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10. Paul Defends His Ministry
1Now I Paul myself entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I who in your presence am lowly among you, but being absent am of good courage toward you: 2yea, I beseech you, that I may not when present show courage with the confidence wherewith I count to be bold against some, who count of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh 4(for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), 5casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; 6and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full. 7Ye look at the things that are before your face. If any man trusteth in himself that he is Christ's, let him consider this again with himself, that, even as he is Christ's, so also are we. 8For though I should glory somewhat abundantly concerning our authority (which the Lord gave for building you up, and not for casting you down), I shall not be put to shame: 9that I may not seem as if I would terrify you by my letters. 10For, His letters, they say, are weighty and strong; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account. 11Let such a one reckon this, that, what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such are we also in deed when we are present. 12For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with certain of them that commend themselves: but they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding. 13But we will not glory beyond our measure, but according to the measure of the province which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even unto you. 14For we stretch not ourselves overmuch, as though we reached not unto you: for we came even as far as unto you in the gospel of Christ: 15not glorying beyond our measure, that is, in other men's labors; but having hope that, as your faith groweth, we shall be magnified in you according to our province unto further abundance, 16so as to preach the gospel even unto the parts beyond you, and not to glory in another's province in regard of things ready to our hand. 17But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 18For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
7. That are according to appearance. In the first place, the clause according to appearance, may be taken in two ways: either as meaning the reality itself, visible and manifest, or an outward mask, 765765 "La masque et apparence exterieure;" — "An outward mask and appearance." that deceives us. The sentence, too, may be read either interrogatively or affirmatively: nay more, the verb βλέπετε may be taken either in the imperative mood, or in the subjunctive. I am rather of opinion, however, that it is expressive of chiding, and that the Corinthians are reaproved, because they suffered their eyes to be dazzled with empty show. “You greatly esteem others who swell out with mighty airs of importance, while you look down upon me, because I have nothing of show and boasting.” For Christ himself contrasts the judgment that is according to appearance with righteous judgment. (John 7:24, and John 8:15.) Hence he reproves the Corinthians, because, contenting themselves with show, or appearance, they did not seriously consider, what kind of persons ought to be looked upon as the servants of Christ.
If any one trusteth in himself — an expression that is full of great confidence, for he takes it, as it were, for granted, that he is so certainly a minister of Christ, that this distinction cannot be taken from him. “Whoever,” says he, “is desirous to be looked upon as a minister of Christ, must necessarily count me in along with himself.” For what reason? “Let him,” says he. “think for himself, for whatever things he may have in himself, that make him worthy of such an honor, the same will he find in me.” By this he hinted to them, that whoever they might be that reviled him, ought not to be looked upon as the servants of Christ. It would not become all to speak thus confidently, for it might certainly happen — nay, it happens every day, that they same claim is haughtily advanced by persons, that are of no reputation, and are nothing else than a dishonor to Christ. 766766 "Vn tas de garnement;" — "A band of profligates." Paul, however, affirmed nothing respecting himself but what he had openly given proof of by clear and sure evidences among the Corinthians. Now should any one, while destitute of all proof of the reality, recommend himself in a similar manner, what would he do but expose himself to ridicule? To trust in one’s self is equivalent to assuming to one’s self power and authority on the pretext that he serves Christ, while he is desirous to be held in estimation.
8. For though I should boast more largely of my authority. It was a sign of modesty, that he put himself into the number of those, whom he greatly excelled. At the same time, he was not disposed to show such modesty, as not to retain his authority unimpaired. He accordingly adds, that he has said less than his authority entitled him to say; for he was not one of the ordinary class of ministers, but was even distinguished among the Apostles. Hence he says: “Though I should boast more, I should not be ashamed, for there will be good ground for it.” He anticipates an objection, because he does not fail to speak of his own glory, while at the same time he refrains from making farther mention of it, that the Corinthians may understand, that, if he boasts, it is against his will, as in truth the false Apostles constrained him to it; otherwise he would not have done so.
By the term power he means — the authority of his Apostleship, which he had among the Corinthians for, through all the ministers of the word have the same office in common, there are nevertheless, degrees of honor. Now God had placed Paul on a higher eminence than others, inasmuch as he had made use of his endeavors for founding 767767 "Pour fonder et batir;" — "For founding and building up." that Church, and had in many ways put honor upon his Apostleship. Lest, however, malevolent persons should stir up odium against him, on the ground of his making use of the term power, he adds the purpose for which it was given him — the salvation of the Corinthians. Hence it follows, that it ought not to be irksome to them, or grievous, for who would not bear patiently, nay more, who would not love what he knows to be of advantage to him? In the mean time, there is an implied contrast between his power, and that in which the false apostles gloried — which was of such a nature that the Corinthians received no advantage from it, and experienced no edification. There can, however, be no doubt, that all the ministers of the word are also, furnished with power; for of what sort were a preaching of the word, that was without power? Hence it is said to all —
He that heareth you, heareth me;
he that rejecteth you, rejecteth me. (Luke 10:16.)
As however, many, on false grounds, claim for themselves what they have not, we must carefully observe, how far Paul extends his power — so as to be to the edification of believers. Those, then, who exercise power in the way of destroying the Church, prove themselves to be tyrants, and robbers — not pastors. In the second place, we must observe, that he declares, that it was given to him by God. He, therefore, that is desirous to have any thing in his power to do, must have God as the Author of his power. Others, it is true, will boast of this also, as the Pope with full mouth thunders forth, that he is Christ’s vicar. But what evidence does he give of this? 768768 "Mais que fait-il? Quel tesmoignage en rend-il, pour luy adiouster foy;" — "But what does he do? What proof does he give of it, that credit may be given him?" For Christ has not conferred power of this kind upon dumb persons, but upon the Apostles, and his other ministers, that the doctrine of his Gospel might not be without defense. Hence the whole power of ministers is included in the word — but in such a way, nevertheless, that Christ may always remain Lord and Master. Let us, therefore, bear in mind, that in lawful authority these two things are required — that it be given by God, and that it be exercised for the welfare of the Church. It is well known, who they are, on whom God has conferred this power, and in what way he has limited the power he has given. Those exercise it in a proper manner, who faithfully obey his commandment.
Here, however, a question may be proposed. “God says to Jeremiah,
Behold, I set thee over the nations, and kingdoms,
to plant, and to pluck up, to build and to destroy.
We have, also, found it stated a little before, (2 Corinthians 10:5) that the Apostles were set apart on the same footing — that they might destroy every thing that exalted itself against Christ. Nay more, the teachers of the gospel cannot build up in any other way, than by destroying the old man. Besides, they preach the gospel to the condemnation and destruction of the wicked.” I answer that, what Paul says here, has nothing to do with the wicked, for he addresses the Corinthians, to whom he wished his Apostleship to be beneficial. With regard to them, I say, he could do nothing but with a view to edification. We have already observed, also, that this was expressly stated, that the Corinthians might know, that the authority of this holy man was not assailed by any one but Satan, the enemy of their salvation, while the design of that authority was their edification.
At the same time, it is in other respects true in a general way, that the doctrine of the gospel has in its own nature a tendency to edification — not to destruction. For as to its destroying, that comes from something apart from itself — from the fault of mankind, while they stumble at the stone that was appointed form as a foundation (1 Peter 2:8.) As to the fact, that we are renewed after the image of God by the destruction of the old man — that is not at all at variance with Paul’s words, for in that case destruction is taken in a good sense, but here in a bad sense, as meaning the ruin of what is God’s, or as meaning the destruction of the soul — as if he had said, that his power was not injurious to them, for instead of this the advantage of it for their salvation was manifested.
9 That I may not seem to terrify. Again he touches on the calumny which he had formerly refuted, (2 Corinthians 10:2,) that he was bold in his writings, while in their presence his courage failed him. On this pretext they disparaged his writings. 769769 "Ils rendoyent ses ecrits contemptibles;" — "They made his writings contemptible." “What!” Said they, “will he terrify us by letters when at a distance, while, if present with us, he would scarcely venture to mutter a word!” Lest, therefore, his letters should have less weight, he answers, that no objection is advanced against him, that should either destroy or weaken his credit, and that of his doctrine, for deeds were not to be less valued than words. He was not less powerful in actions when present, than he was by words when absent. Hence it was unfair, that his bodily presence should be looked upon as contemptible. By deed, here, he means, in my opinion, the efficacy and success of his preaching, as well as the excellences that were worthy of an Apostle, and his whole manner of life. Speech, on the other hand, denotes — not the very substance of doctrine, but simply the form of it, and the bark, so to speak: for he would have contended for doctrine with greater keeness. The contempt, however, proceeded from this — that he was deficient in that ornament and splendor of eloquence, which secures favor. 770770 "Par laquelle on acquiert grace enuers les hommes;" — "By which they acquire favor among men."