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2 Corinthians 5:13-17

13. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.

13. Nam sive insanimus, Deo insanimus: sive sani sumus, vobis sani sumus.

14. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

14. Caritas enim Christi constringit nos: iudicantes illud, quodsi unus pro omnibus mortuus fuit, ergo omnes sunt mortui. 540540     “Sont morts, ou ont este morts;” — “Are dead, or have been dead.”

15. And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

15. Et quidem pro omnibus mortuus est: ut qui vivunt, posthac non sibi vivant, sed ei qui pro omnibus mortuus est, et resurrexit.

16. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

16. Itaque nos posthac neminem novimus secundum carnem: quin etiam si secundum carnem novimus Christum, iam non amplius novimus.

17. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

17. Proinde si quis in Christo, nova sit creatura, 541541     “Si aucun donc est en Christ, qu’il soit nouuelle creature, ou, Il est;” — “If any one, therefore, is in Christ, let him be a new creature, or, He is.” vetera praeterierunt: ecce, nova facta sunt omnia.

 

13. Whether we are beside ourselves. This is said by way of concession; for Paul’s glorying was sane, or it was, if we may so term it, a sober and most judicious madness; 542542     “Estoit bonne, et procedoit d’vn esprit prudent: ou si ainsi faut parler, sa folie estoit d’vn sens rassis, et pleine de sagesse;” — “Was good, or proceeded from a prudent mind; or, if we may speak so, his folly was from a settled judgment, and full of wisdom.” but as he appeared foolish in the eyes of many, he speaks according to their views. Now he declares two things: in the first place, that he makes no account of himself, but has this one object in view — that he may serve God and the Church; and, secondly, that he fears not the opinion of men, so that he is prepared for being reckoned either sane or insane, provided only he transacts faithfully the affairs of God and the Church. The meaning, therefore, is this: “As to my making mention so frequently of my integrity, persons will take this as they choose. It is not, however, for my own sake that I do it, but, on the contrary, I have God and the Church exclusively in view. Hence I am prepared to be silent and to speak, according as the glory of God and the advantage of the Church will require, and I shall be quite contented that the world reckon me beside myself, provided only it is not to myself, but to God, that I am beside myself.543543     “The Apostle, in these words —
   For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God, or whether we be sober, it is for your cause, (2 Corinthians 6:13,)

   defends his speaking so much of his integrity. Though some men would count him out of his wits for it, yet he regards not their judgment; for if he were in an ecstasy, or beside himself, his purpose was to serve God and his Church, and therefore he did not regard the opinion of men, whether he were accounted mad or sober, so he might perform the end of his Apostleship. The sense, therefore, of it, as Calvin renders it, is this — ’Let men take it as they will, that I speak so much of my integrity, I do it not upon my own account, but have respect to God and the Church in speaking of it; for I am as ready to be silent as to speak, when my silence may glorify God and advantage the Church as much as my speech.’” — Charnock’s Works, (Lond. 1684,) volume 2, p. 65. — Ed.
This is a passage that is deserving not merely of notice, but also of constant meditation; for unless we shall have our minds thus regulated, the smallest occasions of offense will from time to time draw us off from our duty.

14. For the love of Christ. The term love may be taken either in a passive signification, or in an active. I prefer the latter. For if we be not harder than iron, we cannot refrain from devoting ourselves entirely to Christ, when we consider what great love he exercised towards us, when he endured death in our stead. Paul, too, explains himself when he adds, that it is reasonable that we should live to him, being dead to ourselves. Hence, as he had previously stated: (2 Corinthians 5:11,) that he was stirred up to duty by fear, inasmuch as an account was one day to be rendered by him, so he now brings forward another motive — that measureless love of Christ towards us, of which he had furnished us with an evidence in his death. “The knowledge,” I say, “of this love, ought to constrain our affections, that they may go in no other direction than that of loving him in return.

There is a metaphor 544544     “Il y a vne metaphore et similitude;” — “There is a metaphor and similitude.” implied in the word constrain, denoting that it is impossible but that every one that truly considers and ponders that wonderful love, which Christ has manifested towards us by his death, becomes, as it were, bound to him, and constrained by the closest tie, and devotes himself wholly to his service.

If one died for all. This design is to be carefully kept in view — that Christ died for us, that we might die to ourselves. The exposition is also to be carefully noticed — that to die to ourselves is to live to Christ; or if you would have it at greater length, it is to renounce ourselves, that we may live to Christ; for Christ. redeemed us with this view — that he might have us under his authority, as his peculiar possession. Hence it follows that we are no longer our own masters. There is a similar passage in Romans 14:7-9. At the same time, there are two things that are here brought forward separately — that we are dead in Christ, in order that all ambition and eagerness for distinction may be laid aside, and that it may be felt by us no hardship to be made as nothing; and farther, that we owe to Christ our life and death, because he has wholly bound us to himself. 545545     “Pource qu’il a tant fait pour nous, que nous sommes du tout ... luy;” — “Because he has done so much for us, that we are wholly his.”

16. Therefore we henceforth know no man. To know, here, is taken as meaning to reckon. “We do not judge according to external appearance, so as to reckon that man to be the most illustrious who seems so in appearance.” Under the term flesh, he includes all external endowments which mankind are accustomed to hold in estimation; and, in short, every thing which, apart from regeneration, is reckoned worthy of praise. At the same time, he speaks more particularly of outward disguise, or appearance, as it is termed. He alludes, also, without doubt, to the death of which he had made mention. “Since we ought, all of us, to be dead to the present life, nay more, to be nothing in ourselves, no one must be reckoned a servant of Christ on the ground of carnal excellence.”

Nay, though we have known Christ. The meaning is — “Though Christ lived for a time in this world, and was known by mankind in those things that have to do with the condition of the present life, he must now be known in another way — spiritually, so that we may have no worldly thoughts respecting him.” This passage is perverted by some fanatics, such as Servetus, 546546     The views held by Servetus respecting the Supreme Being, and a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, “were obscure and chimerical beyond all measure, and amounted, in general, to the following propositions: — That the Deity, before the creation of the world, had produced within himself two personal representations, or manners of existence, which were to be the medium of intercourse between him and mortals, and by whom, consequently, he was to reveal his will, and to display his mercy and beneficence to the children of men; [...] and that these two representations were to cease after the destruction of this terrestrial globe, and to be absorbed into the substance of the Deity, from whence they had been formed.” — Moshem’s Ecclesiastical History, volume 4, pp. 475, 476. — Ed. for the purpose of proving, that Christ’s human nature is now absorbed by the Divinity. But how very far removed such a frenzy is from the Apostle’s intention, it is not difficult to perceive; for he speaks here, not of the substance of his body, but of external appearance, nor does he affirm that the flesh is no longer perceived by us in Christ, but says, that Christ is not judged of from that. 547547     “He (Paul) remembered the words of his Divine Master — ’Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother;’ and he was taught by them, that though Christianity does not burst asunder the ties of kindred, it requires of all its followers that they be guided by higher considerations in advancing its interests. This may throw light on the bold expression which we find him elsewhere using, when he is speaking of the obligations which believers are under, ‘not to live to themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.’ ‘Henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.’“ — M’Crie’s Sermons, p. 21. — Ed.

Scripture proclaims throughout, that Christ does now as certainly lead a glorious life in our flesh, as he once suffered in it. 548548     “Comme il a souffert mort vne fois en icelle;” — “As he has once suffered death in it.” Nay more, take away this foundation, and our whole faith falls to the ground; for whence comes the hope of immortality, except from this, that we have already a pattern 549549     “Comme vne image et gage certain en la personne de Christ;” — “As it were an image and sure pledge in the person of Christ.” of it in the person of Christ? For as righteousness is restored to us on this ground, that Christ, by fulfilling the law in our nature, has abolished Adam’s disobedience, so also life has been restored to us by this means, that he has opened up for our nature the kingdom of God, from which it had been banished, and has given it a place in the heavenly dwelling. Hence, if we do not now recognize Christ’s flesh, 550550     Calvin’s meaning plainly is — “If we do not recognize the fact, that Christ is still a partaker of our nature.“ — Ed. we lose the whole of that confidence and consolation that we ought to have in him. But we acknowledge Christ as man, and as our brother in his flesh — not in a fleshly manner; because we rest solely in the consideration of his spiritual gifts. Hence he is spiritual to us, not as if he laid aside the body, and became a spirit, but because he regenerates and governs his own people by the influence of his Spirit.

17. Therefore if any man is in Christ. As there is something wanting in this expression, it must be supplied in this way — “If any one is desirous to hold some place in Christ, that is, in the kingdom of Christ, or in the Church 551551     “Et estre tenu pour membre de ceste saincte compagnie;” — “And to be regarded as a member of that holy society.” let him be a new creature ” By this expression he condemns every kind of excellence that is wont to be in much esteem among men, if renovation of heart is wanting. “Learning, it is true, and eloquence, and other endowments, are valuable, and worthy to be honored; but, where the fear of the Lord and an upright conscience are wanting, all the honor of them goes for nothing. Let no one, therefore, glory in any distinction, inasmuch as the chief praise of Christians is self-renunciation.”

Nor is this said merely for the purpose of repressing the vanity of the false apostles, but also with the view of correcting the ambitious judgments of the Corinthians, in which outward disguises were of more value than real sincerity — though this is a fault that is common to almost all ages. For where shall we find the man that does not attach much more importance to show, than to true holiness? Let us, therefore, keep in view this admonition — that all that are not renewed by the Spirit of God, should be looked upon as nothing in the Church, by whatever ornaments they may in other respects be distinguished.

Old things are passed away. When the Prophets speak of the kingdom of Christ, they foretell that there will be new heavens and a new earth, (Isaiah 65:17,) meaning thereby, that all things will be changed for the better, until the happiness of the pious is completed. As, however, Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, this change must take place chiefly in the Spirit, and hence it is with propriety that he begins with this. There is, therefore, an elegant and appropriate allusion, when Paul makes use of a commendation of this kind, for the purpose of setting forth the value of regeneration. Now by old things he means, the things that are not formed anew by the Spirit of God. Hence this term is placed in contrast with renewing grace. The expression passed away, he uses in the sense of fading away, as things that are of short duration are wont to fall off, when they have passed their proper season. Hence it is only the new man, that flourishes and is vigorous 552552     “C’est ... dire, dont il falle faire cas;” — “That is to say, that we must esteem.” in the kingdom of Christ.


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