But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.
2 Corinthians 2:11
I. Satan endeavours to keep men from Christ, knowing well that the spiritual life will not thrive on anything but Christ; he endeavours to substitute anything else, no matter what, instead of Him, as an object for the soul to fix upon. And when this is done, the spiritual life becomes soon extinct, or wanes back into a miserable, spiritless formality. How many are checked and stunted in growth by this device of the enemy!
II. He blinds the judgment and spiritual understanding, and so produces a low and inadequate view of the Christian life, so that many of its most imperative requirements are kept in the background, while perhaps, at the same time, others are rigidly insisted on. It is a most important requisite for the Christian to be complete in his self-devotion to God.
III. He weakens our faith. The greatest blessing which any Christian can possess is a simple, unwavering faith in God. And no doubt this would be the direct consequence of the reception of the truth in the love of it, if not hindered and thwarted by the agency of Satan upon our sinful and doubting hearts.
IV. He suggests to the mind evil and hateful thoughts. Frequently such thoughts are thrust in against our wills, evidently not arising from any connection of ideas in our own minds; and this, to those who are given to low and desponding frames of feeling, is a sore trial, believing as they do that such thoughts arise from themselves, and that they betoken a depraved and criminal intention within them. If Christians would believe and recognise more than they do the agency of the tempter within them, they would derive encouragement under such inward struggles from knowing that it is not they themselves, but he against whom they are called on to maintain the good fight, from whom such thoughts arise. The conclusion from what has been said is twofold. (1) Of exhortation—"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (2) Of encouragement—It is surely a consolation to be able to see and know with whom we have to contend, to be able to feel that—evil as are our hearts by nature, and depraved as are our wills—all our inward temptations and suggestions to evil are not our own, and will not, if in God's strength resisted, be laid to our own charge.
H. Alford, Sermons, p. 301.
References: 2 Corinthians 2:12-17.—Ibid., p. 287. 2 Corinthians 2:14.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 259.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16The Absolute Character and Critical Effects of the Ministry of the Gospel.
I. The absolute or real character is seen in what it is to God. The gospel not only displays and embodies, but taxes to the utmost, the resources of the Divine love and wisdom combined. And just as the scattered flowers, fragrant shrubs, and sweet incense breathed forth a perfume of sweet savour before the advancing ranks of the triumphal procession, irrespective of its effects on victor and vanquished; so, irrespective of its consequences in respect to those who hear the gospel, the ministry of its glad tidings is unto God the diffusion of a sweet savour.
II. The critical influence of the gospel is seen in its opposite effects on those to whom it is preached. Paul felt acutely that he could not be the minister of the word of life to men without increasing their responsibility and aggravating the condemnation of those who rejected it. For in proportion to its quickening power of life in those who receive it, does it work death in those who refuse to accept it. The nature of fallen man being susceptible of the application of the divinest means for his recovery, he is, in case of their employment a failure, thereby doomed to a corresponding depth of wretchedness and woe. Let us learn that the character of the purpose of God's grace and the means for its fulfilment are such as to give Him joy wherever they are proclaimed. What they are to us is determined by our own moral state and character.
W. Pulsford, Trinity Church Sermons, p. 198.
Reference: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17.—A. J. Parry, Phases of Christian Truth, p. 194.
2 Corinthians 2:15-16God Glorified in the Preaching of the Gospel.
I. The gospel is a revelation of all which is most illustrious in Godhead and of all that as sinful creatures we are most concerned in ascertaining. We read that when God rested from the work of creation He saw everything that He had made, and He beheld that it was very good. And why should He not hold the same in regard to the gospel? It may well be supposed that God would regard the ambassadors of His Son, those who with their lives in their hands hastened to publish the glad tidings of redemption, as more truly and more emphatically the revealers of Himself, than all those worlds so gorgeously apparelled with which His creative edict had peopled infinite space. Who then can be surprised at the lofty tone assumed by St. Paul when speaking of his own ministrations of the gospel of Christ. He felt that his preaching was a manifestation of the invisible Deity.
II. It was another view of the office of the preacher that extorted from the Apostle the words "Who is sufficient for these things?" Preachers are watchmen, and with all their vigilance may sometimes fail in warning those committed to their care. They are stewards of the mysteries of God; and compassed with infirmities even when they are unwearied in labour, they may occasionally err as interpreters of the word, and place before the people falsehood as well as truth. But it is when they come to view themselves as actually employed in the making men inexcusable, then it is that their office assumes its most fearful aspect. Then it is that, if they have but human hearts and sympathies, they must feel their office a burden too great to be borne, and half long to be allowed to keep back their message, lest it should prove nothing but a savour of death unto death. "Who is sufficient for these things?" It is for the hearers to spare their minister this, and to make the gospel a sweet savour of life unto life, and not a savour of death unto death.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2181.
References: 2 Corinthians 2:15, 2 Corinthians 2:16.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., No. 26; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 468.
2 Corinthians 2:16The Missionary.
I. Among the qualifications of the true missionary, I do not scruple to put first a love of souls; or, if the expression be thought to have too technical a meaning, let us say rather an earnest longing that other men and women should become true Christians at heart. Here we have the true foundation on which all missionary success must be reared. There is no substitute for it. Heart to heart, soul to soul, man must come with his brother-man, if he is to implant in him any seeds of a spiritual life.
II. A successful missionary must be in the main a hopeful, sanguine man. One of the sorest temptations to missionaries is the temptation to despond. This is a temptation hardly known to any but noble natures. Those who have no high aims, no grand enterprises with which they have intertwined their hearts, cannot tell the miseries of misgiving. But the records of missionaries are essentially records of high aims and gallant enterprises; and so you find a large space filled by their hours of darkness. These are the weak moments of strong natures. They are enough to show one of the characteristic trials of the missionary, and of the need there is that he should be a man naturally cheerful and hopeful.
III. Again, a missionary should be a man of delicate sympathy. The most holy natures are sometimes deficient in at least the finer shades of sympathy. Such persons, if they adopt the missionary calling, will probably find again and again that their success is marred.
IV. A successful missionary must have a very sure and definite hold of the main promises and doctrines of the gospel. His own faith must be strong and simple; if not, he will not be able to speak or act with decision. His tongue will be tied, his arm will be palsied by the fatal consciousness that he has not thoroughly grasped and appropriated the truths which he is professing to impress upon others.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 80.
I. The difficulties which faced St. Paul were open and tangible. He knew that on one side there was Jewish bigotry, and on the other side Greek speculation; here the charge of apostasy from ancestral sanctities—there of insubordination to existing authorities; here some definite risk of scourging or stoning, of dungeon or sword—there some insidious corruption of gospel simplicity by Judaizing admixture or Alexandrian refinement. From these things he had no rest; his life was a daily sacrifice, wanting but its completion in the drink-offering of his blood. But St. Paul was spared some experiences, belonging to an age not his. That reckless, restless impatience of the old, even when the old is God's truth; that insolent disdain of Christ's ordinance of preaching; that choosing and rejecting amongst the plain sayings of Scripture,—these habits of thought and mind have taken the place, in our time, of that scoffing of the scorner which at least warned off the believing: they have passed inside the unguarded door of the Church, and they utter themselves in the very temple of God, as if they were part and parcel of the recognised sentiment of the faithful.
II. There is yet another peculiarity of our time which troubles a thoughtful man as much as any—it is the timidity of the believing, in the face of free thought and scientific discovery. I count it a great evil when true believers betray an uneasiness in the presence of true seekers. Truth and the Truth can never really be at variance. Let not faith think that by hiding its head in the sand it can elude pursuit, or that by a clamorous outcry, "The gospel is in danger," it can breathe either confidence into its troops or panic into its foes. Let us be brave with a courage at once of man and of God. Let us count no affront to the cause of Christ equal to that of His so-called followers who would turn His Church into a clique and His hope into a fear.
C. J. Vaughan, Temple Sermons, p. 1.
References: 2 Corinthians 2:16.—Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 385; J. Clifford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvi., p. 305.
For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?
And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.
For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.
But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.
Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,
I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.