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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : 2 Corinthians 5:9-12

Commentary On Corinthians Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

2 Corinthians 5:9-12

9. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

9. Quapropter contendimus, sive domi agentes, sive foris peregrinantes, ut illi placeamus.

10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

10. Omnes enim nos manifestari oportet coram tribunali Christi, ut reportet unusquisque, quæ per corpus facta fuerint, prout fecerit, sive bonum, sive malum.

11. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

11. Scientes igitur terrorem illum Domini, suademus hominibus, Deo autem manifesti sumus; confido autem nos et in conscientiis vestris, manifestos esse.

12. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

12. Non enim nosmetipsos iterum commendamus vobis, sed occasionem vobis damus gloriandi de nobis, ut aliquid habeatis adversus eos, qui in facie gloriantur, et non in corde.

9. Wherefore we strive. Having shown how magnanimous Christians ought to be in the endurance of afflictions, so that even in dying they may be conquerors over death, and that too, because by afflictions and death they attain to a blessed life, he now from the same source draws also another conclusion -- that they must, by all means, make it their main desire to please God. And indeed it cannot but be, that the hope of a resurrection, and thoughtfulness as to the judgment, will awaken in us this desire; as, on the other hand, the true reason why we are so indolent and remiss in duty is, that we seldom, if ever, think of what ought to be constantly kept in remembrance, that we are here but lodgers for a short time, that we may, after finishing our course, return to Christ. Observe, however, what he says -- that this is the desire both of the living and of the dead, by which statement the immortality of the soul is again confirmed.

10. We must be manifested. Though this is common to all, yet all without distinction do not raise their views in such a way as to consider every moment, that they must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. But while Paul, from a holy desire of acting aright, constantly sisted himself before the bar of Christ, he had it in view to reprove indirectly those ambitious teachers, who reckoned it enough to have the plaudits of their fellow-men. For when he says, that no one can escape, he seems in a manner to summon them to that heavenly tribunal. Farther, though the word translated to be manifested might be rendered to appear, yet Paul had, in my opinion, something farther in view -- that we shall then come forth to the light, while for the present many are concealed, as it were, in the darkness. For then the books, which are now shut, will be opened. (Daniel 7:10.)

That every one may give account. As the passage relates to the recompensing of deeds, we must notice briefly, that, as evil deeds are punished by God, so also good deeds are rewarded, but for a different reason; for evil deeds are requited with the punishment that they deserve, but God in rewarding good deeds does not look to merit or worthiness. For no work is so full and complete in all its parts as to be deservedly well-pleasing to him, and farther, there is no one whose works are in themselves well-pleasing to God, unless he render satisfaction to the whole law. Now no one is found to be thus perfect. Hence the only resource is in his accepting us through unmerited goodness, and justifying us, by not imputing to us our sins. After he has received us into favor, he receives our works also by a gracious acceptance. It is on this that the reward hinges. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in saying, that he rewards good works, provided we understand that mankind, nevertheless, obtain eternal life gratuitously. On this point I have expressed myself more fully in the preceding Epistle, and my Institutes will furnish a full discussion of it. When he says in the body, I understand him to mean, not merely outward actions, but all the deeds that are done in this corporeal life.

11. Knowing therefore. He now returns to speak of himself, or he again applies the general doctrine to himself personally. |I am not ignorant,| says he, |nor devoid of the fear of God, which ought to reign in the hearts of all the pious.| To know the terror of the Lord, then, is to be influenced by this consideration -- that an account must one day be rendered before the judgment-seat of Christ; for the man who seriously considers this must of necessity be touched with fear, and shake off all negligence. He declares, therefore, that he discharges his apostleship faithfully and with a pure conscience, (2 Timothy 1:3,) as one that walks in the fear of the Lord, (Acts 9:31,) thinking of the account to be rendered by him. As, however, his enemies might object: |You extol yourself, it is true, in magnificent terms, but who is there that sees what you affirm?| He says, in reply to this, that he discharges indeed the work of a teacher in the sight of men, but that it is known to God with what sincerity of mind he acts. |As my mouth speaks to men, so does my heart to God.|

And I trust This is a kind of correction of what he had said, for he now boasts that he has not merely God as the witness of his integrity, but also the Corinthians themselves, to whom he had given proof of himself. Two things, therefore, are to be observed here: in the first place, that it is not enough that an individual conducts himself honorably and assiduously among men, if his heart is not right in the sight of God, (Acts 8:21;) and secondly, that boasting is vain, where evidence of the reality itself is wanting. For none are more bold in arrogating everything to themselves, than those that have nothing. Let, therefore, the man who would have credit given him, bring forward such works as may afford confirmation to his statements. To be made manifest in their consciences is more than to be known by proofs; for conscience reaches farther than carnal judgment.

12. For we commend not ourselves. He confirms what he had said immediately before, and at the same time anticipates a calumny that might be brought against him. For it might seem as if he were too careful as to his own praise, inasmuch as he spoke so frequently respecting himself. Nay, it is probable that this reproach had been cast upon him by the wicked. For when he says -- We commend not ourselves again, he says this as if speaking in his own person. To commend is taken in a bad sense, as meaning to boast, or to brag.

When he adds -- that he gives them occasion of glorying, he intimates in the first place, that he pleads their cause rather than his own, inasmuch as he gives up all with a view to their glory, and he again indirectly reproves their ingratitude, because they had not perceived it to be their duty to magnify, of their own accord, his Apostleship, so as not to impose upon him this necessity; and farther, because they had not perceived, that it was their interest rather than that of Paul himself, that his Apostleship should be accounted honorable. We are here taught, that Christ's servants ought to be concerned as to their own reputation, only in so far as is for the advantage of the Church. Paul affirms with truth, that he is actuated by this disposition. Let others see that they do not on false grounds pretend to follow his example. We are taught farther, that that alone is a minister's true praise, that is common to him with the whole Church, rather than peculiar to himself exclusively -- in other words, that redounds to the advantage of all.

That ye may have something in opposition to those He intimates, in passing, that it is necessary to repress the vanity of those that make empty boasts, and that it is the duty of the Church to do so. For as ambition of this nature is a peculiarly destructive pestilence, it is dangerous to encourage it by dissimulation. As the Corinthians had not taken care to do this, Paul instructs them how they should act for the future.

To glory in appearance, not in heart, is to disguise one's self by outward show, and to regard sincerity of heart as of no value; for those that will be truly wise will never glory but in God. (1 Corinthians 1:31.) But wherever there is empty show, there is no sincerity, and no integrity of heart.

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