5. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
5. Vosmet iposo tentate, num sitis in fide: vos ipsos probate. Annon cognoscitis vosmet ipsos, quod Iesus Christus in vobis est, nisi si cubi reprobi estis?
6. But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.
6. At spero vos cognituros, quod nos non simus reprobi.
7. Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.
7. Opto autem apud Deum, ne quid male faciatis; non quo nos probati appareamus, sed ut vos quod honestum est faciatis, nos vero veluti reprobi sumus.
8. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
8. Non enim possumus quicquam adversus veritatem, sed pro veritate.
9. For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.
9. Gaudemus enim, quum nos infirmi fuerimus, vos autem validi fueritis: hoc vero etiam optamus, vestram integritatem.
5. Try yourselves. He confirms, what he had stated previously -- that Christ's power showed itself openly in his ministry. For he makes them the judges of this matter, provided they descend, as it were, into themselves, and acknowledge what they had received from him. In the first place, as there is but one Christ, it must be of necessity, that the same Christ must dwell alike in minister and people. Now, dwelling in the people, how will he deny himself in the minister. Farther, he had shown his power in Paul's preaching, in such a manner that it could be no longer doubtful or obscure to the Corinthians, if they were not altogether stupid. For, whence had they faith? whence had they Christ? whence, in fine, had they every thing? It is with good reason, therefore, that they are called to look into themselves, that they may discover there, what they despise as a thing unknown. Then only has a minister a true and well grounded assurance for the approbation of his doctrine, when he can appeal to the consciences of those whom he has taught, that, if they have any thing of Christ, and of sincere piety, they may be constrained to acknowledge his fidelity. We are now in possession of Paul's object.
This passage, however, is deserving of particular observation on two accounts. For, in the first place, it shows the relation, which subsists between the faith of the people, and the preaching of the minister -- that the one is the mother, that produces and brings forth, and the other is the daughter, that ought not to forget her origin. In the second place, it serves to prove the assurance of faith, as to which the Sorbonnic sophists have made us stagger, nay more, have altogether rooted out from the minds of men. They charge with rashness all that are persuaded that they are the members of Christ, and have Him remaining in them, for they bid us be satisfied with a |moral conjecture,| as they call it -- that is, with a mere opinion so that our consciences remain constantly in suspense, and in a state of perplexity. But what does Paul say here? He declares, that all are reprobates, who doubt whether they profess Christ and are a part of His body. Let us, therefore, reckon that alone to be right faith, which leads us to repose in safety in the favor of God, with no wavering opinion, but with a firm and steadfast assurance.
Unless by any means you are reprobates. He gives them in a manner their choice, whether they would rather be reprobates, than give due testimony to his ministry; for he leaves them no alternative, but either to show respect to his Apostleship, or to allow that they are reprobates. For, unquestionably, their faith had been founded upon his doctrine, and they had no other Christ, than they had received from him, and no other gospel than what they had embraced, as delivered to them by him, so that it were vain for them to attempt to separate any part of their salvation from his praise.
6. I hope that you shall know He presses them still more urgently, while indulging this confident persuasion -- that he will not be rejected by the Corinthians. One of two things was necessary -- that they should either assign to Paul the honor due to an Apostle, or condemn themselves for unbelief, and acknowledge that they have no Church. He softens, however, the severity of the statement, by making use of the expression -- I hope; but in such a manner as to remind them the better of their duty; for to disappoint the hopes that have been entertained as to our integrity, is excessively cruel. |I hope,| says he, |that you shall know -- when you have been restored to a sound mind.| He prudently, however, says nothing as to himself in this second clause, calling them to consider God's benefits, by which they had been distinguished; nay more, he puts their salvation in the place of his authority.
7. I desire before God. Again he declares, that he cares nothing for his own honor, but is simply desirous of promoting their advantage. For nothing was so undesirable for them, as to deprive themselves of advantage from his doctrine -- as they had begun to do, through their pride and contempt. |As to myself,| says he, |for my reputation among men, I am not concerned. My only fear is, lest you should offend God. Nay more, I am prepared to be as a reprobate, provided you are free from all blame.| |I am a reprobate,| says he, |in the judgment of mankind, who very frequently reject those who are deserving of the highest honor.| At the same time, the particle as is not superfluous. For it corresponds with what he says elsewhere -- as deceivers and yet true. (2 Corinthians 6:8.) And this, certainly, is the true rule -- that the Pastor, having no regard to himself, should be devoted exclusively to the edification of the Church. Let him be concerned as to his own reputation, in so far as he sees it to be conducive to the public advantage. Let him be prepared to feel indifferent to it, whenever he may do so, without public disadvantage.
8. For we can do nothing: That is -- |I do not seek, or desire any other power, than what the Lord has conferred upon me, that I may promote the truth. To false Apostles it is all one, provided they have power; and they feel no concern to make use of their power for the promotion of what is good.| In short, he defends and maintains the honor of his ministry, in so far as it is connected with the truth of God. |What does it matter to me? For unless I have in view to promote the truth, all the power that I shall claim will be false and groundless. If, however, I lay out, whatever I have, for the promotion of the truth, I, in that case, do not consult my own interest. Now, when the authority of doctrine is safe, and truth is uninjured, I have what I desire. In contending, therefore, so keenly, I am not influenced by any exclusive regard for myself personally.| By this consideration, however, he intimates, that the man, who fights and labors for the truth alone will not take it amiss, should occasion require it, to be regarded in the judgment of men as a reprobate, provided this does not interfere with the glory of God, the edification of the Church, and the authority of sound doctrine.
This passage must be carefully observed, because it limits the power, which the Pastors of the Church should have, and fixes its proper bounds -- that they be ministers of the truth. Papists loudly tell us, that it is said,
He that heareth you, heareth me;
he that despiseth you, despiseth me, (Luke 10:16);
Obey them that are set over you, (Hebrews 13:17);
and under this pretext they take to themselves the utmost liberty, so as to usurp unbounded dominion, while they are, at the same time, the avowed and sworn enemies of the truth, and aim at its destruction by every means in their power. For exposing such impudence, this one statement of Paul will suffice -- which declares, that they must themselves be in subjection to the truth.
9. For, we rejoice. Either the causal particle gar, (for,) must be taken as meaning -- therefore; or it is a second reason, why he does not refuse to be regarded as a reprobate -- for their sake, and with a view to their advantage. Let the reader select whichever he may choose, for it is of no consequence. When he says, Provided you are strong, I shall willingly submit to be reckoned weak, there is an antithesis in the words -- not in the meaning; for weakness means here, as formerly, (2 Corinthians 13:4,) contempt. On the other hand, he means that the Corinthians will be strong, if they are full of the power and grace of God.
And this also, He now again repeats, what he had already stated several times, that he was from necessity -- not from his own inclination, more severe than they would have wished; and farther, that by this means, too, he spared them, that he might not be constrained to resort to severer measures, when he was present with them.
The perfection, of which he speaks, consists in a fit proportion, and sound condition, of all the members. Now he alludes to good physicians, who cure particular diseases in such a way as not in any part to mutilate the body; and, as he is concerned to secure a perfection of this nature, he says, that, for that reason, he provides against the necessity of having recourse to severer measures. For we see, that those, who at first shrink back from the slight pain, or uneasy feeling of a plaster, are at length constrained to endure the torture of burning, or amputating, and that, too, where the issue is extremely doubtful.