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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 5
Verse 5. For we preach not ourselves. The connexion here is not very apparent, and the design of this verse has been variously understood. The connexion seems to me to be this: Paul gives here a reason for what he had said in the previous parts of the epistle respecting his conduct in the ministry, he had said that his course had been open and pure, and free from all dishonest arts and tricks, and that he had not corrupted the word of God, or resorted to any artifice to accomplish his designs, 2 Co 2:17; 4:1,2.
The reason of this he here says is, that he had not preached himself, or sought to advance his own interest, he regarded himself as sent to make known a Saviour; himself as bound by all means to promote his cause, and to imitate him. Other men—the false teachers, and the cunning priests of the heathen religions sought to advance their own interest, and to perpetuate a system of delusion that would be profitable to themselves; and they therefore resorted to all arts, and stratagems, and cunning devices, to perpetuate their authority and extend their influence. But the fact that Paul and his associates went forth to make known the Lord Jesus, was a reason why they avoided all such dishonest arts and artifices. "We are merely the ambassadors of another. We are not principals in this business, and do not despatch it as a business of our own, but we transact it as the agents for another, that is, for the Lord Jesus, and we feel ourselves bound, therefore, to do it as he would have done it himself; and as he was free from all trick and dishonest art, we feel bound to be also." This seems to me to be the design of this passage. Ministers may be said to preach themselves in the following ways:
(1.) When their preaching has a primary reference to their own interest; and when they engage in it to advance their reputation, or to secure in some way their own advantage. When they aim at exalting their authority, extending their influence, or in any way promoting their own welfare.
(2.) When they proclaim their own opinions, and not the gospel of Christ; when they derived their doctrines from their own reasonings, and not from the Bible.
(3.) When they put themselves forward; speak much of themselves; refer often to themselves; are wain of their powers of reasoning, of their eloquence, and of their learning, and seek to make these known rather than the simple truths of the gospel. In one word, when self is primary, and the gospel is secondary; when they prostitute the ministry to gain popularity; to live a life of ease; to be respected; to obtain a livelihood; to gain influence; to rule over a people; and to make the preaching of the gospel merely an occasion of advancing themselves in the world. Such a plan, it is implied here, would lead to dishonest arts and devices, and to trick and stratagem to accomplish the end in view. And it is implied here, also, that to avoid all such tricks and arts, the true way is not to preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ.
But Christ Jesus the Lord. This Paul states to be the only purpose of the ministry. It is so far the sole design of the ministry, that had it not been to make known the Lord Jesus, it would never have been established; and whatever other objects are secured by its appointment, and whatever other truths are to be illustrated and enforced by the ministry, yet, if this is not the primary subject, and if every other object is not made subservient to this, the design of the ministry is not secured. The word "Christ" properly means the Anointed; that is, the Messiah, the Anointed of God for this great office, See Barnes "Mt 1:1"
but it is used in the New Testament as a proper name, the name that was appropriate to Jesus. Still it may be used with a reference to the fact of the Messiahship, and not merely as a proper name; and in this place it may mean that they preached Jesus as the Messiah, or the Christ, and defended his claims to that high appointment. The word "Lord," also, is used to designate him, Mr 11:3; Joh 20:25; and when it stands by itself in the New Testament, it denotes the Lord Jesus, See Barnes "Ac 1:24"; but it properly denotes one who has rule, or authority, or proprietorship; and it is used here not merely as a part of the appropriate title of the Saviour, but with reference to the fact that he had the supreme headship or lordship over the church and the world. This important passage therefore means, that they made it their sole business to make known Jesus the Messiah, or the Christ, as the supreme liege and Lord of his people; that is, to set forth the Messiahship and the lordship of Jesus of Nazareth, appointed to these high offices by God. To do this, or to preach Jesus Christ the Lord, implies the following things:
(1.) To prove that he is the Messiah so often predicted in the Old Testament, and so long expected by the Jewish people. To do this was a very vital part of the work of the ministry in the time of the apostles, and was essential to their success in all their attempts to convert the Jews; and to do this will be no less important in all attempts to bring the Jews now or in future times to the knowledge of the truth. No man can be successful among them who is not able to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. It is not indeed so vital and leading a point now in reference to those to whom the ministers of the gospel usually preach; and it is probable that the importance of this argument is by many overlooked, and that it is not urged as it should be by those who "preach Christ Jesus the Lord." It involves the whole argument for the truth of Christianity. It leads to all the demonstrations that this religion is from God; and the establishment of the proposition that Jesus is the Messiah, is one of the most direct and certain ways of proving that his religion is from heaven. For
(a.) it contains the argument from the fulfillment of the prophecies—one of the main evidences of the truth of revelation; and
(b.) it involves an examination of all the evidences that Jesus gave that he was the Messiah sent from God, and of course an examination of all the miracles that he wrought in attestation of his Divine mission. The first object of a preacher, therefore, is to demonstrate that Jesus is sent from God, in accordance with the predictions of the prophets.
(2.) To proclaim the truths that he taught. To make known his sentiments and his doctrines, and not our own. This includes, of course, all that he taught respecting God, and respecting man; all that he taught respecting his own nature, and the design of his coming; all that he taught respecting the character of the human heart, and about human obligation and duty; all that he taught respecting death, the judgment, and eternity —respecting an eternal heaven, and an eternal hell. To explain, enforce, and vindicate his doctrines, is one great design of the ministry; and were there nothing else, this would be a field sufficiently ample to employ the life; sufficiently glorious to employ the best talents of man. The minister of the gospel is to teach the sentiments and doctrines of Jesus Christ, in contradistinction from all his own sentiments, and from all the doctrines of mere philosophy. He is not to teach science, or mere morals, but he is to proclaim and defend the doctrines of the Redeemer.
(3.) He is to make known the facts of the Saviour's life. He is to show how he lived—to hold up his example in all the trying circumstances in which he was placed. For he came to show by his life what the law required; and to show how men should live. And it is the office of the Christian ministry, or a part of their work in preaching "Christ Jesus the Lord," to show how he lived, and to set forth his self-denial, his meekness, his purity, his blameless life, his spirit of prayer, his submission to the Divine will, his patience in suffering, his forgiveness of his enemies, his tenderness to the afflicted, the weak, and the tempted, and the manner of his death. Were this all, it would be enough to employ the whole of a minister's life, and to command the best talents of the world. For he was the only perfectly pure model; and his example is to be followed by all his people, and his example is designed to exert a deep and wide influence on the world. Piety flourishes just in proportion as the pure example of Jesus Christ is kept before a people; and the world is made happier and better, just as that example is kept constant in view. To the gay and the thoughtless, the ministers of the gospel are to show how serious and calm was the Redeemer; to the worldly-minded, to show how he lived above the world; to the avaricious, how benevolent he was; to the profane and licentious, how pure he was; to the tempted, how he endured temptation; to the afflicted, how patient and resigned; to the dying, how he died; to all, to show how holy, and heavenly-minded, and prayerful, and pure he was, in order that they may be won to the same purity, and be prepared to dwell with him in his kingdom.
(4.) To set forth the design of his death. To show why he came to die; and what was the great object to be effected by his sufferings and death. To exhibit, therefore, the sorrows of his life; to describe his many trials; to dwell upon his sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross. To show why he died, and what was to be the influence of his death on the destiny of man. To show how it makes an atonement for sin; how it reconciles God to man; how it is made efficacious in the justification and the sanctification of the sinner. And were there nothing else, this would be sufficient to employ all the time and the best talents in the ministry. For the salvation of the soul depends on the proper exhibition of the design of the death of the Redeemer. There is no salvation but through his blood; and hence the nature and design of his atoning sacrifice is to be exhibited to every man, and the offers of mercy through that death to be pressed upon the attention of every sinner.
(5.) To set forth the truth and the design of his resurrection. To prove that he rose from the dead, and that he ascended to heaven; and to show the influence of his resurrection on our hopes and destiny. The whole structure of Christianity is dependent on making out the fact that he rose; and if he rose, all the difficulties in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead are removed at once, and his people will also rise. The influence of that fact, therefore, on our hopes and on our prospects for eternity, is to be shown by the ministry of the gospel; and were there nothing else, this would be ample to command all the time and the best talents of the ministry.
(6.) To proclaim him as "Lord." This is expressly specified in the passage before us. "For we preach Christ Jesus THE LORD;" we proclaim him as the Lord. That is, he is to be preached as having dominion over the conscience; as the supreme Ruler in his church; as above all councils, and synods, and conferences, and all human authority; as having a right to legislate for his people; a right to prescribe their mode of worship; a right to define and determine the doctrines which they shall believe, he is to be proclaimed also as ruling over all, and as exalted in his mediatorial character over all worlds, and as having all things put beneath his feet, Ps 2:6; Isa 9:6,7; Mt 28:18; Joh 17:2; Eph 1:20; Heb 2:8.
And ourselves your servants, etc. So far as we make any mention of ourselves, it is to declare that we are your servants, and that we are bound to promote your welfare in the cause and for the sake of the Redeemer. That is, they were their, servants in all things in which they could advance the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom among them. The doctrine is, that they regarded themselves as under obligation not to seek their own interest, or to build up their own reputation and cause; but to seek the welfare of the church, and promote its interests, as a servant does that of his master. They should not seek to lord it over God's heritage, and to claim supreme and independent authority. They were not masters, but servants. The church at large was the master, and they were its servants. This implies the following things:
(1.) That the time of ministers belongs to the church, and should be employed in its welfare. It is not their own; and it is not to be employed in farming, or in speculating, or in trafficking, or in idleness, or in lounging, or in unprofitable visiting, or in mere science, or in reading or making books that will not advance the interests of the church. The time of the ministry is not for ease, or ambition, or self-indulgence, but is to promote the interests of the body of Christ. So Paul felt, and so he lived. (2.) Their talents belong to the church. All their original talents, and all that they can acquire, should be honestly devoted to the welfare of the church of the Redeemer.
(3.) Their best efforts and plans, the avails of their best thoughts and purposes, belong to the church, and should be honestly devoted to it. Their strength, and rigour, and influence should be devoted to it, as the rigour, and strength, and talent, and skill of a servant belong to the master. See Ps 137:5,6. The language of the ministry, as of every Christian, should be—
I love thy church, O God
Her walls before thee stand,
Dear as the apple of thine eye,
and graven on thy hand.
If e'er to bless thy sons
My voice or hands deny,
These bauds let useful skill forsake,
This voice in silence die.
If e'er my heart forget
Her welfare or her woe,
Let every joy this heart forsake,
And every grief o'erflow.
For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given,
Till toils and cares shall end.
And it implies,
(4.) that they are the servants of the church in time of trial, temptation, and affliction. They are to devote themselves to the comfort of the afflicted. They are to be the guide to the perplexed. They are to aid the tempted. They are to comfort those that mourn, and they are to sustain and console the dying. They are to regard themselves as the servants of the church to accomplish these great objects; and are to be willing to deny themselves, and to take up their cross, and to consecrate their time to the advancement of these great interests. And they are, in all respects, to devote their time, and talents, and influence to the welfare of the church, with as much single-mindedness as the servant is to seek the interest of his master. It was in this way eminently that Paul was favoured with the success with which God blessed him in the ministry; and so every minister will be successful, just in proportion to the single-mindedness with which he devotes himself to the work of preaching Jesus Christ THE Lord.
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