions are mentioned, closing with the highest - a son of Abraham, and in them he claims equality with these pretentious teachers. There was an evident reason for this mode of procedure. No one suspected his devotion to the Gentiles and his zeal in behalf of the apostleship of the uncircumcision. But there were prejudices, strong and bitter, against him on his supposed want of fealty to his nation, and hence his anxiety to show on all occasions that he prized his blood and loved his people. We see from our standpoint that he was an ideal Jew, the truest and most sagacious Jew of his age; and yet it was a memorable part of his discipline, anti a main factor in his fortunes, to be subjected to all sorts of vexations and persecutions on the ground of disloyalty to his nation. Other uses he subsequently made of these and similar facts, giving them an enlarged application (Philippians 3.), and directing them with exclusive intent to objects then engaging his thought; but, at present, he only individualizes far enough to prove that the "false apostles" had no advantage over him as to national ties.
II. AS TO THE MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS. Do these men claim to be Christ's ministers? Whatever they might assume to be in this regard, he (speaking as one beside himself) "was more." And what evidence shall he give of the fact that he was more? Shall he point to his wonderful successes? "He proceeds to mention, as the reason for his pre-eminence, no illustrious achievements or wonderful results he had accomplished, but difficulties, troubles, conflicts, perils" (Kling). Could more be condensed in the same number of words than he compresses in one short verse? The "more" means "in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft." But he will furnish particular illustrations of the statement just made. His own countrymen head the list, for "of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one," thrice was he "beaten with rods," once stoned, thrice ship wrecked, "a night and a day in the deep." Yet this is only a partial account, and he offers other instances of his superior devotion as a minister of Christ. There were his frequent journeys, and what a history of perils! - perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils by his own countrymen, perils by the heathen, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea; did not this enumeration exhaust the sad experience? Nay; one pictures him pausing at this point and falling into a mood. of most touching reflection. To one who loved the name of brother in Christ as he did, who recalled how Ananias had come to him at Damascus and addressed him as "Brother Saul," and who remembered how often it had cheered him to be recognized and honoured as a brother in the ministry, what could be more oppressive to his spirit than to write at the last, "perils among false brethren? Thus closes the account of perils. Have his sorrows all been catalogued? The outward sufferings have been generalized in classes of peril and in forms of physical torture. Enough has been said to make good his claim to pre-eminence in affliction for the cause of Christ. Outside of the duties he was discharging as the Lord's servant, not one of these evils had befallen him. It was the cross of Christ, and only the cross, which had brought all these upon him. But he had more to say. A man of feeble health, of acute nervous sensibility, struggling with disease and infirmity; who among us can enter into all he meant by weariness and painfulness, watchings often, hunger and thirst, lastings often, cold and nakedness"? It is only a rude outline; imagine the details. But what were details to him? The rapid summation shows why he writes. Artistic effect offers him no temptation. Literary motives are impossible to his imagination and tastes. The eagerness of his spirit, approaching a topic most dear to his soul, hurries him to "the care of all the Churches." Ah! that was something transcendent. Daily it came upon him amidst weariness, painfulness, and other ills, and daily it came as a crowd pressing upon him with anxieties beyond utterance. Sympathy is incapable of complete expression. It cannot make itself known. It can only make itself felt, and therefore contents itself with hints. "Who is weak," sympathy asks, "and I am not weak?" And who is overcome by temptation (made to stumble), and I burn not? The sympathetic man is now deeply moved, and his heart breaks forth, "If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities [my weakness]."
III. THE TRUE NATURE OF HIS BOASTING. Examine this fragment of St. Paul's biography, and what do you find as the shaping thought? It is the idea of suffering as expressive of human infirmity. Suffering for a moral purpose is continually kept before the mind, and, agreeably to that end, it is suffering that not only humbles its subject in a spiritual point of view, but humiliates him in the eyes of the world. Hence the conclusion to which he brings the mournful narration, "If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my weakness." No doubt it seemed very strange to many that he should boast of these things, but this was its justification. Had it not appeared as "folly," it would not have vindicated him against the malicious taunts of his adversaries; for it is exactly such a "folly" as identifies his life and experience with the "foolishness" of the gospel, the preaching of Christ crucified, on which, at the outset, he had laid a very distinctive stress. Boast he must to meet the low state of intellect and spirituality in those of the Church who had fallen under the influence of these self-aggrandizing "apostles." Boast he would in defence of himself, of his motives and intentions. Yet, while stooping to such a worldly method, he would do so in no carnal spirit, but as one who had a profound sense of his own unworthiness. What did the Jewish world think of his apostleship? Let the five times "forty stripes save one" answer. What did the Roman world think of it? The thrice "beaten with rods" was the reply. No allusion is made to his having been a "blasphemer" and "persecutor," for this had no bearing on the question at issue. It is a contrast throughout of himself with the "deceitful workers." And, finally, to make the contrast as perfect as possible, he refers to "the care of all the Churches" among the Gentiles. This point reached, he shows why he had made these concessions to the folly of certain Corinthians, and his true heart exclaims, "If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my weakness." Here, then, we have the first distinct appearance of one among those great thoughts that we find frequently in various forms in his subsequent writings - the idea of glorying in his infirmities. Not enough is it for him to accept it as a burden and tolerate it as a thing providentially ordained to be borne. From this hour he enters on a higher experience, for he has learned to cherish a sentiment as well as find a duty and a principle in his infirmities. He will welcome them, he will press them to his heart as a treasure, he will "glory" in them. And if, hereafter, we shall often listen to his exultation when he rejoices in tribulation and glories in the cross, we can revert to the time and circumstances that first made this experience an era in his career. No wonder that he appeals with such solemnity to God for the truths asserted. It is a moment of impassioned thought which brings the past most vividly before his eye, and lo! the opening scene in a long series of afflictions for the gospel. There it was - the far-off Syrian city of the Damascenes, and the beginning of that persecution which the Jews had continued so unrelentingly. And there, too, it had been announced to Ananias in a vision that the Lord had made Saul of Tarsus "a chosen vessel" unto himself, and would show him "how great things he must suffer." Straightway the revelation of sorrow began, for the stay at Damascus was interrupted by a conspiracy of the Jews, and he sought refuge in Arabia. All the intervening years had been years of suffering, the first link of the unbroken chain forged by the hatred of the Jews at Damascus, the last up to this period forged by the same hands at Corinth, and the issue of his experience was that he had learned to glory in his weakness. - L.
I. TRUE MINISTERS ARE APPOINTED BY CHRIST. Whatever be the human, the ecclesiastical agency by which men are summoned to, prepared for, employed in, the ministry of the gospel, all true Christians are agreed that the real appointment is by the Divine Head of the Church. It is he who, from the throne of his glory, places one minister in this position, and another in that, holding the stars in his right hand.
II. TRUE MINISTERS ARE WITNESSES TO CHRIST. It was Paul's justifiable boast "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord." His ministry had for its one great theme the character, the life, the sacrifice, the redemption of the Divine Saviour. A ministry which, professing to be Christian, is concerned with anything rather than with Christ, discredits and condemns itself. Inadequate as is all human witness to our Lord, it is required to be sincere and outspoken.
III. TRUE MINISTERS ARE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST. Upon this the apostle lays great stress. His own ministry was, in many of its circumstances, a copy of his Lord's. His labours, privations, and sufferings were all akin to those of the Lord whose spirit he shared, and in whose steps he trod. The outward circumstances of the ministerial life may vary, but the temper, and aim must ever be those of the Divine Master.
IV. TRUE MINISTERS LOOK FOR THEIR REWARD TO CHRIST. Had the apostle expected an earthly recompense for all he undertook and underwent, bitter indeed would have been his disappointment. But he and every faithful minister must have one supreme desire and aim - to receive the approval and the acceptance of the Divine Lord himself. - T.
I. THE VARIOUS ENDURANCES INVOLVED IN THE APOSTOLIC LIFE.
1. Labours abounded, both of body and of mind; almost incessant toil was continued throughout long years. Journeyings, preaching, writing, were a constant strain upon his whole nature.
2. Hardships, sufferings, perils, and persecutions were even more painful to endure. There are many, especially in the prime of life, to whom toil and effort are congenial; but none can do other than shrink from pains and imprisonments. Paul's enumeration of his privations and afflictions shows how deep an impression they had made upon his nature.
II. THE AIM OF THE APOSTOLIC LIFE IN VIEW OF WHICH THESE EXPERIENCES WERE CHEERFULLY ACCEPTED. His purpose was, not his own exaltation, but the spread of the gospel and the salvation of his fellow men. His benevolent heart found in the extension of that kingdom, which is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," an object worthy of all his devotion and all his endurance.
III. THE MOTIVE OF THE APOSTOLIC LIFE. If it be asked - How came St. Paul to voluntarily engage in a service which involved experiences so bitter? there is but one solution of the problem, but that is a sufficient and satisfactory one: "The love of Christ constrained" him. No inferior motive can be relied upon for the production of such results.
IV. THE PRACTICAL ADVANTAGES ACCRUING TO MANKIND FROM THIS APOSTOLIC LIFE.
1. It has an evidential value. Why should such a man as Saul of Tarsus have lived a life of obloquy, poverty, and suffering? Is any other explanation credible than this - that he knew and felt that he was witnessing to the truth?
2. It has a moral value, both in the beneficent results of the ministry and in the illustration afforded of the power of the gospel and of the Spirit of Christ to raise a true Christian above the control of influences and interests merely earthly and human. - T.
I. THESE EXPERIENCES, AS NARRATED HERE, ASSUME A GLOOMY CHARACTER.
(1) Bodily suffering. Excessive toil, prison privations, scourgings, stoning, shipwrecks, a night and day in the deep, sleeplessness, coldness, foodlessness, nakedness.
(2) Mental suffering.
(a) Persecution from Jews as well as Gentiles. His "own countrymen" hated him more fiercely than any.
(b) Hostility of false brethren. Peculiarly painful to such a noble nature as Paul's.
(c) Anxieties respecting the numerous Churches.
(d) Acute sympathy with the weak and hindered ones (ver. 29).
2. Perilous. What a catalogue of perils in ver. 26. how extreme the one instanced in vers. 32, 33! how pathetic and suggestive the expression, "in deaths oft" (ver. 23)! Paul lived on the margin of the next world. Of him was it peculiarly true that he knew not what a day would bring forth.
II. MUCH OF THE PAINFUL AND PERILOUS EXPERIENCE OF THE APOSTLE AROSE FROM HIS MARVELLOUS ZEAL AND ENTERPRISE. He might bare avoided not a little by:
1. Being only moderately active. That delightful "mean" coveted by so many - it was too mean for Paul!
2. Being more compliant. If he bad been a man of expediency, and not, as he was, a man of principle. If he had bent to the storm; but he intended that the storm should bend to him, or rather to those God-truths which he proclaimed.
3. Placing God's honour in the second place. The servant was persecuted so vindictively because he would talk so much of his Master. It was not Paul that Jew and Gentile hated so much, but Christ; but where Paul was there men could hear of nothing but the contemned Nazarene;
4. Loving himself more than a perishing world. It was a question which should suffer, Paul or the world; Paul said, "I will." In his sphere he thus imitated his Lord, who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor.
III. NO SUFFERING OR PERIL SUCCEEDED IN DAMPING THE APOSTOLIC ARDOUR. How keen must have been his love for Christ and for his fellow men! Ever before him he had the future exaltation of Christ and the "saving some." We haste here a marvellous triumph of mind over matter, and a still more marvellous one of spirituality over carnality. The life of the apostle was so vigorous that he could bear to die daily. What little aches and pains stop us! An avalanche of grief and trial failed to arrest Paul!
IV. IT WAS ONLY WHEN SUBJECTED TO GREAT PRESSURE, AND THEN ONLY UNDER PROTEST, THAT THE APOSTLE ALLOWED HIMSELF TO DWELL UPON THIS PERPETUAL MARTYRDOM. He rejoiced in it; yet he did not like to speak about it. He almost calls himself a fool for doing so. The martyr has sometimes sullied his crown by pride; but the apostolic affliction seemed strangely sanctified to him. Some are not great enough to suffer much for Christ. God does not allow it. It would make them so intolerable that prayer would ascend on all hands for their transference to a world where they would have a humble opinion of themselves. Paul went through all the privation, anguish, peril, catalogued here, and came out from it with the spirit of a little child. - H.
I. PERSONAL SINCERITY. Men's hearts must be in that which they will maintain at cost of toil, sorrow, disability, and pain. Christianity must be true to the man who can die for it; but it is not therefore proved to be absolutely true.
II. A DIVINE CALL OR COMMISSION. It is one of the indications of such a call. Not sufficient if it stands alone, but very helpful as a buttress to other arguments and considerations.
III. THAT THERE IS A FINE MORAL STRENGTH CULTURED BY CHRISTIANITY. This, perhaps, is its chief value. The noble endurance illustrates Christianity, and shows what the almighty grace in it can do. That must be worthy, and it may be Divine, which nerves men to such heroic labour, such patient submission, and such triumphs over ills and death. So, when kept within due limits and carefully combined with other considerations, the sufferings and martyrdoms of the Christian saints become an evidence of the Divine origin of Christianity. - R.T.
I. THE REASONS FOR ANXIETY WITH REGARD TO THE CHURCHES.
1. Their immaturity. They had been in existence but a few years, and were subject to the natural disadvantages of youth and inexperience. They needed diligent watching and tender, fostering care.
2. Their exposure to the insidious efforts of false teachers. Some of these sought to lead the Christians of the first age back into Judaism, others strove to introduce licence and lawlessness.
3. Their constantly recurring needs. Some needed the visits of evangelists or the appointment of pastors. Others needed the instructions or counsels which circumstances might render appropriate.
II. THE PRACTICAL PROMPTINGS OF APOSTOLIC ANXIETY. We see the evidences of Paul's sincere solicitude for the Churches in:
1. His frequent visits, by which he brought his personal influence to bear upon those whose welfare he sought and who naturally looked to him for help.
2. His Epistles, full of clear statement, convincing reasoning, earnest persuasion, and faithful warning.
3. His selection and appointment of devoted fellow labourers to assist him in the superintendence and edification of the youthful communities.
4. His fervent prayers, which abounded on behalf of all in whose spiritual well being he was interested.
III. THE PROFITABLE LESSONS OF APOSTOLIC ANXIETY.
1. A general lesson of mutual interest and sympathy. Who can read this language without feeling to what an extent it enforces the scriptural precept? - "Look not every man upon his own things, but every man also upon the things of others."
2. A special lesson of mutual helpfulness as the duty and privilege of all who occupy positions of influence and authority in Christ's Church. Some forms of Church government tend rather to isolate Christian communities than to draw them together. This tendency may be happily counteracted by compliance with the precept implicitly contained in this declaration of the apostle. - T.