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Commentary On Corinthians Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

2 Corinthians 10:12-18

12. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

12. Non enim audemus nos quibusdam inserere aut comparare, qui se ipsos commendant: verum ipsi in se ipsis se metientes, et se ipsos comparantes sibi, non sapiunt.

13. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.

13. Nos autem non sine modo gloriabimur, sed pro mensura regulae, quam nobis distribuit Deus: mensura, inquam, perveniendi etiam usque ad vos.

14. For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:

14. Non enim quasi ad vos non perveniremus, supra modum extendimus nos ipsos: siquidem usque ad vos pertigimus in Evangelio Christi.

15. Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,

15. Non gloriantes sine modo in alienis laboribus, spem autem habentes, crescente fide vestra in vobis, nos magnificatum iri secundum nostram regulam in exuberantiam.

16. To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.

16. Ut etiam ultra vos evangelizem, non in aliena regula, ut de iis, quae parata sunt, glorier.

17. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

17. Caeterum qui gloriatur in Domino glorietur.

18. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

18. Non enim qui se ipsum commendat, ille probatus est: sed quem Dominus commendat.

12. For we dare not. He says this by way of irony, for afterwards he does not merely compare himself boldly with them, but, deriding their vanity, he leaves them far behind him. Now by this irony he gives a stroke, not merely to those foolish boasters, but also to the Corinthians, who encouraged them in their folly by their misdirected approbation. |I am satisfied,| says he, |with my moderate way; for I would not dare to put myself on a footing with your Apostles, who are the heralds of their own excellence.| In the mean time, when he intimates that their glory consists of mere speaking and boasting, he shows, how silly and worthless they are, while he claims for himself deeds instead of words, that is, true and solid ground of glorying. He may seem, however, to err in the very thing for which he reproves others, for he immediately afterwards commends himself. I answer, that his design must be taken into view, for those do not aim at their own commendation, who, entirely free from ambition, have no desire but to serve the Lord usefully. As to this passage, however, there is no need of any other explanation than what may be gathered from the words themselves, for those are said to commend themselves, who, while in poverty and starvation as to true praise, exalt themselves in vain-glorious boasting, and falsely give out, that they are what they are not. This, also, appears from what follows.

But they measure themselves by themselves Here he points out, as with his finger their folly. The man that has but one eye sees well enough among the blind: the man that is dull of hearing hears distinctly enough among the totally deaf. Such were those that were satisfied with themselves, and showed themselves off among others, simply because they did not look to any that were superior to themselves, for if they had compared themselves with Paul, or any one like him, they would have felt constrained to lay aside immediately that foolish impression which they entertained, and would have exchanged boasting for shame.

For an explanation of this passage we need look no farther than to the monks; for as they are almost all of them the most ignorant asses, and at the same time are looked upon as learned persons, on account of their long robe and hood, if any one has merely a slight smattering of elegant literature, he proudly spreads out his feathers like a peacock -- a marvelous fame goes abroad respecting him -- among his companions he is adored Were, however, the mask of the hood laid aside, and a thorough examination entered upon, their vanity would at once be discovered. Why so? The old proverb holds good: |Ignorance is pert.| But the excessively insolent arrogance of the monks proceeds chiefly from this -- that they measure themselves by themselves; for, as in their cloisters there is nothing but barbarism, it is not to be wondered, if the man that has but one eye is a king among the blind. Such were Paul's rivals, for inwardly they flattered themselves, not considering what virtues entitled a person to true praise, and how far short they came of the excellence of Paul, and those like him. And, certainly, this single consideration might justly have covered them with shame, but it is the just punishment of the ambitious, that by their silliness they expose themselves to ridicule, (than which there is nothing that they are more desirous to avoid,) and in place of glory, which they are immoderately desirous of, they incur disgrace.

13. But we will not boast beyond our measure He now contrasts his own moderation with the folly of the false Apostles, and, at the same time, he shows what is the true measure of glorying -- when we keep within the limits that have been marked out for us by the Lord. |Has the Lord given me such a thing? I shall be satisfied with this measure. I shall not either desire or claim to myself any thing more.| This he calls the measure of his rule. For every one's rule, according to which he ought to regulate himself is this -- God's gift and calling. At the same time, it is not lawful for us to glow in God's gift and calling on our own account, but merely in so far as it is expedient for the glory of him, who is so liberal to us with this view -- that we may acknowledge ourselves indebted to him for everything.

A measure to reach. By this clause he intimates, that he stands in no need of commendations expressed in words among the Corinthians, who were a portion of his glow, as he says elsewhere, (Philippians 4:1,) ye are my crown. He carries out, however, the form of expression, which he had previously entered upon. |I have,| says he, |a most ample field for glorying, so as not to go beyond my own limits, and you are one department of that field.| He modestly reproves, however, their ingratitude, in overlooking, in a manner, his apostleship, which ought to have been especially in estimation among them, on the ground of God's commendation of it. In each clause, too, we must understand as implied, a contrast between him and the false Apostles, who had no such approbation to show.

14. For we do not overstretch. He alludes to persons who either forcibly stretch out their arms, or raise themselves up on their feet, when wishing to catch hold of what is not at their hand, for of this nature is a greedy thirst for glory, nay more, it is often more disgusting. For ambitious persons do not merely stretch out their arms and lift up their feet, but are even carried headlong with the view of obtaining some pretext for glorying. He tacitly intimates that his rivals were of this stamp. He afterwards declares on what ground he had come to the Corinthians -- because he had founded their church by his ministry. Hence he says, in the gospel of Christ; for he had not come to them empty, but had been the first to bring the gospel to them. The preposition in is taken by some in another way; for they render it, by the gospel, and this meaning does not suit ill. At the same time, Paul seems to set off to advantage his coming to the Corinthians, on the ground of his having been furnished with so precious a gift.

15. In the labors of others. He now reproves more freely the false Apostles, who, while they had put forth their hand in the reaping of another man's harvest, had the audacity at the same time to revile those, who had prepared a place for them at the expense of sweat and toil. Paul had built up the Church of the Corinthians -- not without the greatest struggle, and innumerable difficulties. Those persons afterwards come forward, and find the road made and the gate open. That they may appear persons of consequence, they impudently claim for themselves what did not of right belong to them, and disparage Paul's labors.

But having hope. He again indirectly reproves the Corinthians, because they had stood in the way of his making greater progress in advancing the gospel. For when he says that he hopes that, when their faith is increased the boundaries of his glowing will be enlarged, he intimates, that the weakness of faith under which they labored was the reason, why his career had been somewhat retarded. |I ought now to have been employed in gaining over new Churches, and that too with your assistance, if you had made as much proficiency as you ought to have done; but now you retard me by your infirmity. I hope, however, that the Lord will grant, that greater progress will be made by you in future, and that in this way the glory of my ministry will be increased according to the rule of the divine calling.| To glory in things that have been prepared is equivalent to glorying in the labors of others; for, while Paul had fought the battle, they enjoyed the triumph.

17. But he that glorieth This statement is made by way of correction, as his glorying might be looked upon as having the appearance of empty boasting. Hence he cites himself and others before the judgment-seat of God, saying, that those glory on good grounds, who are approved by God. To glory in the Lord, however, is used here in a different sense from what it bears in the first chapter of the former Epistle, (1 Corinthians 1:31,) and in Jeremiah 9:24. For in those passages it means -- to recognize God as the author of all blessings, in such a way that every blessing is ascribed to his grace, while men do not extol themselves, but glorify him alone. Here, however, it means -- to place our glory at the disposal of God alone, and reckon every thing else as of no value. For while some are dependent on the estimation of men, and weigh themselves in the false balance of public opinion, and others are deceived by their own arrogance, Paul exhorts us to be emulous of this glow -- that we may please the Lord, by whose judgment we all stand or fall.

Even heathens say, that true glory consists in an upright conscience. Now that is so much, but it is not all; for, as almost all are blind through excessive self-love, we cannot safely place confidence in the estimate that we form of ourselves. For we must keep in mind what he says elsewhere, (1 Corinthians 4: 4,) that he is not conscious to himself of anything wrong, and yet is not thereby justified. What then? Let us know, that to God alone must be reserved the right of passing judgment upon us; for we are not competent judges in our own cause. This meaning is confirmed by what follows --

For not he that commendeth himself is approved |For it is easy to impose upon men by a false impression, and this is matter of every day occurrence. Let us, therefore, leaving off all other things, aim exclusively at this -- that we may be approved by God, and may be satisfied to have his approbation alone, as it justly ought to be regarded by us as of more value than all the applauses of the whole world. There was one that said, that to have Plato's favorable judgment was to him worth a thousand. The question here is not as to the judgment of mankind, in respect of the superiority of one to another, but as to the sentence of God himself, who has it in his power to overturn all the decisions that men have pronounced.

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