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3And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.

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3. And I was with you in weakness He explains at greater length what he had previously touched upon — that he had nothing shining or excellent in him in the eyes of men, to raise him to distinction. He concedes, however, to his adversaries what they desired in such a way as to make those very things which, in their opinion, tended to detract from the credit of his ministry, redound to its highest commendation. If he appeared less worthy of esteem from his being so mean and abject according to the flesh, he shows that the power of God shone out the more conspicuously in this, that he could effect so much, while sustained by no human helps. He has in his eye not merely those foolish boasters 107107     “Thrasones.” The appellation is borrowed from Thraso, a foolish captain in Terence (Eun. 3:1.) — Ed. who aimed at mere show, with the view of obtaining for themselves a name, but the Corinthians, too, who gazed with astonishment on their empty shows. Accordingly a recital of this kind was fitted to have great weight with them. They were aware that Paul had brought nothing with him in respect of the flesh that was fitted to help him forward, or that might enable him to insinuate himself into the favor of men, and yet they had seen the amazing success which the Lord had vouchsafed to his preaching. Nay more, they had in a manner beheld with their own eyes the Spirit of God present in his doctrine. When, therefore, despising his simplicity, they were tickled with a desire for a kind of wisdom, I know not of what sort, more puffed up and more polished, and were captivated with outward appearance, nay, even with adventitious ornament, rather than with the living efficacy of the Spirit, did they not sufficiently discover their ambitious spirit? It is with good reason, therefore, that Paul puts them in mind of his first entering in among them, (1 Thessalonians 2:1,) that they may not draw back from that divine efficacy, which they once knew by experience.

The term weakness he employs here, and in several instances afterwards, (2 Corinthians 11:30; 2 Corinthians 12:5, 9, 10,) as including everything that can detract from a person’s favor and dignity in the opinion of others. Fear and trembling are the effects of that weakness There are, however, two ways in which these two terms may be explained by us. Either we may understand him to mean, that when he pondered the magnitude of the office that he sustained, it was tremblingly, and not without great anxiety, that he occupied himself in it; or that, being encompassed with many dangers, he was in constant alarm and incessant anxiety. Either meaning suits the context sufficiently well. The second, however, is, in my opinion, the more simple. Such a spirit of modesty, indeed, becomes the servants of the Lord, that, conscious of their own weakness, and looking, on the other hand, at once to the difficulty and the excellence of so arduous an office, they should enter on the discharge of it with reverence and fear For those that intrude themselves confidently, and in a spirit much elated, or who discharge the ministry of the word with an easy mind, as though they were fully equal to the task, are ignorant at once of themselves and of the task. 108108     “Ne cognoissent ni eux ni la chose qu’ils ont entre mains;” — “They know not either themselves or the thing that they have in hand.”

As, however, Paul here connects fear with weakness, and as the term weakness denotes everything that was fitted to render him contemptible, it follows necessarily that this fear must relate to dangers and difficulties. It is certain, however, that this fear was of such a nature as did not prevent Paul from engaging in the Lord’s work, as facts bear witness. The Lord’s servants are neither so senseless as not to perceive impending dangers, nor so devoid of feeling as not to be moved by them. Nay more, it is necessary for them to be seriously afraid on two accounts chiefly — first, that, abased in their own eyes, they may learn wholly to lean and rest upon God alone, and secondly, that they may be trained to a thorough renunciation of self. Paul, therefore, was not devoid of the influence of fear, but that fear he controlled in such a manner as to go forward, notwithstanding, with intrepidity through the midst of dangers, so as to encounter with undaunted firmness and fortitude all the assaults of Satan and of the world; and, in fine, so as to struggle through every impediment.




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