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Treasure in Clay Jars
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
1. Having this ministry. He now returns to a commendation of himself personally, from which he had digressed into a general discussion, in reference to the dignity of the gospel. As, therefore, he has been treating of the nature of the gospel, so he now shows how faithful and upright a minister of it he is. He has previously shown, what is the true gospel of Christ. He now shows what he preaches to be such. “Having,” says he, “this ministry” — that ministry, the excellence of which he had extolled in terms so magnificent, and the power and usefulness of which he had so abundantly shown forth. Hence, in order that he may not seem to extol himself too much, he premises that it was not by his own efforts, or by his own merits, that he had reached such a pinnacle of honor, but had been led forward by the mercy of God exclusively. Now there was more implied in making the mercy of God the reason of his Apostleship, than if he had attributed it to the grace of God. We faint not 423423 Instead of οὐκ ἐκκακοῦμεν, we faint not, ἐγκακοῦμεν, we act not wickedly, is the reading of ADFG, and some others. Wakefield thinks it the genuine reading; it certainly makes a very good sense with what goes before and what follows. If we follow this reading, the whole verse may be read thus — ‘Wherefore, as we have obtained mercy, or been graciously entrusted, ἠλεήθημεν, with this ministry, we do not act wickedly, but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty.” — Dr. A. Clarke. — Ed. that is, we are not deficient in our duty, 424424 “Nous n’omettons rien de ce qui est de nostre office;” — “We do not omit any thing of what belongs to our office.” so as not to discharge it with fidelity.
2. But renounce the hidden things. While he commends his own sincerity, 425425 “Sa droiture et syncerite;” — “His own uprightness and sincerity.” he, on the other hand, indirectly reproves the false Apostles, who, while they corrupted by their ambition the genuine excellence of the gospel, were, nevertheless, desirous of exclusive distinction. Hence the faults, from which he declares himself to be exempt, he indirectly imputes to them. By the hidden things of disgrace, or concealments, some understand the shadows of the Mosaic law. Chrysostom understands the expression to mean the vain show, by which they endeavored to recommend themselves. I understand by it — all the disguises, with which they adulterated the pure and native beauty of the gospel. For as chaste and virtuous women, satisfied with the gracefulness of natural beauty, do not resort to artificial adornings, while harlots never think themselves sufficiently adorned, unless they have corrupted nature, so Paul glories in having set forth the pure gospel, while others set forth one that was disguised, and covered over with unseemly additions. For as they were ashamed of the simplicity of Christ, or at least could not have distinction 426426 “Ne pouuoyent pas estre excellens et en estime;” — “Could not be eminent, and be held in estimation.” from true excellencies of Apostles, they framed a new gospel, not unlike a profane philosophy, swelled up with empty bombast, while altogether devoid of the efficacy of the Spirit. Spurious ornaments of this nature, 427427 “Ces couleurs fausses, et ces desguisemens;” — “Those false colors, and those disguises.” by which the gospel is disfigured, he calls the concealments of disgrace, because the nakedness of those, who have recourse to concealments and disguises, must of necessity be dishonorable and disgraceful.
As to himself, he says that he rejects or disdains disguises, because Christ’s face, the more that it is seen opened up to view in his preaching, shines forth so much the more gloriously. I do not, however, deny, that he alludes at the same time to the veil of Moses, (Exodus 34:33,) of which he had made mention, but he ascribes a quite different veil to the false Apostles. For Moses covered his face, because the excessive brightness of the glory of the law could not be endured by tender and blear eyes. They, 428428 “Les faux apostres;” — “The false apostles.” on the other hand, put on a veil by way of ornament. Besides, as they would be despicable, nay, infamous, if the simplicity of the gospel shone forth, they, on this account, hide their shame under ever so many cloaks and masks.
Not walking in craftiness. There can be no doubt, that the false Apostles delighted themselves greatly in the craftiness that Paul reproves, as though it had been a distinguished excellence, as we see even at this day some, even of those who profess the gospel, who would rather be esteemed subtile than sincere, and sublime rather than solid, while in the mean time all their refinement is mere childishness. But what would you do? It delights them to have a name for acuteness, and they have, under that pretext, applause among the ignorant. 429429 “Enuers les gens simples, et qui ne scauent pas iuger des choses;” — “Among simple people, and those that do not know how to judge of things.” We learn, however, in what estimation Paul holds this appearance of excellence. Craftiness he declares to be unworthy of Christ’s servants.
As to what follows — nor handling deceitfully — I am not sure that this sufficiently brings out Paul’s meaning; for the verb δολοῦν does not so properly mean acting fraudulently, as what is called falsifying 430430 The verb δολοῦν is applied by Lucian (in Hermot. 59) to vintners adulterating wine, in which sense it is synonymous with καπηλέυειν, made use of by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:17. Beza’s rendering of the clause exactly corresponds with the one to which Calvin gives the preference — “Neque falsantes sermonem Dei;” — “Nor falsifying the word of God.” Tyndale (1534) renders the clause thus — “Nether corrupte we the worde of God.” The rendering in the Rheims version (1582) is — “Nor adulterating the word of God.” — Ed. as horse-jockeys 431431 “Et frippiers;” — “And brokers.” are wont to do. In this passage, at least, it is placed in contrast with upright preaching, agreeably to what follows.
But by manifestation of the truth He claims to himself this praise — that he had proclaimed the pure doctrine of the gospel in simplicity and without disguise, and has the consciences of all as witnesses of this in the sight of God. As he has placed the manifestation of the truth in contrast with the disguised 432432 “Fardee et desguisee;” — “Painted and disguised” doctrine of the sophists, so he appeals the decision to their consciences, and to the judgment-seat of God, whereas they abused the mistaken judgment of men, or their corrupt affection, and were not so desirous to be in reality worthy of praise as they were eager to appear so. Hence we infer, that there is a contrast here between the consciences of men and their ears. Let the servants of Christ, therefore, reckon it enough to have approved their integrity to the consciences of men in the sight of God, and pay no regard to the corrupt inclinations of men, or to popular applause.