15. And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit;
15. Et hac fiducia volui primum ad vos venire, ut secundam gratiam haberetis,
16. And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea.
16. Et per vos transire in Macedoniam: et rursum e Macedonia venire ad vos, et a vobis deduci in Iudaeam.
17. When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay?
17. Hoc igitur quum animo propositum haberem, nuncubi levitate usus sum? aut quae cogito, secundum carnem cogito? ut sit apud me Etiam, etiam: et Non, non.
18. But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.
18. Fidelis Deus, quod sermo noster apud vos non fuit Etiam et non.
19. 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 was yea.
19. Dei enim Filius Iesus Christus in vobis per nos praedicatus, per me, et Silvanum, et Timotheum, non fuit Etiam et non: sed Etiam fuit in ipso.
20. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
20. Quaecunque enim sunt Dei promissiones, in illo sunt Etiam: quare et per ipsum sit Amen Deo ad gloriam per nos.
15. In this confidence. After having given them reason to expect that he would come, he had subsequently changed his intention. This was made an occasion of calumny against him, as appears from the excuse that he brings forward. When he says that it was from relying on this confidence that he formed the purpose of coming to them, he indirectly throws the blame upon the Corinthians, inasmuch as they had, by their ingratitude, hindered, to some extent, his coming to them, by depriving him of that confidence.
That ye might have a second benefit The first benefit had been this -- that he had devoted himself for the entire period of a year and six months (Acts 18:11) to the work of gaining them to the Lord; the second was their being confirmed, by means of his coming to them, in the faith which they had once received, and being stirred up by his sacred admonitions to make farther progress. Of this latter benefit the Corinthians had deprived themselves, inasmuch as they had not allowed the apostle to come to them. They were paying, therefore, the penalty of their own fault, and they had no ground for imputing any blame to Paul. If any one, however, prefers, with Chrysostom, to take charin (benefit) as used instead of karan, (joy,) I do not much object to it. The former interpretation, however, is more simple.
17. Did I use fickleness? There are two things, more especially, that prevent the purposes of men from being carried into effect, or their promises from being faithfully performed. The one is that they make changes upon them almost every hour, and the other is that they are too rash in forming their plans. It is a sign of changeableness to purpose or promise what you almost immediately afterwards regret. With that fault Paul declares he had not been chargeable. |I have not,| says he, |through fickleness drawn back from the promise that I made.| He declares also that he had been on his guard against rashness and misdirected confidence; for such is the way in which I explain the expression -- purpose according to the flesh For it is, as I have stated, the common practice of men, as though they were not dependent on God's providence, and were not subject to his will, to determine rashly and presumptuously what they will do. Now God, with the view of punishing this presumption, defeats their plans, so as to prevent them from having a prosperous issue, and in many instances holds up themselves to ridicule.
The expression, it is true, according to the flesh, might be extended farther, so as to include all wicked schemes, and such as are not directed to a right end, as for example such as are dictated by ambition, avarice, or any other depraved affection. Paul, however, in my opinion, did not intend here to refer to any thing of that nature, but merely to reprove that rashness which is but too customary on the part of man, and in daily use in the forming of plans. To purpose, therefore, according to the flesh, is not owning God as our ruler, but, instead of this, being impelled by a rash presumption, which is afterwards justly derided by God, and punished. The apostle, with the view of clearing himself from these faults, proposes a question, as if in the person of his opponents. Hence it is probable, as I have already said, that some unfavorable report had been put in circulation by wicked persons.
That with me there should be yea, yea Some connect this statement with what goes before, and explain it thus: |As if it were in my power to perform whatever I purpose, as men determine that they will do whatever comes into their mind, and order their ways, as Solomon speaks, (Proverbs 16:1,) while they cannot so much as govern their tongue.| And, undoubtedly, the words seem to imply this much -- that what has been once affirmed must remain fixed, and what has been once denied must never be done. So James in his Epistle (James 5:12) says,
Let your yea be yea, and your nay nay, lest ye fall into dissimulation.
Farther, the context would in this way suit exceedingly well as to what goes before. For to purpose according to the flesh is this -- when we wish that, without any exception, our determinations shall be like oracles. This interpretation, However, does not accord with what immediately follows -- God is faithful, etc., where Paul makes use of the same form of expression, when he has it in view to intimate, that he had not been unfaithful in his preaching. Now it were absurd, if almost in the same verse he reckoned it as a fault that his yea should be yea, and his nay nay, and yet at the same time laid claim to it as his highest praise. I am aware of what could be said in reply, if any one were disposed to sport himself with subtleties, but I have no relish for anything that is not solid.
I have, therefore, no doubt, that in these words Paul designed to reprove fickleness, although they may seem to be susceptible of another meaning, for the purpose of clearing himself from that calumny -- that he was accustomed to promise in words what he failed to perform in deeds. Thus the reiterating of the affirmation and negation will not have the same meaning as in Matthew 5:37 and in James, but will bear this meaning -- |that yea should with me be in this instance yea, and on the other hand, when it pleases me, nay, nay | At the same time it is possible that it may have crept in through the ignorance of transcribers, as the old translation does not redouble the words, However this may be, we ought not to be very solicitous as to the words, provided we are in possession of the apostle's intention, which, as I have said, clearly appears from what follows.
18. God is faithful. By the term word he means doctrine, as is manifest from the reason that he adds, when he says, that the Son of God, who is preached by him, is not variable, etc. As to his being always consistent with himself in point of doctrine, and not differing from himself, he intends that by this they shall form a judgment as to his integrity, and in this way he removes every unfavorable suspicion of fickleness or unfaithfulness. It does not, however, necessarily follow, that the man who is faithful in doctrine, is also observant of truth in all his words. But as Paul did not reckon it of much importance in what estimation he was held, provided only the majesty of his doctrine remained safe and sound, he, on that account, calls the attention of the Corinthians chiefly to that matter. He intimates, it is true, that he observed in his whole life the same course of fidelity, as the Corinthians had seen in his ministry. He seems, however, as if intentionally, in repelling the calumny, to transfer it from his person to his doctrine, because he was unwilling that his apostleship should be indirectly defamed, while he was not greatly concerned as to himself in other respects.
But observe, with what zeal he applies himself to this. For he calls God to witness, how simple and pure his preaching was -- not ambiguous, not variable, not temporizing. In his oath, too, he connects the truth of God with the truth of his doctrine. |The truth of my preaching is as sure and stable as God is faithful and true.| Nor is this to be wondered at, for the word of God, which Isaiah says endureth for ever, (Isaiah 40:8,) is no other than what prophets and apostles published to the world, as Peter explains it. (1 Peter 1:25.) Hence, too, his confidence in denouncing a curse upon angels, if they dared to bring another gospel, one that was at variance with his. (Galatians 1:8.) Who would dare to make the angels of heaven subject to his doctrine, if he had not God as his authority and defense? With such an assurance of a good conscience does it become ministers to be endowed, who mount the pulpit to speak the word in Christ's name -- so as to feel assured that their doctrine can no more be overthrown than God himself.
19. For the Son of God Here we have the proof -- because his preaching contained nothing but Christ alone, who is the eternal and immutable truth of God. The clause preached by us is emphatic. For, as it may be, and often does happen, that Christ is disfigured by the inventions of men, and is adulterated, as it were, by their disguises, he declares that it had not been so as to himself or his associates, but that he had sincerely and with an integrity that was befitting, held forth Christ pure and undisguised. Why it is that he makes no mention of Apollos, while he mentions by name Timotheus and Silvanus, does not exactly appear; unless the reason be, as is probable, that the more that individuals were assailed by the calumnies of the wicked, he was so much the more careful to defend them.
In these words, however, he intimates that his whole doctrine was summed up in a simple acquaintance with Christ alone, as in reality the whole of the gospel is included in it. Hence those go beyond due limits, who teach anything else than Christ alone, with whatever show of wisdom they may otherwise be puffed up. For as he is the end of the law, (Romans 10:4,) so he is the head -- the sum -- in fine, the consummation -- of all spiritual doctrine.
In the second place, he intimates that his doctrine respecting Christ had not been variable, or ambiguous, so as to present him from time to time in a new shape after the manner of Proteus; as some persons make it their sport to make changes upon him, just as if they were tossing a ball to and fro with their hand, simply for the purpose of displaying their dexterity. Others, with a view to procure the favor of men, present him under various forms, while there is still another class, that inculcate one day what on the next they retract through fear. Such was not Paul's Christ, nor can that of any true apostle be such. Those, accordingly, have no ground to boast that they are ministers of Christ, who paint him in various colors with a view to their own advantage. For he alone is the true Christ, in whom there appears that uniform and unvarying yea, which Paul declares to be characteristic of him.
20. For all the promises of God -- Here again he shows how firm and unvarying the preaching of Christ ought to be, inasmuch as he is the groundwork of all the promises of God. For it were worse than absurd to entertain the idea that he, in whom all the promises of God are established, is like one that wavers. Now though the statement is general, as we shall see ere long, it is, notwithstanding, accommodated to the circumstances of the case in hand, with the view of confirming the certainty of Paul's doctrine. For it is not simply of the gospel in general that he treats, but he honors more especially his own gospel with this distinction. |If the promises of God are sure and well-founded, my preaching also must of necessity be sure, inasmuch as it contains nothing but Christ, in whom they are all established.| As, however, in these words he means simply that he preached a gospel that was genuine, and not adulterated by any foreign additions, let us keep in view this general doctrine, that all the promises of God rest upon Christ alone as their support -- a sentiment that is worthy of being kept in remembrance, and is one of the main articles of our faith. It depends, however, on another principle -- that it is only in Christ that God the Father is propitious to us. Now the promises are testimonies of his fatherly kindness towards us. Hence it follows, that it is in him alone that they are fulfilled.
The promises, I say, are testimonies of Divine grace: for although God shows kindness even to the unworthy, (Luke 6:35,) yet when promises are given in addition to his acts of kindness, there is a special reason -- that in them he declares himself to be a Father. Secondly, we are not qualified for enjoying the promises of God, unless we have received the remission of our sins, which we obtain through Christ. Thirdly, the promise, by which God adopts us to himself as his sons, holds the first place among them all. Now the cause and root of adoption is Christ; because God is not a Father to any that are not members and brethren of his only-begotten Son. Everything, however, flows out from this source -- that, while we are without Christ, we are hated by God rather than favorably regarded, while at the same time God promises us everything that he does promise, because he loves us. Hence it is not to be wondered if Paul here teaches, that all the promises of God are ratified and confirmed in Christ.
It is asked, however, whether they were feeble or powerless, previously to Christ's advent; for Paul seems to speak here of Christ as manifested in the flesh. (1 Timothy 3:16.) I answer, that all the promises that were given to believers from the beginning of the world were founded upon Christ. Hence Moses and the Prophets, in every instance in which they treat of reconciliation with God, of the hope of salvation, or of any other favor, make mention of him, and discourse at the same time respecting his coming and his kingdom. I say again, that the promises under the Old Testament were fulfilled to the pious, in so far as was advantageous for their welfare; and yet it is not less true, that they were in a manner suspended until the advent of Christ, through whom they obtained their true accomplishment. And in truth, believers themselves rested upon the promises in such a way, as at the same time to refer the true accomplishment of them to the appearing of the Mediator, and suspended their hope until that time. In fine, if any one considers what is the fruit of Christ's death and resurrection, he will easily gather from this, in what respect the promises of God have been sealed and ratified in him, which would otherwise have had no sure accomplishment.
Wherefore, also, through him let there be Amen. Here also the Greek manuscripts do not agree, for some of them have it in one continued statement -- As many promises of God as there are, are in him Yea, and in him Amen to the glory of God through us. The different reading, however, which I have followed, is easier, and contains a fuller meaning. For as he had said, that, in Christ, God has confirmed the truth of all his promises, so now he teaches us, that it is our duty to acquiesce in this ratification. This we do, when, resting upon Christ by a sure faith, we subscribe and set our seal that God is true, as we read in John 3:33, and that with a view to his glory, as this is the end to which everything should be referred. (Ephesians 1:13, and Romans 3:4.)
The other reading, I confess, is the more common one, but as it is somewhat meagre, I have not hesitated to prefer the one that contains the fuller meaning, and, besides, is much better suited to the context. For Paul reminds the Corinthians of their duty -- to utter their Amen in return, after having been instructed in the simple truth of God. If, however, any one is reluctant to depart from the other reading, there must, in any case, be an exhortation deduced from it to a mutual agreement in doctrine and faith.