1. We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
1. Nos vero adiuvantes (vel, collaborantes) etiam obsecramus, ne frustra gratiam Dei receperitis.
2. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
2. Dicit enim (Ies.49, 8) Tempore accepto exaudivi te, et in die salutis auxiliatus sum tibi: ecce, nunc tempus acceptum: ecce, nunc dies salutis.
3. Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:
3. Nullum dantes ulla in re offensionem, ut ne vituperetur ministerium:
4. But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
4. Sed in omnibus commendantes nos tanquam Dei moerore, in patientia multa, in afflictionibus, in necessitatibus, in angustiis,
5. In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
5. In plagis, in carceribus, in seditionibus, in laboribus, in vigiliis, in ieiuniis;
6. By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
6. In sinceritate, in scientia, in tolerantia, in mansuetudine, in Spiritu Sancto, in caritate non ficta,
7. By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
7. In sermone veritatis, in potentia Dei, per arma iustitiæ dextra et sinistra:
8. By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;
8. Per gloriam et ignominiam, per infamiam, et bonam famam: tanquam impostores, tamen veraces:
9. As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;
9. Tanquam ignoti, tamen celebres: tanquam morientes, et ecce, vivimus; tanquam castigati, tamen morte non affecti:
10. As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
10. Tanquam moerore affecti, semper tamen gaudentes: tanquam inopes, multos tamen ditantes: tanquam nihil habentes, et omnia possidentes.
1. Assisting. He has repeated the instructions of embassy with which the ministers of the gospel have been furnished by God. After they have faithfully communicated these instructions, they must also use their endeavor, that they may be carried into effect, in order that their labor may not be in vain. They must, I say, add continual exhortation's, that their embassy may be efficacious. This is what he means by sunergountes, (fellow-workers,) that is, devoted to the advancement of the work; for it is not enough to teach, if you do not also urge. In this way, the particle sun would have a relation to God, or to the embassy, which he assigns to his servants. For the doctrine of the gospel is helped by exhortations, so as not to be without effect, and ministers connect their endeavors with God's commission; as it is the part of an ambassador to enforce by arguments, what he brings forward in the name of his prince.
The particle sun may also be taken as referring to the endeavors of ministers in common; for if they do the Lord's work in good earnest, they must mutually lend a helping hand to each other, so as to give assistance to each other. I rather prefer, however, the former exposition. Chrysostom interprets it as referring to the hearers, with whom ministers are fellow-workers, when they rouse them up from slothfulness and indolence.
Ministers are here taught, that it is not enough simply to advance doctrine. They must also labor that it may be received by the hearers, and that not once merely, but continually. For as they are messengers between God and men, the first duty devolving upon them is, to make offer of the grace of God, and the second is, to strive with all their might, that it may not be offered in vain.
2. For he saith, In an acceptable time. He quotes a prediction of Isaiah, exceedingly appropriate to the exhortation of which he speaks. It is without doubt of the kingdom of Christ that he there speaks, as is manifest from the context. The Father, then, appointing his Son a leader, for the purpose of gathering together a Church, addresses him in these words:
|I have heard thee in an acceptable time.| (Isaiah 49:8.)
We know, however, what a degree of correspondence there is between the Head and the members. For Christ was heard in our name, as the salvation of all of us is entrusted into his hand, and nothing else has he taken under his charge. Hence we are all admonished in the person of Christ -- not to slight the opportunity that is afforded for obtaining salvation. While the rendering of the Greek interpreter is, euprosdekton, (acceptable,) the word made use of by the Prophet is, rtsvn, (ratson,) that is, benevolence, or free favour.
The quotation must be applied to the subject in hand in this way: |As God specifies a particular time for the exhibition of his grace, it follows that all times are not suitable for that. As a particular day of salvation is named, it follows that a free offer of salvation is not made every day.| Now this altogether depends on the providence of God, for the acceptable time is no other than what is called in Galatians 4:4, the fullness of the time The order of arrangement also must be observed. First, he makes mention of a time of benevolence, and then afterwards of a day of salvation By this it is intimated, that salvation flows to us from the mercy of God exclusively, as from a fountainhead. Hence we must not seek the cause in ourselves, as if we by means of our own works moved God to assign to us his favor, for whence comes the day of salvation? It is because it is the acceptable time, that is, the time which God has in his free favor appointed. In the mean time, we must keep in view what Paul designs to teach -- that there is need of prompt expedition, that we may not allow the opportunity to pass unimproved, inasmuch as it displeases God, that the grace that he offers to us should be received by us with coolness and indifference.
Behold now is the time The Prophet had spoken of the time, when Christ was to be manifested in the flesh for the redemption of men. Paul transfers the prophecy to the time when Christ is revealed by the continued preaching of the gospel, and it is with good reason that he does so, for as salvation was once sent to the whole world, when Christ appeared, so now it is sent to us every day, when we are made partakers of the gospel. Here we have a beautiful passage, and affording no ordinary consolation, because, while the gospel is preached to us, we know assuredly that the way is opened up for us into the kingdom of God, and that there is a signal of divine benevolence raised aloft, to invite us to receive salvation, for the opportunity of obtaining it must be judged of by the call. Unless, however, we embrace the opportunity, we must fear the threatening that Paul brings forward -- that, in a short time, the door will be shut against all that have not entered in, while opportunity was afforded. For this retribution always follows contempt of the word.
3. Giving no offense We have already on several occasions remarked, that Paul sometimes commends the ministry of the gospel generally, and at other times his own integrity. In the present instance, then, he speaks of himself, and sets before us in his own person a living picture of a good and faithful apostle, that the Corinthians may be led to see how unfair they were in their judgment, in preferring before him empty blusterers. For as they assigned the praise to mere pretences, they held in the highest esteem persons that were effeminate and devoid of zeal, while, on the other hand, as to the best ministers, they cherished no views but such as were mean and abject. Nor is there any reason to doubt, that those very things that Paul makes mention of to his own commendation, had been brought forward by them in part as a ground of contempt; and they were so much the more deserving of reproof, inasmuch as they converted into matter of reproach, what was ground of just praise.
Paul, therefore, treats here of three things: In the first place, he shows what are the excellences, on the ground of which preachers of the gospel ought to be esteemed; secondly, he shows that he is himself endowed with those excellences; thirdly, he admonishes the Corinthians not to acknowledge as Christ's servants those who conduct themselves otherwise than he prescribes here by his example. His design is, that he may procure authority for himself and those that were like him, with a view to the glory of God and the good of the Church, or may restore it where it has fallen into decay; and secondly, that he may call back the Corinthians from an unreasonable attachment to the false apostles, which was a hinderance in the way of their making so much proficiency in the gospel as was necessary. Ministers give occasion of stumbling, when by their own misconduct they hinder the progress of the gospel on the part of their hearers. That Paul says he does not do; for he declares that he carefully takes heed not to stain his apostleship by any spot of disgrace.
For this is the artifice of Satan -- to seek some misconduct on the part of ministers, that may tend to the dishonor of the gospel. For when he has been successful in bringing the ministry into contempt, all hope of profit is at an end. Hence the man who would usefully serve Christ, must strive with his whole might to maintain the credit of his ministry. The method is -- to take care that he be deserving of honor, for nothing is more ridiculous than striving to maintain your reputation before others, while you call forth upon yourself reproach by a wicked and base life. That man, therefore, will alone be honorable, who will allow himself in nothing that is unworthy of a minister of Christ.
4. In much patience. The whole of the enumeration that follows is intended to show, that all the tests by which the Lord is accustomed to try his servants were to be found in Paul, and that there was no kind of test to which he had not been subjected, in order that the faithfulness of his ministry might be more fully established. Among other things that he enumerates, there are some that are under all circumstances required for all the servants of Christ. Of this nature are labors, sincerity, knowledge, watchings, gentleness, love, the word of truth, the Spirit, the power of God, the armor of righteousness. There are other things that are not necessary in all cases; for in order that any one may be a servant of Christ, it is not absolutely necessary, that he be put to the test by means of stripes and imprisonments Hence these things will in some cases be wanting in the experience of the best. It becomes all, however, to be of such a disposition as to present themselves to be tried, as Paul was, with stripes and imprisonments, if the Lord shall see meet.
Patience is the regulation of the mind in adversity, which is an excellence that ought invariably to distinguish a good minister. Afflictions include more than necessities; for by the term necessity here I understand poverty. Now this is common to many ministers, there being few of them that are not in poor circumstances; but at the same time not to all. For why should a moderate amount of riches prevent a man from being reckoned a servant of Christ, who, in other respects, is pious, is of upright mind and honorable deportment, and is distinguished by other excellences. As the man that is poor is not on that account to be straightway accounted a good minister, so the man that is rich is not on that account to be rejected. Nay more, Paul in another passage glories not less in his knowing how to abound, than in knowing how to be in want. (Philippians 4:12.) Hence we must observe the distinction that I have mentioned, between occasional and invariable grounds of commendation.
5. In tumults In proportion to the calmness and gentleness of Paul's disposition was there the greater excellence displayed in his standing undaunted in the face of tumults; and he takes praise to himself on this account -- that while he regarded tumults with abhorrence, he nevertheless encountered them with bravery. Nor does the praise simply consist in his being unmoved by tumults, (this being commonly found among all riotous persons, ) but in his being thrown into no alarm by tumults that had been stirred up through the fault of others. And, unquestionably, two things are required on the part of ministers of the Gospel -- that they should endeavor to the utmost of their power to maintain peace, and yet on the other hand go forward, undaunted, through the midst of commotions, so as not to turn aside from the right course, though heaven and earth should be mingled. Chrysostom, however, prefers to understand akatastasiais to mean -- frequent expulsions, inasmuch as there afforded him a place of rest. In fastings He does not mean -- hunger arising from destitution, but a voluntary exercise of abstinence.
Knowledge may be taken in two senses -- either as meaning doctrine itself, or skill in acting properly and knowingly. The latter appears to me the more likely, as he immediately adds -- the word of truth The Spirit is taken by metonymy, to denote spiritual graces. Frivolous, however, is the cavil of Chrysostom, who infers from this, that the other excellences are peculiar to the Apostle, because he makes mention of the Spirit separately, as if kindness, knowledge, pureness, armor of righteousness, were from any other source, than from the Holy Spirit. He makes mention, however, of the Spirit separately, as a general term in the midst of particular instances. The power of God showed itself in many things -- in magnanimity, in efficacy in the maintaining of the truth, in the propagation of the Gospel, in victory over enemies, and the like.
7. By the armor of righteousness By righteousness you must understand -- rectitude of conscience, and holiness of life. He employs the metaphor of armor, because all that serve God require to fight, inasmuch as the devil is always on the alert, to molest them. Now they must be completely armed, because, if he does not succeed in one onset, he thereupon makes a new attempt, and attacks them at one time from before, at another from behind -- now on this side, and then on that.
8. By honor and dishonor This is no slight test for subjecting a man to trial, for to a man of a noble spirit nothing is more unpleasant, than to incur disgrace. Hence we may observe in all histories, that there have been few men of heroism that have not fallen back, on being irritated by insults. Hence it is indicative of a mind well established in virtue, not to be moved away from one's course by any disgrace that may be incurred -- a rare virtue, but one without which you cannot show that you are a servant of God. We must, it is true, have a regard to good character, but it must be only in so far as the edification of our brethren requires it, and in such a way as not to be dependent on reports -- nay more, so as to maintain in the same even course in honor and in dishonor. For God allows us to be tried even by the slander of wicked men, with the view of trying us, whether we act uprightly from disinterested motives; for if one is drawn aside from duty by the ingratitude of men, that man shows that he had not his eye directed to God alone. As then we see that Paul was exposed to infamy and insults, and yet did not on that account stop short, but held forward with undaunted courage, and broke through every impediment so as to reach the goal, let us not give way, if the same thing should befall us.
As deceivers Here he relates, not simply in what estimation he was held by the wicked and those that were without, (1 Corinthians 5:12,) but also what views were entertained of him by those that were within. Now let every one consider with himself, how unseemly was the ingratitude of the Corinthians, and how great was his magnanimity in struggling forward, in spite of such formidable obstacles. By indirect representations, however, he sharply reproves their perverse judgment, when he says that he lives and is joyful, while they despised him as one that was dead and overwhelmed with grief. He reproaches them, also, with ingratitude, when he says, that he made many rich, while he was contemned on account of his poverty. For they were of the number of those whom he enriched by his wealth: nay more, all of them to a man were under obligations to him on many accounts. Thus he said previously, by way of irony, that he was unknown, while at the same time the fruit of his labor was everywhere known and celebrated. But how cruel to despise the poverty of the man who supplies you from his abundance! He means spiritual riches, which ought to be much more esteemed than earthly.