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Arno Clement Gaebelein

In the Public Domain

                            SECOND CORINTHIANS


     Division of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians
     Analysis and Annotations

                   The Second Epistle to the Corinthians


     This second epistle is inseparably connected with the first Paul had
written to the Corinthians. Its authorship is undoubted, for no other
epistle bears such distinctive marks of the author and brings out all which
characterized him as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. From critical
sides it is claimed that between the first and second epistles, there must
have been another letter of the Apostle, more severe in tone than the first
epistle. This letter the critics maintain was lost. This supposition is
mostly founded on chapter 2:3-4 and chapter 7:8. The statements made by the
apostle in these passages, it is argued, cannot be explained by the message
of the first epistle and the situation described is altogether too strong
to have been created by the first epistle. But there is no need to invent
an intermediate letter to explain the tone and burden of this second
epistle. The first epistle contains sufficient material to produce the
effects in the Corinthians and also in the mind and heart of the apostle of
which he writes in the above passages. 1 Corinthians 4:18-21; 5:1-8; 6:5-8;
11:17-22 and 15:35-36, account fully for the great Apostle's solicitude and

                     How the Second Epistle Originated

     After the first epistle had been written and delivered to the
Corinthians, Paul seemed to have been greatly troubled in his mind about
how the church in Corinth would receive and treat his inspired
communication. The first epistle had been written with many tears and deep
soul-exercise. He knew that it would make them sorry, yet he was in doubt
and unrest about it all. Titus had evidently been sent by the Apostle to
Corinth to ascertain the truth about this matter and to find out what
effect the first epistle had upon the Corinthians. Others think that
Timotheus had first returned from Corinth and had brought very painful
news, which greatly increased the anxiety of Paul and he sent, therefore,
another letter through Titus to the Corinthians (the letter which is
claimed was lost). However, this is only a conjecture.

     At the time of writing this epistle, Paul had left the province Asia
(2 Corinthians 1:8) where he had been in some great peril. In leaving Asia
he had come by Troas, where the Lord had opened a door for him to preach
the Gospel (2 Corinthians 2:12). In Troas he fully expected to meet Titus
and receive the much longed for report from the Corinthian Church. "I had
no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother" (2:13). He
therefore sailed to Macedonia. It was in Macedonia where Titus met him and
told Paul about his visit to Corinth. "For when we were come into
Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side;
without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that
comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
and not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was
comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning,
your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more" (2 Corinthians
7:5-7). The tidings which Titus brought were in the main good tidings. They
had mourned over the wrong which the first letter had pointed out and they
had repented; however, it is also clear that not all had been settled.
There were still his enemies who attacked him and they became evidently
more bitter against him on account of the strong letter he had written to
the church. He wrote therefore, this second epistle in which he expresses
the comfort which the news of their repentance had brought him, but in
which he also very strongly defends his personal character and his
apostolic authority.

     This establishes beyond controversy the fact that the epistle was
written in Macedonia. The exact place can hardly be ascertained. The note
at the end of the epistle "written from Philippi" is simply traditional. It
is more likely that he spent some time in Thessalonica. The time when this
second epistle was written must have been the early autumn of 57, A.D.

                     The Contents and Characteristics

     That in many ways there is a vast difference in the two epistles to
the Corinthians cannot escape even a superficial reader. The second epistle
is a far more personal one than the first and there is less doctrinal
matter mentioned. One of the leading characteristics is the rapid
transitions, which emanated not from the moods of the great man of God, but
from the deep exercises of his soul. Anxiety, indignation, resentment,
trust and love are linked together in rapid succession. A critic begins his
remarks on this epistle with the following words "Of all Paul's epistles
this is the most obscure. It is a veritable cloudland." But another writer
expresses the value of this Epistle in a true way, when he says "What an
admirable epistle is the second to the Corinthians! How full of affections!
He joys and is sorry; he grieves and he glories: never was there such care
of a flock expressed, save by the great Shepherd, who first shed tears over
Jerusalem and afterward blood." Dean Alford remarks on this grand document:
"In no other epistle are matter and style so various, and so rapidly
shifting from one character to another. Consolation and rebuke, gentleness
and severity, earnestness and irony, succeed one another at very short
intervals and without notice." Still another gives a good summary of the
contents of this epistle.

     "Personal experience, and this used for the help of others in their
trials; the work of the Lord in all its varieties, with the action of the
Holy Ghost answering to it; the truth of God in its distinctive shape and
highest forms, or the glory of Christ contrasted with the spirit; in former
days hidden under the letter; the walk and service which befit such
revelations of grace; the affections called into action by all this in the
midst of sorrow and suffering, with evil abounding and grace much more
abounding; the trials and wants of saints, calling out the loving
remembrance of others; the opposition of self-seeking men, employed of the
enemy to hinder the blessing of saints and to lower the glory of Christ, to
distract the weak and give scope for unscrupulous activity; but on the
other hand the energy of the Holy Ghost working not only to vouchsafe
heavenly visions, and so give faith its object, but to manifest Christ in
weakness and suffering where the power of Christ may rest, are all brought
out with remarkable force and fulness."

                        The Apostle's Self-Defense

     While the epistle to the Galatians is the defense of the doctrine of
the Gospel against false teachers, the second epistle to the Corinthians is
the defense of his own personal character, his apostolic authority, his
motives and his ministry. His adversaries, Judaizing teachers and others,
who were continuing the sectarian spirit, had charged him with many things,
slandering his character and belittling his apostolic authority and
efficiency. What they had spoken against him we learn from the epistle
itself. They depreciated his person. "For his letters, say they, are
weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech
contemptible" (10:10). "Though I be rude in speech (as they had accused
him) yet not in knowledge" (11:6). The reason why he speaks in this epistle
so much of his self-sacrifice, his zeal, his sincerity, his manly courage,
his untiring service and his many sufferings, is that he had been attacked
and belittled in all these things. It is well known that Paul means
"little." Saul had been changed to Paul, the little one. Unlike his
namesake in the Old Testament, King Saul, whom Samuel had rebuked, with the
words "when thou wast little in thine own eyes," the great Apostle was
little and remained little in his own estimation, the mark of every true
servant of Christ. He called himself "less than the least of all saints"
(Ephesians 3:8). Yet in this epistle he is forced to boast in order to
vindicate his character and ministry. In chapter 12:11 we read "I am become
a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me; for I ought to have been
commended of you; for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles,
though I be nothing." Thirty-one times he speaks of glorying or boasting
and that because he was compelled to do so. In this way we learn of some
new things which happened in the life of the Apostle Paul which are
unrecorded elsewhere. These are: his escape from Damascus in a basket
(11:32-33); his great experience in being caught up to the third heaven
(12:1-4); his thorn in the flesh (12:7, etc.); his remarkable sufferings
and privations (11:23-27). The fact that these experiences were not
mentioned by him till he was compelled to do so and to show that, if he
wanted to boast in something, he had abundant reasons for doing so,
manifests his great humility.

                               True Ministry

     The epistle is a wonderful mine in spiritual and practical truths. The
one great truth which may be traced throughout the entire epistle is the
ministry in the body of Christ, the church. And the apostle himself in
making his self-defense is a pattern of what true ministry in the body of
Christ is and what it means. Here are blessed, spiritual lessons and
principles which apply to God's true children at all times. All who desire
to be devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ in these days, need these practical
truths. May it please God to lead us into them and enable us by His grace
to walk in His truth.

                    The Division of Second Corinthians

     We divide this epistle into three parts, which is the most
satisfactory division.

     APOSTLE. Chapters 1-7.

     1. The Introduction. Chapters 1:1-7.
     2. Paul's Experience and Explanations. Chapter 1:8-24.
     3. His Deep Exercise Concerning Them. Chapter 2.
     4. The Ministry of the New Covenant as Contrasted with the Old.
        Chapter 3.
     5. The Character of the True Ministry. Chapter 4.
     6. Concerning the Future; The Ministry of Reconciliation. Chapter 5.
     7. Ministry in Connection with Testings and Trials. Chapter 6:1-13.
     8. The Apostle's Appeals and Rejoicing. Chapter 6:14-7:16.


     1. The Examples and Principles of Giving. Chapter 8.
     2. Exhortation and Encouragement. Chapter 9.


     1. The Defense of His Authority. Chapter 10.
     2. Answering His Adversaries. His Boasting. Chapter 11.
     3. Revelations in which He Might Glory. The Marks of His Apostleship.
        Chapter 12.
     4. Still Absent, Yet Coming. The Conclusion. Chapter 13.

                         Analysis and Annotations

     APOSTLE. Chapters 1-7.

                           1. The Introduction.

                               CHAPTER 1:1-7

     1. The Salutation. 1-2.
     2. The Thanksgiving. 3-7.

     After the opening words of salutation, the Apostle blesses God, the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God
of all comfort. The Apostle had many trials and testings, as well as much
suffering, and in all these depressing experiences, God had graciously
ministered unto him. Therefore he blessed God in this outburst of praise.
We can only bless God as we know Him. Trials, afflictions, sorrows and
sufferings make God a greater reality to the believer and display His
gracious favor towards His beloved people. The Apostle had made this
experience, "Who comforteth (or encourageth) us in all our tribulation that
we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort
wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." In all his distress and
tribulation he had drawn near to God, and God had not failed him, but
ministered to his need. The blessing and encouragement he had received from
God fitted him to comfort those who are in trouble. An important principle
concerning true ministry in the body of Christ is made known in these words
of thanksgiving. God must minister to our hearts first, and, through what
we receive, we can minister to others. And so all true ministry is of Him.
He knew the sufferings of Christ in an abundant measure, but while the
sufferings of Christ abounded toward him, so did his consolation abound
through Christ also. All he passed through and suffered as a devoted
servant of Christ in an antagonistic world, were the sufferings of Christ.
Of these sufferings he speaks more fully elsewhere in this Epistle. And
both, the trouble and the comfort, were not exclusively for him, but for
all Christians likewise. All was for their benefit and blessing. The
Apostle states, that whether afflicted or comforted, it is for their
consolation and salvation, and that the same result is wrought in" them by
their own participation in a like experience. The Lord in His gracious
dealing would turn affliction to their blessing as well as the consolation.
His heart had been encouraged by what he had heard from Titus about their
godly sorrow and therefore he could express his confidence "and our hope of
you is stedfast, knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so are
ye also of the consolation."

                  2. Paul's Experience and Explanations.

                              CHAPTER 1:8-24

     1. His Experience. 8-14.
     2. His Explanations. 15-24.

     The Apostle speaks, first of all, of the trouble he had when he was
pressed out of measure (or "weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power"),
in so much that he despaired of his life. What experience did he mean? The
question cannot be positively answered. It may have been the trouble in
Ephesus (Acts 19) to which he refers in 1 Corinthians 15:32, "If after the
manner of men I have fought with beasts in Ephesus." Others think that it
was some severe attack of sickness or a powerful assault upon his life from
some other source. Whatever it was, he had been in such a peril that he
almost lost his life. "But we had the sentence of death within ourselves,
that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead: who
delivered us from so great a death and doth deliver; in whom we trust that
He will yet deliver us." It was all permitted to come upon him for his own
good. He learned by it his own utter helplessness; it destroyed in him all
self-reliance; he had to cast himself upon God, whose power and
faithfulness as a deliverer were blessedly manifested in this experience.
It showed him his nothingness and God's power in deliverance. Every true
believer will welcome any affliction or tribulation which produces such
precious results. In the tenth verse, he groups together the fact of God's
deliverance past, present and future. "Who delivered us from so great a
death." This undoubtedly refers to the danger he was exposed to and out of
which He had been delivered, but it may also be applied in a more general
way. We are as believers delivered from so great a death, that is, eternal
death. Then there is a present deliverance "who doth deliver." These are
the trials and testings in the way, in which the believer learns anew that
He is the God of our salvation. "Salvation through a work wrought already
for eternity is the daily lesson of a growing faith. Sickness, privation
and trouble Of any kind are, with outward persecution, permitted as
occasions of sustaining and delivering love. Grace knows how to deliver
even from those snares in which our own folly or carelessness may have
entangled our feet."(Pridham.) And the Apostle expressed his confidence in
a future deliverance. He who has delivered His people, saved them by Grace,
who constantly delivers and keeps, will do so in the future till the final
great deliverance comes and all His redeemed people will be gathered home.

     But while the Apostle trusted in God for all this, as all true
believers do, he also recognized the value of the prayers of others. God's
children can be fellow-helpers in prayer for the servants of God "helping
together by prayer for us." Prayer is therefore a very important part of
true ministry in the body of Christ. And what had been bestowed upon him,
would lead many to praise God in giving thanks on his behalf. He was
rejoicing in the testimony of his own conscience, that in holiness (not
"simplicity" as in the authorized version) and sincerity before God he had
acted in the world and more abundantly towards them. (The word rejoicing is
"glorying" or "boasting." As mentioned in the introduction this word is
found thirty-one times in this epistle.) Only partly had they recognized
him. He mentions "the day of our Lord Jesus." In that day the Corinthian
saints would be the Apostle's glorying, and the Apostle was their glorying.
The day of the Lord Jesus is not the Old Testament day of God. The day of
the Lord will bring the visible manifestation of the Lord in great power
and glory. Judgment for this earth follows as well as mercy in bringing
righteousness, peace and the Kingdom. The day of the lord Jesus is for the
Saints of God and is celebrated not on earth but in glory. Often the
Apostle refers to that blessed coming day when the Saints shall be gathered
home. As a doctrine it is impressed continually on the memory of the
church, while as a moral power it is a constant endeavor of the Spirit to
bring it to bear directly on the daily walk of the believer, both as a
regulator of conscience, an argument of patience, and an efficient
stimulant of all true spiritual affection (Romans 13:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:7; 1
John 3:1-3).

     His explanations follow. He intended to come to them long before this.
His plan was to pass by them into Macedonia, and to come again out of
Macedonia unto them, so that they might bring him on his way toward Judea.
He had not done so. They might accuse him therefore of having failed. The
word "lightness" in verse 17 means fickleness. Was he fickle-minded? Was it
merely the lightness and fickleness, a changing yea, yea, followed by nay,
nay? He had stayed away from Corinth for other reasons; it was to spare
them that he did not go there. Therefore, it was not fickleness on his part
at all.

     He did not purpose according to the flesh. What he earnestly desired
was from love for them, and all his plans were under the guidance of the
Lord. "But as God is true, our word toward you is not yea and nay. For the
Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and
Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in Him is yea. For
whatever may be the promises of God, in Him is the yea, wherefore also
through Him is the amen, unto the glory of God through us." They had been
suspicious of him and his motives, and now after having denied the false
charge of being fickle-minded he reminds them of his preaching among them
which was not yea and nay. He turns from the accusations against him, to
what he had preached. The positive doctrines of the Gospel had molded his
character and controlled all his motives. He and his companions, Silvanus
and Timotheus, had preached among them the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and
the blessed truths of salvation and redemption which center in Him and flow
forth from His Person. And the preaching of the Son of God has no doubt and
uncertainty in it; it is the declaration of positive and final Truth. Men
doubt and are fickle-minded about the Person of Christ and the Gospel in
our days, but God's Word speaks in positive terms, which do not permit any
uncertainty whatever. It is a wonderfully deep statement that all the
promises of God, whatever they may be, are in Christ--in Him is the yea and
through Him the amen likewise. All promises are made to Christ and are in
Him and those who trust in Christ share them in Him. All came by Him, all
is in Him, all will be accomplished through Him. "Whatever promises there
had been on God's part, the yea was in Him, and the amen in Him. God has
established--deposited, so to speak--the fulfillment of all His promises in
the Person of Christ. Life, glory, righteousness, pardon, the gift of the
Spirit, all is in Him: it is in Him that all is true--yea and amen. We
cannot have the effect of any promise whatsoever apart from Him. But this
is not all: we, believers, are the objects of these counsels of God. They
are to the glory of God by us."(Synopsis.)

     But how can we participate in it, if all is "in Christ?" Here is the
blessed answer. God Himself establishes the believer in Christ, in whom all
the promises subsist, so that the true Christian securely possesses in Him
all that is promised. We have it all through God in Christ and can enjoy it
in Him. And furthermore, God hath anointed us. We possess in Christ the
gift of the Holy Spirit. We are sealed by that Spirit; God has put His seal
upon us. And finally the Spirit also is in us the earnest of that which we
shall possess with Christ in the coming day of His glory. "In whom ye also,
after that Ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in
whom also believing, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which
is the earnest of an inheritance until the redemption of the purchased
possession, to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).

           3. His Deep Exercise Concerning Them. Yet Overcoming.

                                 CHAPTER 2

     1. The Burden of his Soul. 1-4.
     2. Concerning the Brother who had been Disciplined. 5-11.
     3. Overcoming. 12-17.

     In the previous chapter we read the reason why he had not gone to
Corinth. "To spare you I came not to Corinth" (verse 23). He feared, that
on account of their deplorable condition; exercising his God-given
apostolic authority, he might appear as dominating over them. He had
determined that he would not come again to them with sorrow. He might have
hastened to Corinth with a rod (1 Corinthians 4:21), but he exercised
patience and had waited, no doubt with much prayer to God, for the gracious
effect of the first Epistle he had sent unto them. In all these statements
so humble, so loving and so patient, we have the love exemplified which is
described in the previous epistle (Chapter 13). He was not easily provoked;
he hoped all things and endured all things. He also tells them in what
state of mind he was in when he wrote his first Epistle. What deep soul
exercise the fourth verse reveals! He was so much concerned that he wrote
out of much affliction and agony of heart, while his tears flowed freely.
But it was not done to grieve them; love for them was the only motive,
"that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly towards you."

     The case of the transgressor whose wicked deed had been exposed and
rebuked in the first Epistle (1 Corinthians 5), whose discipline had been
demanded by the Apostle, is taken up first. What had grieved him had
grieved them also. This they had shown by the way in which they had treated
this brother. Titus had brought him the information that they had acted and
the transgressor had been put away from fellowship. He also must have told
Paul of his deep and true repentance. He therefore exhorts them to receive
him again and comfort him, who was in grave danger of being swallowed up
with much sorrow on account of the discipline from the side of the mass of
Christians. He tells them to assure this weak brother, who had been
restored, of their own love, and while they had forgiven him, he also
forgave. In assuring the disciplined brother of their love they would
thereby prove their obedience in all things. They had previously shown
their obedience by judging the evil doer for his sin. "Lest Satan should
get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices." The
brother in question who had been delivered to Satan was in danger of being
driven to despair, and in this way Satan might get an advantage over them.
This might have resulted in bringing about a division between the Apostle
and the Corinthians. The course pursued by the apostle in forgiving love,
prevented this.

     When the Apostle came to Troas to preach the Gospel of Christ, there
was a door opened unto him by the Lord. His great business was to preach
the Gospel, and the Lord had manifested His approval by opening a door. Yet
Paul was restless. He had expected to meet Titus to receive the anxiously
awaited news from Corinth. So he did not enter the door which the Lord
opened to preach the Gospel, but he hastened to Macedonia. His own anxiety
and restless haste were weaknesses. The door opened for service should have
made him tarry at Troas to preach that Gospel, which he loved so well.
Then, in due time, the Lord would have led Titus to him. From all this the
Corinthians could learn his great love for them and his deep anxiety and
concern. And yet his conscience must have been troubled in having lost so
great an opportunity to preach the Gospel. Surely he was in a very trying
position as a servant of Christ. On the one hand he valued the Gospel and
loved to preach it, and on the other hand was his burdened heart for the
Saints of God. And therefore he comforts and encourages himself by an
outburst of thanksgiving. He knows that God is in it all; not he himself
leads, but God always leadeth him in triumph in Christ, ("causes us to
triumph" is a faulty translation), "and maketh manifest the odor of His
knowledge through us in every place." It is an allusion to a Roman
triumphal procession after the victory. Captives were led in these
processions, but the victors were the prominent figures. So Paul declares,
"God always leadeth us in triumph in Christ." He gives us the victory. All
his anxiety for the Corinthians ended in triumph. This was always so. In
connection with a Roman triumph incense was burned upon every altar. These
aromatics pervaded the whole procession. Through the apostle the sweet
smell of His knowledge was spread about. But he also applies this to the
Gospel. The two classes are mentioned by him, those who are being saved and
those who are perishing. Let us also notice the beautiful thought that the
preaching of the Gospel is a sweet incense of Christ unto God. Independent
of the results of the preaching of the Gospel, whenever that precious name
is preached, which is as ointment poured forth (Song of Solomon 1:3), it
delights the heart of God and is a sweet savor unto Him. But as to men, to
some it is a savor (or odor) of death unto death and to others a savor of
life unto life. (In the Roman triumphal procession were captives to whom
the burning incense was a token of death; to others it was a token of

     And who is sufficient for these things? What great issues the Gospel
ministry involves and how great the responsibility! The question is
answered in the next chapter. "Our sufficiency is of God" (3:5). Upon Him
the true minister of the Gospel is solely cast. And because Paul had his
sufficiency of God as well as those who were associated with him, he could
say, "for we are not as the many, corrupting the Word of God; but as of
sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ." The
word "corrupt" has the meaning of adulterating, trading. It has been
strikingly translated "driving a traffic in the Word of God" and with this
making merchandise of the Truth of God, the adulterating is closely
connected. It began with apostolic days. How much worse is it in our times!
Many who lay claim to the name of ministers of the Gospel are men-pleasers,
covetous, aiming at their own popularity, seeking their own and not the
things of Christ; and therefore they trade in these truths and handle the
Word of God deceitfully as well as diluting it. A solemn description of a
true servant of Christ is the concluding sentence of this chapter. He is of
God, with a God-given message, and he speaks of God in the sight of God.

       4. The Ministry of the New Covenant in Contrast with the Old.

                                 CHAPTER 3

     1. The Epistle of Christ. 1-3.
     2. The True Sufficiency. 4-6.
     3. The Old and New Ministry Contrasted. 7-11.
     4. The Glory in the Face of Moses and the Glory in the Face of 
        Christ. 12-18.

     It was customary in the church to give letters of commendation (Acts
18:27; Romans 16:1). Did the Apostle need, as some others, epistles of
commendation to the Corinthians, or such letters from them? Probably his
enemies, the Judaizing teachers, who upheld the law and its ordinances,
demanded such letters. They may have said, he did not come from Jerusalem;
who then is Paul? Why has he not letters of commendation? His answer is,
"Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men;
being made manifest that ye are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us,
written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not on tables
of stone, but on fleshly tables of the heart." It is a most beautiful and
tender Statement. The Corinthians were his letter of commendation, the
proof of his blessed ministry, because under his preaching they had been
saved and were walking well. After their obedience, he could rightly say
so. it would have been impossible for him to make such a statement in the
first epistle. Let all men read you as an epistle, and they will know what
kind of a man I am. What confidence and love this expresses! It would also
lead them to an earnest inquiry if they were really such a letter of
commendation. When he speaks of "ye are the epistle of Christ" he describes
the general character of the church and her responsibility. The church is
the representative of Christ, or Christ's letter of commendation to the
world. What a solemn responsibility to recommend in life and walk Christ to
the world! Just as God had written once the law on tables of stone
exclusively for Israel, so now the Spirit of the living God writes Christ
on the hearts of believers, that the world may read Christ in the Church
composed of all believers. ("Exodus 34:1; John 13:35; 17:21. The analogy is
obvious. Jehovah was 'the God of Israel,' Christ is 'the Savior of the
world.' The tables were Jehovah's witness to His people, the Church is
Christ's living Epistle to the world. Israel heard but turned away; the
world saw and read but refused, and yet refuses Him who thus speaks from
heaven. Lastly, in the former case, the law was made void by the
commandments of men; in the latter, the Church, the power of whose
testimony consists in her separation from the world, has by mingling with
it become the betrayer, rather than the witness of the name by which she is
called.") And this is true ministry, witnessing to Christ not alone in the
proclamation of the Gospel, but in life and walk. "That ye may be blameless
and harmless, the children of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked
and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil.
2:15). And such was Paul's confidence through Christ to Godward. He trusted
the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to accomplish this. In himself, he
acknowledges, there is no sufficiency for anything, "all our sufficiency is
of God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant, not of
letter, but of spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
The latter statement is often wrongly interpreted. The word "letter" does
not mean the entire written Word of God. Many have taken this view and
declare that the Bible must not be taken literally, just as it says. (This
is mostly said in connection with Prophecy, the Second Coming of Christ,
etc. More than once the word "the letter killeth" has been used to explain
away the literal meaning of things to come.) It is not the question at all
between the literal words and meaning of the Scriptures and the spiritual
meaning, but it is a contrast between the old covenant and the new
covenant, between the law and the gospel. The word "letter" stands for the
law, which in its ministration kills and cannot give life. What the purpose
of the law is and what it can do and cannot do is learned from the
following passages: Romans 3:20, 5:20, 7:5-11, 8:3; Galatians 3:10, 19.

     By the law no flesh can be justified; by the law the offence abounded;
the law means death to man (Romans 7:10-11). It is weak and has no power to
help man, and it curses man. In this sense the letter, the law, killeth.
But the spirit giveth life. It means that the spirit of the Gospel is
different from the law, for the Holy Spirit operates through the Gospel and
quickens the sinner who is dead and under the curse. Here then we have the
absolute incompatibility of law and gospel. The epistle to the Galatians
makes this fact fully known. The contrast between law and gospel, the old
and the new covenant, is introduced in this epistle because the teachers
who magnified the law and preached the keeping of the law for
righteousness, were also at work in Corinth (chapter 11:22). And the glory
of the gospel and its ministry cannot be fully demonstrated except in its
relation to the law. The contrast made is fivefold:

                Law             |                Gospel
Letter.                         |   Spirit.
Ministration of death.          |   Ministration of the Spirit (Life).
Ministration of condemnation.   |   Ministration of righteousness.
Vanishing glory.                |   Abiding glory.
Veiled glory.                   |   Unveiled glory.

     The law ministers death. It was written and engraved and came with
glory. This refers us to the second giving of the law. Glory was connected
with that, for Moses' face shone. Because grace and mercy were mingled with
the second giving of the law (Exodus 34:1-7), glory was seen upon the face
of Moses. They could not look upon that glory, and Moses, the Mediator, had
to cover his face with a veil. It was a brightness which dazzled and
repelled, but had no power to attract or to bring light, warmth and joy to
the hearts of the people. But if glory was connected with the ministration
which is death, how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather

     The Gospel is all-glorious and abiding; it is the ministration of
righteousness which abounds in glory. The glory on the face of Moses has
given way to the glory in another face, even in the face of the Lord, Jesus
Christ. The glory on Moses' face was but the reflection of His glory who
came and dwelt among men. It is now a remaining glory as well as a
surpassing glory, "the glory that excelleth." And the sinner can behold
that glory. "Righteousness is now ministered unto us, not worked out by us;
and thus, indeed, the glory of God is revealed as nothing else could reveal
it. His inmost heart is told out in righteousness, but love is
righteousness, and love, how marvelous, as shown in the gift of Christ for
men! So that which was made glorious in the time past had, in itself, no
glory compared with this surpassing glory" (Numerical Bible).

     "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness
(literally: boldness and confidence) of speech." With such blessed
assurance and knowledge of the ministration of righteousness and the
Spirit, the true minister can use great plainness of speech in the
proclamation of the Gospel. "To make the marvelous truth of God's gospel as
clear as daylight to the human conscience is the first duty of those whom
the Lord now sends forth as heralds of His grace. Whatever is recondite or
enigmatic is not now of God. Babes receive that which, when digested, makes
them men. It could not be thus with Moses, who was indeed the open minister
of the law, but the veiled prophet of grace,. The action of Moses in
covering his face is here described as something intentional, and in
keeping with his office as the minister of that which he knew to be
imperfect in character, and therefore not of permanent effect. The lawgiver
was a witness also of a better thing than law. To deliver his present
message to the people he lifted the veil, which was again replaced when the
commandment was uttered. Before God he was unveiled, and looked with open
vision on the mystery of Jehovah's ways, but to Israel his covered face was
an emblem of the incomplete and unsatisfying nature of the ministry
committed to his charge." (A. Pridham)

     But Israel has been blinded. The people who boast in the ministration
of the law did not believe, and as a result their minds were blinded
(Isaiah 6:9, 10; Matthew 13:14; John 12:40; Acts 28:26; Romans 11:8). They
read the Old Testament, but the veil is unremoved; yet the day of grace is
coming when the veil shall be taken away, and that will be when they turn
to the Lord during the coming time of great tribulation, ending with the
glorious coming of Him whom they once rejected (Hosea 5:15; 6:1-3).

     And those who believe look upon the unveiled, the unhidden glories of
the Lord, and are transformed into the same image from glory to glory. It
is through faith. And all is through the blessed life-giving Spirit of
Christ, who works in believers as the Epistle of Christ. "The power to
enjoy Him is the power to reflect Him. The reflection is no effort, but the
necessary effect of enjoyment." May we enjoy Christ by being more and more
occupied with Him through His Word and then make Him known by walking even
as He walked. This is a part of true ministry so much needed.

                  5. The Character of the True Ministry.

                                 CHAPTER 4

     1. The Gospel of the Glory of Christ. 1-6.
     2. The Treasure in Earthen Vessels; Weakness and Power. 7-12.
     3. Resurrection and Coming Glory. 13-18.

     This ministry which the apostle mentions is the ministry of the
Gospel. And those who know it by having received mercy are to be the
witnesses. Every Christian who has obtained mercy, who is saved by grace,
is called to witness to this blessed fact in some way. "We faint not"--we
are not discouraged, but encouraged to go on in its proclamation, knowing
that it is a sweet savor unto God and the power of God unto salvation to
every one that believeth. The hidden things of shame, the methods of the
flesh, craftiness, the deceitful handling Of the Word of God, were
renounced by the apostle: he avoided those things. All carnal things, all
artifices, human wisdom and rhetoric, by which men's minds might be
captivated and their applause gained, were unknown to the apostle. His
commendation to every man's conscience in the sight of God was by the
manifestation of the truth. He had implicit confidence in God's Word and in
the Gospel of the glory of Christ. This confidence is sadly lacking in our
days among the professed preachers of the Word. As a result the methods of
the flesh are used and the holy things are dragged down into the gutter.
What abominable methods are used by professional "evangelists" to gain
notoriety, secure large crowds and large collections! And the falsifying of
the Word, the deceitful handling of the Scriptures, which go along with
those methods! No wonder the world applauds such methods and the defense of
the cross lies ceased.

     And the gospel is here called "the gospel of the glory of Christ, who
is the image of God." And this gospel shines in all its radiancy. In the
first epistle we had a blessed definition of what the Gospel is (1
Corinthians 15:1-4). There we read of His death for our sins, His burial
and His resurrection. But here we are lifted higher; the Christ who died
and rose again is in heaven crowned with glory and honor. He is there at
the right hand of God as our representative, and all the love, the grace
and power which are for His people shine out in His blessed face. A
glorified Christ in all His fulness and glory, is the gospel in its highest
meaning. But if this gospel, which Paul calls "my gospel" is hid, that is,
veiled, it is in those that are perishing. They are unbelieving, and
unbelief puts them under Satan's power. He is called here the god of this
age (the word world means age), that is our age. The age rejected Christ,
and that has made Satan the god of the age, a title which he did not
possess in the previous age. And he blinds the eyes of them that believe
not. As they refuse to see the light which now shines in the gospel of the
glory of Christ, they become blinded by the father of lies by various
methods and means. He blinds the eyes by the age itself over which he
domineers. He makes it appear as if this age is fast making for better
things. Righteousness and peace are impossible during the present evil age;
this age is one of darkness, ending in a complete manifestation of the
mystery of iniquity in the person of Satan's man, the Antichrist.
Righteousness and peace can only come through the Return of the Lord Jesus
Christ and by His enthronement as King over this world. Satan hides the
real character of this age and this is one of the ways by which he blinds
the eyes of them that believe not. He leads man to exalt himself, and
nourishes self-trust and self-exaltation.

     But what is the message of the true servants of Christ? Do they exalt
man, or themselves, or the age with its boasted progress? "We preach not
ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus'
sake. Because it is God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,
who hath shined in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." As it was in the hour of
creation when darkness covered all, so it is in redemption. God hath shined
in His grace into the hearts of them who believe. And He hath shined, in
that, through us, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ may shine forth to others. This unspeakable treasure and glory is in
earthen vessels that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God and
not of us. As the ancients kept the most valued treasures in earthen jars,
so all those glorious things God has given in the gospel, as well as the
ministry of it, are deposited in earthen vessels. The believer, with a body
of humiliation, weak and frail, though no longer in the flesh, yet the
flesh, the old nature, still in him, is the earthen vessel. The term
reminds us of Gideon and his men with the torches in earthen pitchers
(Judges 7:16-29.). The pitchers had to be broken to pieces so that the
light could shine, and thus in that dark night the victory was won. The old
man has to be kept constantly in the place of death, self must be judged
and broken to pieces, that the light may shine forth. This is a truth which
is more than suggested by this statement, though the outward man in his
weakness and frailty, subject to affliction and suffering in the world is
principally in view.

     Then follow statements which illustrate the earthen vessels in their
weak and helpless condition, and the exceeding greatness of the power of
God. The power is manifested through the earthen vessels in trial and
affliction. The earthen vessels may be troubled, afflicted on every side,
but the power keeps them from being straitened or distressed. Perplexed,
persecuted, smitten down--such is the condition of the earthen vessels. But
God's gracious power is manifested in all these earthly and trying

     "Always bearing about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus (made
like Him, in that the man as such was reduced to nothing), in order that
the life of Jesus, which death could not touch, which has triumphed over
death, should be manifested in his body, mortal as it was. The more the
natural man was annihilated, the more was it evident that a power was there
which was not of man. This was the principle, but it was morally realized
in the heart by faith. As the Lord's servant, Paul realized in his heart
the death of all that was human life, in order that the power might be
purely of God through Jesus risen. But besides this, God made him realize
these things by the circumstances through which he had to pass; for, as
living in this world, he was always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake,
in order that the life of Jesus might be manifested in his mortal flesh.
Thus death wrought in the apostle; what was merely of man, of nature and
natural life, disappeared, in order that life in Christ, developing itself
in him on the part of God and by His power, should work in the Corinthians
by his means. A thorough trial of the human heart, a glorious calling, for
a man to be thus assimilated to Christ, to be the vessel of the power of
His pure life, and by means of an entire self-renunciation, even that of
life itself, to be morally like unto Jesus. What a position by grace! What
a conformity to Christ" (Synopsis).

     How little of all this is known experimentally in our easy-going days
among God's people! In verse 12 we read, "So then death worketh in us, but
life in you." Different explanations have been given of this statement.
True ministry in self-denial and self-forgetfulness works death to the
servant. His self-forgetting love brought him constantly hardships and
suffering; he followed the Lord in all this and knew the fellowship of His
sufferings. But through it the people of God were helped, comforted and
blessed. In this sense life worked in them through the self-sacrifice of
the apostle.

     And what sustains in all this? It is faith. And faith reckons on God
who raiseth the dead. "Knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall
raise us up also with Jesus, and shall present us with you." The faith of
the believer and the servant looks forward to the glorious consummation
when Christ comes for His saints and the great presentation (Jude 24) takes
place. This is the glorious goal when we shall no longer see in the glass
darkly, when we shall know as we are known, when we shall see Him as He is
and be like Him. Therefore, "we faint not; but if our outward man be
consumed, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light
affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding
and eternal weight of glory." Faith always looks upon things seen as
temporal. Unseen things, the things above, where Christ sitteth on the
right hand of God, are eternal; with these faith is to be occupied. But who
is able to say what awaits us there? Who is able to tell out the meaning of
that wonderful sentence, "A far more exceeding and eternal weight of
glory?" There is a surpassing, an unspeakable, an indescribable, an
unfathomable and eternal glory for the Saints of God. In ages to come God
will display the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in
Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7).

         6. Concerning the Future. The Ministry of Reconciliation.

                                 CHAPTER 5

     1. The Earthly and the Heavenly House. 1-8.
     2. The Judgment Seat of Christ. 9-12.
     3. The Constraint of Love. 13-16.
     4. The Ministry of Reconciliation. 17-21.

     The certainty of the future things is brought more fully in view. The
apostle had given the great doctrines concerning the resurrection of the
body, the coming of the Lord and the blessed hope in his first epistle
(chapter 15). In the closing verses of the preceding chapter, he mentioned
again the fact of the believer's resurrection and presentation in the
presence of the Lord (verse 14) and spoke of the eternal things, the coming
glory. And so he continues: "For we know that if our earthly house of this
tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made
with hands, eternal in the heavens." The earthly house of this tabernacle
is the body of the believer, the earthen vessel in the previous chapter. It
is called a tabernacle (a tent) because it is only the temporary lodging of
those who are by grace but strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Yet in this
earthen vessel, this frail tabernacle, there is a divine indweller, the
Holy Spirit. The apostle speaks of the dissolution of our earthly house,
"if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved." He does not say
"when we die," but only states the possibility that the tabernacle might be
dissolved. The dissolution of the mortal body of the believer is not
presented therefore by the apostle as a certainty, but only as a
possibility. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" was the
blessed mystery revealed through the apostle in his first epistle (1
Corinthians 15:51). The change of the body of the believer is the
certainty, but its dissolution is not. But if our earthly house of this
tabernacle were dissolved "we know we have a building of God, an house not
made with hands, eternal in the heavens." What do these terms mean? What is
the building of God, the eternal house in the heavens? Some have identified
it with the Father's house and its many mansions of which our Lord speaks.
But this house of which the apostle writes cannot be heaven, the Father's
house, for it is said to be from heaven and in the heavens. Others have
invented a temporary body. They teach that when the believer dies he gets
at once a kind of an ethereal body which he will possess between death and
resurrection. This is a speculation contradicted by the word "eternal."
Nowhere in the Word of God is it taught that the disembodied spirits of the
redeemed are to be clothed with a body before resurrection takes place. The
body of the believer in its present state is compared to a tabernacle; the
building of God, the house not made with hands, refers to that which the
believer shall possess in the future, no longer an earthly house, a
tabernacle, but something permanent, of supernatural origin. It is quite
evident that the apostle means by way of contrast the spiritual body (1
Corinthians 15:44), which is in store for the believer. This fact is stated
once more, but the purpose of these words is not to convey the thought that
this house is to be possessed immediately after death: the emphasis is upon
"we know" and "we have." The Spirit of God assures us of the certainty of
it. Thus positively every child of God can speak.

     "For in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our house which
is from heaven." The groaning is not on account of infirmities, hardship,
privations or unsatisfied desires. It is deeper than that. It is the
longing for the promised glorified condition with which we shall be
invested. "It is the groaning not of a disappointed sinner, nor of an
undelivered saint, but of those who, assured of life and victory in Christ,
feel the wretched contrast of the present with the glory of the future." If
we, beloved fellow-believer, live close to God, enjoy the fellowship with
His Son into which grace has called us, then even in the fairest scenes and
in the most attractive earthly conditions, we shall know something of this
groaning and longing to be clothed upon with that which is from above and
which will fit us to be the vessels of the exceeding great and eternal
weight of glory. (The knowledge that at any moment one may change the
prison garments of mortality, and as a chosen companion of the King of
Kings be found in the likeness of the Lord of Life, must generate a longing
for that moment to arrive. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus.")

     "If so be that being clothed upon we shall not be found naked." This
again is another warning corresponding to the one at the close of 1
Corinthians 9. All human beings will be clothed upon with a body, for there
is a resurrection of the bodies of the just and the unjust. The wicked
dead, standing before the great white throne, will be clothed upon, but,
not having Christ, they will be found naked for their eternal shame. And so
the apostle warned of the possibility that even among the Corinthians there
may be some who, destitute of Christ, only professing to be Christ's, would
then be found naked.

     Then again the apostle speaks of the groaning in this tabernacle, the
body of our humiliation. His desire is not to be unclothed, that is,
unclothed in death, when the body is put into the grave; he desires to be
clothed upon, to be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. For
this the apostle groaned; and this is what we wait for and not for death.
When the shout comes from the air and His voice opens the graves of His
saints, we who are alive and remain shall be changed (1 Thessalonians
4:13-18). No death then but mortality will be swallowed up of life. Then
our mortal bodies will be quickened. And God has wrought us for this very
thing; the evidence of it is the indwelling Spirit, who has made the body
of the believer His temple. Then the apostle describes a twofold condition,
"at home in the body (the tabernacle) we are absent from the Lord"; and
"absent from the body, present with the Lord." The latter statement is a
complete refutation of that evil doctrine called "soul-sleep," i.e., an
unconscious state between death and resurrection. The believer who dies
goes into the presence of the Lord and is consciously present there,
waiting with the redeemed of all ages, "to be clothed upon with the house
from heaven."

     Linked with all this blessed teaching is the judgment seat of Christ
(verse 10). All, whether saints or sinners, will have to appear before the
judgment seat of Christ; certainly not at the same time. There is no
universal judgment, when the righteous and the unrighteous appear together
before the judgment seat of Christ taught in the Bible. The Saints of God
will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, when He has taken them from
earth to glory, not at death, but when He comes with the shout in the air.
But for His blood-bought people, who constitute His body, who will then be
clothed with the house from heaven (the glorified body), there is no more
judgment in the sense of condemnation. His own blessed lips have given us
the assurance of this. (See John 5:24--that blessed word!) Nevertheless,
there is a judgment seat of Christ for believers. The word "appear" in
verse 10 is "manifested". We must all be manifested before the judgment
seat of Christ. Our works and our ways as Christians will then be brought
fully into view; all will be brought into the light. Nothing can be
concealed, and the believer receives the things done in the body.

     "But there is more than this. when the Christian is thus manifested,
he is already glorified, and, perfectly like Christ, has then no remains of
the evil nature in which he sinned. And he now can look back at all the way
God has led him in grace, helped, lifted up, kept from falling, not
withdrawn His eyes from the righteous. He knows as he is known. What a tale
of grace and mercy! If I look back now, my sins do not rest on my
conscience; though I have horror of them, they are put away behind God's
back. I am the righteousness of God in Christ, but what a sense of love and
patience, and goodness and grace! How much more perfect then, when all is
before me! Surely there is great gain as to light and love, in giving an
account of ourselves to God; and not a trace remains of the evil in us. We
are like Christ. If a person fears to have all out thus before God, I do
not believe he is free in soul as to righteousness--being the righteousness
of God in Christ, not fully in the light. And we have not to be judged for
anything: Christ has put it all away" (Synopsis).

     And thus the believer has no more fear of death, for he knows what
awaits him; and the judgment seat of Christ has also no terror for him. But
the words of the apostle apply equally to unbelievers. The occupant of the
great white throne (Revelation 20) before which the wicked dead appear and
will be manifested, is the Lord Jesus Christ. They will be judged according
to their works and condemned to eternal darkness and conscious punishment.
In view of this the apostle states, "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the
Lord, we persuade men."

     And how can we persuade men to flee the wrath to come, unless we
preach the Gospel to them? Beautifully linked with this is the constraining
power of the love of Christ (verse 14). In his ministry, service, walk and
everything else, the great apostle knew this mighty constraint of love. And
the cross and its glorious work looms up before his vision, in view of that
love manifested there. In Him who, died and who liveth, we are called as
well as equipped with power to live unto Him. In faith, as dead with Christ
and risen with Him, we look to a risen and glorified Christ in whom we are
a new creation, "old things have passed, behold all things are become new."

     Having reconciled us unto Himself by Jesus Christ, He has also given
to us the ministry of reconciliation. Having brought us into this blessed
position through grace, He calls us to make it known to others and lead
others to Him. What we have received we are to use in our ministry. And
every reconciled one is called into this service to exercise the ministry
of reconciliation and be a soul-winner. "We are ambassadors for Christ, as
though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye
reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin, He hath made sin for us, that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him." This is the great message of
the true minister, and all believers can be true ministers and proclaim the
message in Christ's stead and point sinners to the cross, where He who knew
no sin was made sin for us, where redemption full and free is offered to

       7. The Example of the Apostle Paul; His Testings and Trials.

                              CHAPTER 6:1-13

     He beseeches the Corinthians as coworkers, in view of the ministry of
reconciliation, not to receive this grace of God in vain. This is not a
contradiction of the doctrine of the security of a true believer. The
apostle evidently was uneasy about some of these Corinthian Christians and
feared that some had not received the grace of God in their hearts. Their
conduct led him to this questioning. If the grace of God comes to man it
may be received in vain and lead not to the blessed results in quickening
power and real salvation for which it is given. "The security of His
children is unquestionable, not so much through their perseverance, as men
say, but by His power through faith; but the Corinthians needed and
received faithful entreaty, for their ways were not such as became the
gospel. They were compromising His glory, who had called them to the
fellowship of His Son; and the apostle instead of comforting them with the
blessed assurance of the close of Romans 8, would here exercise conscience
as well as affection in presence of God's grace" (William Kelly).

     Interesting is the quotation from Isaiah 49. A careful examination of
Isaiah 49:4-8 is suggested. It is a prophecy concerning the Messiah. His
rejection by Israel is there predicted, and the words of the eighth verse,
quoted here, "I have heard thee in a time accepted and in the day of
salvation I have succored thee" are addressed to Christ, whom Israel
rejected. God raised Him from the dead, and though Israel is not gathered,
He becomes the power of salvation for the Gentiles. This is the meaning of
"behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation."
"Now" means this present dispensation when salvation is offered to the
Gentiles. But grace rejected, neglected or perverted, as it is the case in
this age in which grace reigns through righteousness, will bring judgment,
followed by the blessings for Israel and the earth.

     The apostle speaks once more of himself and describes negatively and
positively the moral features which he manifested in his life as a true
minister of God. He knew nothing of inconsistency in life, which is so
detrimental to the ministry of the Word. "Giving no offence in anything
that the ministry be not blamed." Well has it been said, "Christianity is
real and living, not dogmatic only, still less official, else it becomes of
all things the most contemptible." The apostle's life in every detail was a
comment on his ministry. He practiced what he preached, The opposite
undermines any preaching or teaching. "But in everything commending
ourselves as the ministers of God." There was more than the avoidance of
offence; in anything, in all conditions and under all circumstances he
behaved himself as becomes the minister of God, the ambassador of Christ.
In much patience, never impatient, but always enduring in afflictions of
various kinds when the world and the god of this age pressed him hard; in
necessities and straits, when there seemed to be no escape. Then there were
sufferings: in stripes, in prisons, in tumults. Of these we read more in
chapter 11. Then there are named things he took upon himself willingly and
gladly as the minister of God, namely: labors, watchings and fastings. By
these he manifested his devotedness. Well may we ponder over each as they
are given in verses 6 and 7. Then follows a series of contrasts. By glory
and dishonor. He experienced these opposite extremes, both among the
Saints, and also in the world. He was shamefully entreated and also
revered. He was beloved and honored by God's people and dishonored by the
slandering tongue of false teachers. But throughout he proved himself as
the minister of God. By evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet
true. "Woe unto you if all men speak well of you." If the servant of Christ
follows Him, the world will hate him and brand him a deceiver as it was
done with the Lord (Matthew 27:63). It would take many pages to follow the
paradoxes as given by this model and master servant. Nothing more beautiful
and attractive than verse 10, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor,
yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things." Oh,
blessed life! May God's grace and God's Spirit enable us to manifest Christ
as this servant of Christ did.

               8. The Apostle's Exhortations and Rejoicings.

                              CHAPTER 6:14-7

     1. His Exhortations. 6:14-7:1.
     2. His Rejoicing and Confidence. 7:2-16.

     The first exhortation is to separation from evil, without which no
true fellowship with God can be enjoyed. It is one of the most important
exhortations in the Pauline epistles, and greatly needed in our days of
laxity and worldliness among Christians. God calls His people to holiness.
"But as He who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of
conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." He has
separated us from the world which lieth in the wicked one and separated us
in Christ to Himself. Believers are not of the world as He is not of the
world (John 17:14). The cross of Christ makes us dead to the world and the
world dead unto us (Galatians 6:14). Furthermore God's Word tells us not to
love the world, neither the things that are in the world (1 John 2:15), and
"that the friendship of the world is enmity with God; whosoever therefore
will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). And the
world is that great system over which Satan domineers, built up and
developed by him, to give the natural man a sphere of enjoyment. True faith
not only joins the believer to the Lord, but also separates him in heart
and practice from the world which crucified the Lord and still rejects Him.

     "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" is often quoted
as a prohibition of a mixed marriage. This is no doubt included, but the
exhortation means more and includes every form of alliance with the world
and ungodly principles. It also includes the so-called "religious world"
with its unscriptural practices and denials of the truth. The apostle shows
that the believer going along with unbelievers and the world, is indeed in
an unequal, a strange, yoke. What fellowship can there be between
righteousness and unrighteousness? What fellowship hath light with
darkness? Each has a different head; Christ is over His people, they belong
to Him; Belial is the head of those who believe not. What could there be
for a believer to enjoy with an unbeliever? And believers are the temple of
God. How then is association with idols possible? "For ye are the temple of
the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them,
and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Blessed statement!
But God's presence demands holiness, separation from evil. Fellowship with
evil shuts out God in His gracious manifestations. "Wherefore come out from
among them, and be ye separate saith the Lord and touch not the unclean

     "God must have His own holy, for He is holy; and this not only in an
inward way, without which all would be hypocrisy, but in outward ways also
to His own glory, unless He would be a partner with us to His own dishonor.
He will have us clear from associations which are worldly and defiling; He
will exercise our souls in order to free, them from all that denies or
despises His will. He commands those that believe to come out from those
that believe not, and to be separated. Indeed the union of the two is so
monstrous that it never could be defended for a moment by a true heart. It
is only when selfish interests or strong prejudices work, that men
gradually accustom and harden themselves to disobedience so flagrant and in
every way disastrous. For as the man of the world cannot rise to the level
of Christ to be together with His own, the Christian must descend to the
level of the world. God is thus and ever more and more put to shame in what
claims to be His house, with a loudness proportioned to its departure from
His Word" (William Kelly).

     And in connection with this exhortation to separation from unbelievers
the Lord declares His relationship to us. Interesting is the use of the
name Lord Almighty in verse 18. "And I will receive you, and will be a
Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord
Almighty." In the Greek the definite article before "Lord" is missing. It
is simply "Kyrios," Lord. It is the same as "Jehovah." By that name He
revealed Himself to Israel. To Abraham he spoke as the El Shaddai, the
Almighty. The Lord who revealed Himself to Abraham, called Him to
separation, "Get thee out from thy country." To Israel God spoke as Jehovah
and they became His people, separated by Him and to Him. And the same
Jehovah-Shaddai declares now a new relationship, He will be a Father and we
His sons and daughters. In Christ we know God as our Father; "we are all
the sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ." But to enjoy this relationship
practically is only possible if the believer walks in separation. Real
communion with God as Father without separating from evil is an

     "God will not have worldlings in relation with Himself as sons and
daughters; they have not entered into this position with regard to Him. Nor
will He recognize those who remain identified with the world, as having
this position; for the world has rejected His Son, and the friendship of
the world is enmity against God, and he who is the friend of the world is
the enemy of God. It is not being His child in a practical sense. God says,
therefore, "Come out from among them, and be separate, and ye shall be to
me for sons and daughters" (Synopsis).

     May we heed these important truths. God cannot compromise His own holy
and righteous character. His demands upon His people are the demands of
separation. And, as we are obedient, we enjoy in faith the blessed
relationship into which His grace has brought us.

     The second exhortation is closely linked with this. "Having therefore
these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all
defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of
God." Holiness in our walk is God's demand. God looks for practical
holiness in His people. If we walk thus, habitually cleansing ourselves
from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, we perfect holiness, a
practical, daily separation, in the fear of God. While we are, as born
again, "clean every whit" (John 13:10), our calling is equally to purify
ourselves as He is pure. The defilements of the flesh are the things
mentioned in Colossians 3:5, Galatians 5:19, and elsewhere. What are the
defilements of the spirit? It means the license of the natural mind, the
whole sphere of thought and will, when unregulated by the truth and fear of
God. Read Chapter 10:5. Every thought must be brought into captivity to the
obedience of Christ.

     The words which follow tell us again of the affectionate concern which
the apostle had for the Corinthians! How he loved them and how considerate
he was. His whole soul yearned for them. He had wronged no one, nor had he
corrupted any, nor did he make personal gain through them. He was filled
with comfort. He had fightings without and fears within, but now all was
changed. He had met Titus in Macedonia, and through his report and the
encouraging news he brought from Corinth, God had comforted him. He knew
his former letter (the first epistle) had grieved them, but it had worked
for them the godly sorrow which was the aim of the messages sent to them
through his inspired pen. "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but
that ye sorrowed to repentance, for ye were made sorry after a godly
manner, that in nothing ye might be injured by us." But he also states that
for a moment at least he regretted that he had written his first epistle of
rebuke (verse 8). But was not that letter inspired? The power behind his
pen was the Holy Spirit, yet he regretted for a time that he had written.
How is this to be understood? It shows the difference between the
individuality of the apostle and divine inspiration.

     His heart was filled with so much love, that it obscured his spiritual
discernment and he forgot for a moment the character of his epistle, that
not he was responsible for what he had written, but that the Spirit of God
was the author. The regret was an evidence of weakness at the time when no
tidings reached him from Corinth and when his loving heart was so burdened
for the Corinthians. (The same weakness is manifested in his journey to
Jerusalem. He loved Jerusalem and Israel in such a way that he went there
even against the solemn warnings given by the Holy Spirit.) And what he
writes now is a loving apology and great joy over what the epistle had
wrought, an earnestness to clear themselves of the reproach, indignation on
account of sin permitted, yea, zeal for God, and what revenge (or
vengeance--righteous wrath)! And so he rejoiced therefore that his
confidence had been restored in them in all things.

                 II. THE MINISTRY OF GIVING. Chapters 8-9

                 1. The Examples and Principles of Giving.

                                 CHAPTER 8

     1. The Grace of God Manifested in the Churches of Macedonia. 1-7.
     2. The Great Example. 8.
     3. The Advice, Principles and Administration. 9-24.

     There is to be a practical ministry in giving, especially in
remembering the poor of the flock. He is anxious now to lay this
responsibility upon their hearts. In the first epistle he had written them
that his glory was in giving the gospel gratuitously. He would not take
anything from the Corinthians for himself, but he wants their gifts for
others. He was making up a collection for the poor saints in Judea and
Jerusalem; of this he writes to them. Thus Gentile believers were to show
their appreciation for the blessing which they had received through the
Jews, for salvation is of the Jews.

     We also see in this an illustration of the oneness of the body of
Christ, how the members are to minister to each other. Great grace in this
ministry had been bestowed upon and manifested by the churches in
Macedonia. They were themselves stricken with great affliction. They were
very poor, but their deep poverty did not stint their gifts; they joyfully
gave and abounded in the riches of liberality. These poor, afflicted
Macedonian saints had even prayed the apostle with much entreaty to receive
the gift from their hands. And the secret of it was that they had given
themselves first to the Lord. All else was the outflow of this
self-surrender. In all this the apostle rejoiced greatly, and therefore he
exhorts the Corinthians to abound in this grace also. But the greatest
example, which should constrain to abundant giving is the Lord Jesus
Himself. He was rich and became poor, even for such as the Corinthians
were, "that through His poverty ye might be rich." ("His Riches--Our
Riches," by A.C.G., unfolds the three leading truths of this precious word.
The eternal Riches of the Son of God; His deep poverty in our behalf, and
His Riches in resurrection-glory.)

     What confidence the apostle had in the Corinthians that they would
indeed abound in this grace. They had begun a year before not only to do,
but to forward also. He urges them to act now in performing what they had
begun. It depends upon the willing mind: without this giving has no value
at all. But if there is the willing mind, one is accepted according to what
he has, and not according to that he hath not.

     And in all this ministration Paul exercised great caution, "avoiding
this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered
by us, providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but
also in the sight of men." There is always danger of reproach in these
matters. Messengers were chosen to travel with the apostle "with this grace
(the collections) which is administered by us to the glory of the self-same
Lord, and for a witness of your ready mind." The apostle knew the devices
of the enemy and therefore watchfully guards against suspicion and
mischievous insinuations. Alas! what havoc the filthy lucre, the love of
money, covetousness, which is idolatry, has worked in the professing
church, and what offenses have been given by it to unbelievers.

                     2. Exhortation and Encouragement.

                                 CHAPTER 9

     1. Further Exhortations to Liberality. 1-5.
     2. The Blessings Connected with Giving. 6-15.

     Again he exhorts them to liberality in giving. He knew their willing
mind and had boasted of it to them in Macedonia and told them they were
ready a year ago. This had stimulated many. He hoped that they would
measure up to this report and fall not behind in this expectation "lest our
boasting should be in vain in this behalf." To encourage them in giving and
carrying out what they had purposed, he speaks of the blessing: "He which
soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth
bountifully, shall reap also bountifully." There is, then, blessing
according to faithfulness in this ministry; as any other faithful ministry
is not forgotten of God. Giving must not be grudgingly or of necessity, for
God loveth a cheerful giver. God Himself delights to give. In infinite love
He gave His only begotten Son, and He delights in all who imitate Him in
His ways. There is no compulsion in giving save the constraint of His love.

     "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye always
having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." Such
a loving ministry is not an unremunerative service. He is able to make up
to all who, out of love, minister to the needs of poor and suffering and
afflicted brethren. The apostle shows that thanksgiving to God would be the
result of their loving ministry in giving. Three causes are specified:

     1. Their subjection to the gospel.

     2. Their liberal gifts to the Saints of God.

     3. "By their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding
grace of God in you"--that thanksgiving and glory to God for the fervent
and longing prayers of other Saints, who received their ministry.

     This section ends with thanksgiving unto God, "for His unspeakable
gift." There is no need to add what that gift is, for every saint knows,
God's unspeakable gift is His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


                   1. The Vindication of His Authority.

                                CHAPTER 10

     The apostle now turns to vindicate the authority, which he had
received from the Lord. This had been brought into question by the enemy.
In doing this Satan aimed at three things: He attempted to discredit him as
a true minister of God; he tried to damage the great truths the apostle
preached, and he endeavored also to bring about a separation between the
apostle and the Corinthians. Assuredly the great man of God was troubled
and did not want to speak much of himself and his authority. But he was
forced to do so in this epistle and also in the epistle to the Galatians,
for the truth of God and the honor of the Lord were at stake. The defense
of his apostolic authority stands in the foreground in Galatians; here he
puts it at the close of his letter, for it was necessary to deal with other
matters first, and to assure the Corinthians of his deep concern for them
and thus pave the way for an answer to the accusations brought against him.

     He begins by entreating them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.
The three words "Now I, Paul," were to remind them of his own person. It
was the Paul who had come amongst them to preach the gospel, and through
his preaching wonderful results had been brought about. And now attacked
and belittled among the same people, who, next to God, had to thank him for
everything, he begins to entreat them and vindicate his authority and
character. He states, "Who in presence am base among you, but being absent
am bold toward you." These words make partly reference to his personal
appearance, which was not of a character which appealed to the Corinthians,
who admired the athletic physique of the Greeks. Not alone was his outward
form lowly, but he was equally so in his manner and conduct. From this we
learn that his accusers, who tried to influence the Corinthians against
him, had thrown contempt on his person and character. We shall find that he
takes up repeatedly their false charges and insinuations, to meet and
refute them. When he writes, "but being absent am bold toward you," he has
in mind what his enemies had said about the epistle he had written them;
they belittled his personal appearance and his character, and sneeringly
said, he is bold when he is absent; he knows how to write strong letters
when he is away, but otherwise he is a coward. He answers by saying, "But I
beseech you that I may not be bold when I am present with the confidence
with which I think to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walk
according to the flesh." He beseeches them that he may not be obliged to
use his authority as an apostle when among them, against those who had
wronged him by their false charges. He had written in boldness, yet he
could also act in boldness and with authority when he was present with
them. They had accused him that he was walking on the same level with them,
that is, "according to the flesh." This he repudiates by saying that he
walks in flesh, (note in the Greek the word flesh is without the definite
article; not "in the flesh", but "in flesh"), which is quite a different
thing. He was a man like other men; but when it came to warfare, he waged
no fleshly conflict. He acknowledges that he has no wisdom in himself; as
to flesh he is powerless, he is cast upon God. How different from these
false teachers, his accusers who walked in pride and boasted of wisdom and
were governed by selfish motives. The weapons he used were not fleshly, but
mighty through God; the weapons which the Holy Spirit supplies. And this
spiritual warfare means "the pulling down of strongholds, casting down
imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge
of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of

     Well has it been said, "repression of the natural will, which is the
seat and vehicle of Satan's machinations, is the true aim of spiritual
warfare." Mere fleshly, independent "reasonings" and "imaginations" are
inconsistent with a real subjection to God. The natural man thinks his own
thoughts and follows his own imaginations, but not so the believer: he
abandons his own thoughts and imaginations; he casts down all that exalteth
itself against the true knowledge of God, and brings into captivity every
thought to the obedience of Christ. The Corinthians had not done this; they
walked in a carnal way and the enemy got an advantage over them. And so it
is largely today among God's people.

     After stating that he was ready to avenge all disobedience, in virtue
of his apostolic authority, when their obedience was fulfilled, he asks,
"Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?" This is what they had
done. "For his letters," say they, "are weighty and powerful, but his
bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." But he answers that
just what he was in his letters when not with them, so would he also be
when he is present with them, He speaks of his authority given to him by
the lord for edification and not for their destruction; he wanted them to
know that he was not terrifying them by his letters. He did not dare to do
as others did, commending himself. Those who opposed him constantly
measured themselves among themselves, and not in God's presence. He acted
differently. "But we will not boast of things without measure, but
according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a
measure to reach even unto you." He disavowed all connection and comparison
with those whose glory was of themselves, and though he had greater gifts
bestowed upon himself than others, yet he would not boast of it. The
measure which God had given to him had reached unto the Corinthians, for
they were the fruit of his labors. He did not boast of other men's labors,
and hoped that with an increase of their faith there would also be an
increase of his labors even to the regions beyond.

     "But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." If there is any
glorying it must be in Him, who is the only proper object. He must be
glorified by the true minister; He must be praised and exalted, and not the
instrument. Self-praise and self-commendation do not mean approval from the
Lord, but the opposite. "For not he that commendeth himself is approved,
but whom the Lord commendeth." Self-commendation, the love of human praise
in some form, disguised or undisguised, are prominent characteristics with
many who preach and teach a great deal of truth in our days of boasting.
Happy is the servant who hides himself, whose aim is to please the Lord and
who looks to Him for approval.

               2. Answering His Adversaries. His Boastings.

                                CHAPTER 11

     1. The Danger Through False Teachers. 1-6.
     2. Answering His Adversaries. 7-15.
     3. His Boastings of Labors and Sufferings. 16-33.

     Inasmuch as he did not want to boast, he tells the Corinthians to bear
with him a little while he acts foolishly in speaking of himself. It had
become necessary to do so in order to answer his adversaries, who were
making havoc among the Corinthians, but he looks upon his vindication and
boasting as nothing less than folly. He is about to do what he had exposed
in others in the previous chapter (verse 12). He therefore asks their
indulgence. What he did he asked them to look upon as being folly, but to
remember that it was for their sakes. He was jealous over them, not with a
jealousy which originated in the spirit of a natural emulation, but with
godly jealousy. He had espoused them to one husband, so that he might
present them a chaste virgin to Christ.

     The church is the bride of Christ. He as God's messenger by the
preaching of the Gospel of Grace, and the acceptance of it by the
Corinthians, had betrothed them as an assembly to the Lord. His jealous
desire was to present the Corinthian church to the bridegroom in the coming
day. He had his grave fears that as the serpent had beguiled Eve through
his subtilty, so their minds might also be corrupted from the simplicity
that is in Christ. Eve was for Adam, and so the church is for Christ and
for Him alone. Eve was deceived by listening to another voice. Even so the
Corinthians were listening to other voices and their simple faith was being
corrupted by false teachings. Behind it stood the same enemy who had
deceived Eve. Was there another Christ, which these teachers preached, than
the Christ he had preached? Or were they receiving another and a better
Comforter, another Holy Spirit, than the One they had received in believing
the Gospel Paul had preached unto them? Or, have these men brought you a
better gospel? If such were the case, they could bear with it. But how
could there be another Jesus, or a better Comforter or a better gospel? He
was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles; though he had, for the
gospel's sake, abstained from excellency of speech, yet in all things had
he been manifest among them.

     Evidently the great apostle searched his heart and life to discover
the cause of the alienation of the Corinthians. Was the offence perhaps in
taking nothing from them and preaching the gospel freely, without money? It
was his boast that he took nothing from them, as the brethren in Macedonia
had ministered to his needs. But his boast was that he had preached the
gospel in Achaia gratuitously. But why? Because he loved them not? God was
his witness that such was not the case. It was to take away from these
false teachers the boasting of preaching for nothing, so that they could
not say, we labor gratuitously while the apostle receives money for his

     And who were these teachers? The Holy Spirit now exposes the true
character of these men. They were not apostles at all, but deceitful
workers, who transformed themselves into the apostles of Christ. They were
the instruments of that sinister being who was once an angel of light and
whose most powerful tactic is to assume this character, to which he had
lost all claim by his fall. These false teachers posed as ministers of
righteousness. They made high pretensions, yet denied the true
righteousness of God. We see much of this in our own days, especially in
systems like Christian Science and others.

     From dealing with the deceivers, he turns now to those who had become
ensnared by them (verse 16). Reluctantly he speaks of himself again. To
boast of anything except the Lord was a foolish thing to Paul. "That which
I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this
confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will
glory also." Inasmuch as they compelled him to glory (12:11), he is
therefore ready to show what reasons he had for boasting. These Judaizing
teachers boasted much of being Hebrews, of the seed of Abraham. But so was
Paul. They boasted of being ministers of Christ. And here the apostle
marshals his wonderful proofs of how much he excels in his ministries and
labor. What other one could say what he rightfully said of himself? "In
labors exceedingly abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more
frequent, in deaths oft." Then follows the remarkable record. If it had not
been for these evil teachers who had invaded the Corinthian church, we
would never have known of these experiences of the great man of God, for
the historical record, the Book of Acts, does not give us a full account of
his devotedness and trials. And most likely even this list is not complete.

     "Troubles and dangers without, incessant anxieties within, a courage
that quailed before no peril, a love for poor sinners and for the assembly
that nothing chilled--these few lines sketch the picture of a life of such
absolute devotedness that it touches the coldest heart; it makes us feel
all our selfishness, and bend the knee before Him who was the living source
of the blessed apostle's devotedness, before Him whose glory inspired it"

     And if he must needs glory, he would glory in his infirmities, in his
helplessness. Why should he mention the otherwise unrecorded incident of
his escape from Damascus? It was an inglorious experience. There was
nothing to glory in, for no miracle took place to preserve him, nor angelic
interference. Anyone who gloried in himself would never have mentioned so
humiliating an experience.

          3. Revelation in which He Might Glory. His Apostleship.

                                CHAPTER 12

     1. Caught up to the Third Heaven. 1-6.
     2. The Thorn in the Flesh. 7-10.
     3. The Marks of His Apostleship. 11-15.
     4. His Continued Deep Concern. 16-21.

     In the previous chapter the apostle gloried in that which in the eyes
of man has no glory at all. From the ignominious experience of being let
down in a basket he turns to another experience in which he was caught into
the third heaven. "I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord." Of
these he undoubtedly had many, given to him by the Lord, to comfort and
strengthen him. We would never have heard of this great spiritual
experience he speaks of now, if he had not felt the need of boasting on
account of the deceiving teachers among the Corinthians. He had kept it as
a secret to himself for fourteen years; an evidence of his humility. (What
a contrast with a certain class of people in our own times who claim to
have returned to apostolic faith and apostolic power. They also speak much
of visions and revelations, but they constantly make them known, print them
in tract form, etc. Often they think themselves more advanced in spiritual
things than others and give sad evidences of being puffed up.) In telling
us of this experience he does not speak of himself as the apostle, but "as
a man in Christ." It was therefore not a distinction put upon him on
account of his calling as an apostle. As a man in Christ, that is, a
heavenly man, for such every believer is, he was taken up in a marvelous,
unaccountable way, into the heavenly sphere.

     "Paul was in a state neither intelligible to himself nor explicable to
his brethren. Yet he knows well the man, and can attest the visions which
he is unable to describe. It was himself, but in a condition equally
distinct from nature and from ordinary spiritual experience. He had while
in this state a faculty of perception independent of both bodily and mental
organs." He was in this state, undefined by himself, caught up into the
third heaven and being caught up into paradise, he heard unspeakable words,
which it is not allowed to man to utter. The word "paradise" is found but
three times in the New Testament. The lord used it first in speaking to the
dying thief (Luke 23:43) promising him that he would be with Him in that
blessed place that very day. Once more our Lord uses this word, promising
the overcomer to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the
paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).

     The passage here is the third in which this word is used. It is the
wonderful place above in His glorious presence, and Paul, being caught up
to that place, had a foretaste of the joys and blessings of the redeemed.
But he does not tell us anything he saw, but only what he heard. And the
words he heard were unspeakable; they were unutterable --he had not the
ability nor the permission to make them known. Thus the apostle, to whom
the great truth concerning the church and her heavenly destiny was
especially committed, passed through this great experience. And all who are
"in Christ, " who constitute the body of Christ, will ultimately be caught
up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air and be forever with the Lord. Then
we shall know the unspeakable words. Surely the heart burns within us when
we think of such a destiny. And Paul saith, "Of such a one will I glory,
but of myself will I not glory." It was of himself as in Christ he gloried;
as he looked to himself as a man, the earthen vessel, he could not glory,
save in his infirmities. But was there not danger of being exalted on
account of this great experience? Linked with the revelation, is the thorn
in the flesh. "And lest I should be exalted above measure through this
abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh,
the messenger of Satan, to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above
measure." There was danger of pride of heart after such a vision, and so
the Lord permitted a messenger of Satan to buffet the apostle for his own
good. Here we have one of the most interesting evidences, that the flesh,
the proud, old nature, is still in the believer and not eradicated as some
claim. He had perhaps the greatest experience a human being ever had, and
yet, though he did not exalt himself, in view of the tendency of the old
nature to lift itself up, there was given him this thorn in the flesh.
("Alas! what is man? But God is watchful; in His grace He provided for the
danger of His poor servant. To have taken him up to a fourth heaven--so to
speak--would only have increased the danger. There is no way of amending
the flesh; the presence of God silences it. It will boast of it as soon as
it is no longer there. To walk safely, it must be held in check, such as it
is. We have to reckon it dead; but it often requires to be bridled, that
the heart be not drawn away from God by its means, and that it may neither
impede our walk nor spoil our testimony."--Synopsis.)

     What was this thorn in the flesh? Numerous answers have been given to
this question. It is evident that it was not something sinful as some
suggested, but it must have been some affliction in his body, which made
him contemptible in the eyes of others and in his preaching. The exact
nature of this affliction in the flesh cannot be determined. And he had
gone to the Lord with this thorn in his flesh. "For this thing I besought
the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." And the answer came to him.
The thorn was not taken away but something better he hears from his Lord.
"My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in
weakness." The assurance of the sufficiency of divine grace was to comfort
his heart in the affliction, and that the power of God needed his weakness
for its display, was to encourage him as the servant of the Lord. He at
once understood the divine message. It enabled him not only to bear with
infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions and distresses for
Christ's sake, but to take pleasure in them, for he knew all these things
were the things which enable God to manifest His power. He therefore
gloried most gladly in infirmities.

     They had compelled him to become a fool in glorying. It should have
been different. Instead of his self-defense and vindication in writing all
these things to them they should have commended him, for in nothing he was
behind the very chiefest of the Apostles, yet he adds "though I be
nothing." He speaks of the signs of an Apostle which were wrought among
them by himself. What love and tenderness he manifests once more towards
his weak and wavering Corinthian brethren! And still he has deep concern
about them. "For I fear lest, perhaps when I come, I find you not such as I
would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not; lest there
be strifes, emulations, wraths, contentions, back-bitings, whisperings,
swellings, tumults; and lest when I come again, my God should humble me
with regard to you, and that I shall bewail many who have sinned before,
and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness
which they have committed." What a Christ-like servant he was!

               4. Still Absent--Yet Coming. The Conclusion.

                                CHAPTER 13

     1. Being Absent; Expecting to Come. 1-10.
     2. The Conclusion. 11-14.

     He speaks in conclusion of his coming to them. "This third time I am
coming to you." And when he comes again he will not spare them. He reminds
them once more of their doubtings about Christ speaking in him and using
him as an apostle. They themselves were proof of this. If it were that
Christ had not spoken to them through him (by preaching the Gospel), then
Christ also did not dwell in them. But if Christ really was in them then it
was an evidence that Christ had spoken by him. Notice that part of the
third verse and the fourth verse are parenthetical. Leaving out the
parenthetical words gives us the correct argument. "Since ye seek a proof
of Christ speaking in me--examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith,
prove your ownselves. Do ye not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in
you, except ye be reprobates?" What he wished was their perfecting. Why had
he written this second epistle? "I write these things being absent, but
being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord
hath given me to edification, and not to destruction."

     "Finally, brethren, rejoice." (Not farewell, but rejoice.) And the
believers joy as well as glorying is in the Lord. "Be perfected; be of good
comfort; be of one mind; be at peace; and the God of love and peace shall
be with you."

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