The true marks of an apostle--signs, wonders, and miracles--were performed among you with great perseverance.
I. MIRACULOUS EVIDENCES OF APOSTLESHIP. Upon due occasion the apostle did not hesitate to bring forward and adduce as proofs of his commission the supernatural gifts which had been bestowed upon him. How could he have publicly made such a claim as this in an authentic letter, unless the Corinthians, friendly and inimical, were ready to witness to the truth of his language? It would not be fanciful to discriminate among the terms which Paul in this passage applies to these miraculous evidences. Observe that they are designated:
1. Powers, as pointing to the heavenly and Divine source to which they must needs be traced. Whether exercised in controlling nature, in healing disease, or in inflicting punishment, they bore upon their very presence the evidences that they were of superhuman origin.
2. Wonders, as fitted and indeed intended to awaken the interest, the inquiry, the amazement, of all beholders. Wonder may be useful in leading to such reflection, such emotion, as may surpass itself in value.
3. Signs, as indicating the authority of those at whose prayer or command these marvels were wrought "among" the Corinthians.
II. THE MORAL EVIDENCE OF APOSTLESHIP. Nowhere in the New Testament is the portent placed above the spiritual. Christ's mighty works answered their purpose when they prompted the exclamation and inquiry, "What manner of man is this!" And in Paul's character there was seen an evidence of apostleship far more convincing and far more instructive than the most marvellous deeds which he performed. He justly claims to have exhibited patience, both in his continuing to work for the Corinthians and to interest himself in them notwithstanding their ingratitude, and in his tender and brotherly treatment of them with a view to their restoration to entire sympathy with himself. - T.
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you.1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:1-3). In this passage Calvin makes patience a sign. Patience is certainly a characteristic Christian virtue, and it is magnficently exercised in the apostolic life, but it is not peculiarly apostolic. Patience, here — "every kind of Christian patience," rather — brings before our minds the conditions under which Paul did his apostolic work. Discouragements of every description, bad health, suspicion, dislike, contempt, moral apathy and moral licence the weight of all these pressed upon him heavily, but he bore up under them, and did not suffer them to break his spirit or to arrest his labours. His endurance was a match for them all, and the power of Christ that was in him broke forth in spite of them in apostolic signs. There were conversions, in the first place; but there were also miracles, viewed under three different aspects.
1. "Signs," as addressed to man's intelligence, and conveying a spiritual meaning.
2. Wonders, as giving a shock to feeling, and moving nature in those depths which sleep through common experience.
3. Powers, as arguing in him who works them a more than human efficiency. But no doubt the main character they bore in the apostle's mind was that of charismata — gifts of grace, which God ministered to the Church by His Spirit. It is natural for an unbeliever to misunderstand even N.T. miracles, because he wishes to conceive of them, as it were, in vacuo, or in relation to the laws of nature; in the N.T. itself they are conceived in relation to the Holy Ghost. Even Jesus is said in the Gospels to have cast out devils by the Spirit of God; and when Paul wrought "signs and wonders and powers," it was in carrying out his apostolic work, graced by the same Spirit. What things he had done at Corinth we have no means of knowing; but the Corinthians knew, and they knew that these things had no arbitrary or accidental character, but were the tokens of an apostle.
(J. Denney, B. D.)
What is it wherein ye were inferior to other Churches, except it he that I myself was not burdensome to you?Genesis 32:25, LXX.), and is a verb formed from νάρκη, the name of a kind of torpedo which has a reputation for numbing the hand that touches it. But I venture to go back to the fish itself, and to suggest that the popular use of the word was a somewhat different one. Was not the torpedo supposed to attach itself by suction to some creature of larger growth, and to make use of it for its own support? Whether it does so is of comparatively small concern, for neither then nor now has popular language had much regard for the facts of natural history. I strongly suspect that the idea really embodied in the word is theft vulgarly expressed by our own phrase, "to sponge upon." I can only guess that this latter phrase borrows its meaning from the real or supposed parasitic habits of the sponge as a living creature. If it be so, then there would be a singular resemblance in history and meaning between the two expressions, each borrowed by a seafaring people from the apparent habits of a marine animal, and applied with some contempt to the conduct of unworthy men. At any rate, it does not seem to me at all unlikely that the apostle would have used such an expression as "sponging upon" here. He was never careful of the elegance of his language when he wished it to be forcible, and in this Epistle especially he makes no attempt to be dignified. Evidently he had in his mind the very words and phrases which his vulgar detractors at Corinth had used concerning him. They had reached him in no mild dilutions, and he made no pretence of not feeling their point. They had accused him, as I think, of having "sponged upon" other Churches, while, with a truly natural inconsistency, they did not conceal their vexation at his refusal to put himself under any obligation to them. Wonderful is the lofty earnestness with which he deals with these vulgar topics, gilding the muddy levels with the glow and sparkle of his own ardent charity. But I think he did not hesitate to repeat their own shrug. He had not "sponged upon" them, it was true, and did not intend to sponge upon them, however often he came to them.
(R. Winterbotham, M. A. , B. Sc. , LL. B.)
I seek not yours, but you
(H. Bushnell, D. D.)
I. So, then, first of all I remark, CHRIST DESIRES PERSONAL SURRENDER. "I seek not yours, but you," is the very mother-tongue of love; but upon our lips, even when our love is purest, there is a tinge of selfishness blending with it, and very often the desire for another's love is as purely selfish as the desire for any material good. And that is the only kind of life that is blessed; the only true nobleness and beauty and power are measured by and accurately correspond with the completeness of our surrender of ourselves to Jesus Christ. As long as the earth was thought to be the centre of the planetary system there was nothing but confusion in the heavens. Shift the centre to the sun, and all becomes order and beauty. The root of sin and the mother of death is making myself my own law and Lord; the germ of righteousness and the first pulsations of life lie in yielding ourselves to God in Christ, because He has yielded Himself unto us. And be sure of this, that no such giving of myself away in the sweet reciprocities of a higher than human affection is possible, in the general and on the large scale, if you evacuate from the gospel the great truth, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me."
II. CHRIST SEEKS PERSONAL SERVICE. "I seek... you"; not only for My love, but for My tools, for My instruments in carrying out the purposes for which I died, and establishing My dominion in the world. I cannot imagine a man who in any deep sense has realised his obligations to that Saviour, and in any real sense has made the great act of self-renunciation and crowned Christ as his Lord, living for the rest of his life, as so many professing Christians do, dumb and idle in so far as work for the Master is concerned. It is no use to flog, flog, flog at idle Christians, and try to make them work. There is only one thing that will set them to work, and that is that they shall live nearer their Master, and find out more of what they owe to Him. This surrender of ourselves for direct Christian service is the only solution of the problem of how to win the world for Jesus Christ. Professionals cannot do it. This direct service cannot be escaped or commuted by a money payment. In the old days a man used to escape serving in the militia if he found a substitute and paid for him. There are a great many good Christian people that seem to think that Christ's army is recruited on that principle. But it is a mistake. "I seek you, not yours."
III. CHRIST SEEKS US AND OURS. Not you without yours, still less yours without you. Consecration of self is extremely imperfect which does not include the consecration of possessions, and, conversely, consecration of possessions which does not flow from and is not accompanied by the consecration of self is nought. If, then, the great law of self-surrender is to run through the whole Christian life, that law, as applied to our dealing with what we own, prescribes three things. The first is stewardship, not ownership, and that all round the circumference of our possessions. Again, the law of self-surrender, in its application to all that we have, involves the continual reference to Jesus Christ in our disposition of these our possessions. Again, the law of self-surrender, in its application to our possessions, implies that there shall be an element of sacrifice in our use of these, whether they be possessions of intellect, of acquirement, of influence, of position, or of material wealth. The law of help is sacrifice. So let us all get near to that great central fire till it melts our hearts. Let the love which is our hope be our pattern.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)1. The instinct of acquisition is a primordial element of human nature that ought to be gratified. Not to acquire property of some kind or other is to be a pauper, a parasite, a leech. We all are born poor, though sons, it may be, of a Croesus; but, unless we die rich, life is a failure. By pulling at the oar we gain muscle; by the sail or the engine we subdue the sea; and by intellectual and spiritual mastery of forces we make higher possessions really ours.
2. Christianity appeals to this instinct. The Master tells us it is His good pleasure to give us the kingdom. Lord Bacon wanted all knowledge; Alexander wanted other worlds to conquer. So would I desire a title-deed to heaven — nay, more, be able rightfully to say to God, "Thou art mine!" I will not consent to be a pauper; possession alone can gratify my aspiration for property.
I. WHAT IS PROPERTY, AND HOW CAN IT BE RIGHTFULLY OURS? Property is my other self; it is that into which I put my spirit, life, toil, culture, and affection. Thus it acquires a value, as it represents all these. Christ sees the travail of His soul; and is satisfied in the redemption of this world. The universe is God's. He has put Himself into it, His wisdom, power, and love. The Church is Christ's; He has put Himself into it. So that is mine into which I put myself, whatever may be the legal view of it. Let us try the key to different locks. Look at —
1. Material wealth. The millions which a gambler wins are not really his property. Reckless speculation does not create wealth. Inheritance is not real property till I make it mine. Caleb gave away Hebron, but the sons of Anak were to be dispossessed. A rich man leaves property. It is merely "addendum" till the son puts his impress of thought and enterprise upon it; otherwise it is a mere income, as is the cheese on which the mouse nibbles in the granary. The name of the originator sticks to an invention, or to whatever has creative art in it, though the man be dead. We say, Morse's Telegraph, Fairbank's Scales, Raphael's Madonna.
2. Art. I build and furnish a house. Paintings are hung up; but I know nothing of art, and cannot get into the creations of a Claude or a Titian. My neighbour studies them, feasts on them, for they represent and reflect his beautiful soul. The pictures are really his.
3. Literature. I buy a book, but cannot understand it. My neighbour borrows, reads, understands, and appropriates it. He returns it — no, only the leather, paper, and ink, for the thoughts, spirits, and life are his. Thus all theology, philosophy, and history come to be my own.
II. BUT IT IS IN HUMAN SOULS THAT THE THOUGHT OF THE TEXT IS REALISED. It is our privilege to have property in another, to call them ours. We may even say of Christ, of the Holy Ghost, and of the Father, "Thou art mine!" When we are one with Him in fellowship and love, we live in Him and He in us. But look at the three ways of securing property in human souls.
1. By friendship. I open my heart and let another in. He opens his heart and lets me in. Some hearts we cannot enter; they are mean, coarse, unclean, uncharitable. We should not be tolerated could we force our way in. But when we come to our own, to those who respond to our tastes, desires, and plans, how enriching and exalting is the mutual ownership enjoyed!
2. By education. A true teacher is a king; he gets property in souls. Dr. Arnold put his soul into his pupils, and to-day the broadened thought of England is, in part, a result of his work.
8. By redemption. This is the Via Sacra of our Lord. Into the lost soul, the unclean, the poor, the dead He went with purity, riches, and life. So Paul could say that he was ready to give his own soul to those who in the gospel were dear unto him. Yet Paul could truly say, "I seek not yours, but you." His converts were his children, begotten in the gospel. He won them, not by imparting truth merely, but by giving his very life.
(C. B. Crane, D. D.)
The children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children
I. THE WAY IN WHICH THIS DICTATE OF NATURE IS SECONDED BY THE EXAMPLE OF GOD IN HIS DEALINGS WITH HIS FAMILY. He is as a parent providing for his children. Behold Him as the God of providence. He is the great housekeeper of the universe. But it is more important still to consider God as the God of grace, for here you will see in a more striking manner how God the Father has laid up for His children, and not they for Him, that He is the giver and they the receivers from first to last (Ezekiel 16:8, &c.). Thus God has provided washing, clothing, ornaments, and food for all the members of His family. Moreover, God not only provides present maintenance, but a future inheritance for His children.
II. THE DUTY OF PARENTS WITH RESPECT TO THEIR CHILDREN. They are bound to make temporal provision for them. Even the beasts of the field, the monsters of the sea, provide for their young. But we are least likely to err on this point. Oh, that our concern about it were always regulated with a view to the spiritual interests of our children and to the glory of God! But how many are there who neglect the spiritual welfare of their children, like the folly of a man who would expend much in decorating and adorning a house which was ready to crumble and fall into ruin, while he neglected one which was substantial and likely to last for many generations.
(H. Verschoyle, A. B.)
And I will very gladly spend and be spent for youI. SPENDING ONE'S SELF. The ministry is a work. Its duties, if faithfully discharged, require great skill and ability. Paul was laboriously employed in preaching and travelling by sea and land about thirty years, and during those years scarcely ever ceased from his beloved work. Thus it was that he was willing to spend till he was spent.
II. FOR WHOM I FEEL THIS SELF-DEVOTION. The apostle felt this self-devotion, or self-sacrifice, for the Corinthians. Why for the men at Corinth? Because St. Paul had been instrumental in their conversion. The believers in that city were all, or nearly so, seals of his ministry. Can we then wonder at the strength of his love of them? What will not an earthly parent do for his sons or his daughters? No; warmed by the love of Christ, he will cheerfully spend himself for their spiritual edification, welfare, and comfort.
I. THE APOSTLE'S AIM — the souls of men.
1. Certainly to be kept steadily in view by preachers.
2. But not by ministers alone, for we all influence for better or for worse the soul life of each other.
3. To injure it is an offence in God's eyes (Matthew 18:6).
II. THIS AIM REQUIRES NOT ONLY THAT WE "SPEND," BUT THAT WE "BE SPENT," for the higher the life we seek to develop, the deeper is the sacrifice we must make. If a father wishes only physical life in his child the cost is little — food, soap, and clothing. If he wishes the mental life of his child to grow strong and full, then the cost is greater, not only in money, but in his own patience, etc. But if he wishes the highest life of all — the moral life — the life of the lad's soul to flourish and bear fruit — the sacrifice is deeper still.
III. THIS IS PRECISELY THE KIND OF SACRIFICE WE ARE LEAST WILLING TO GIVE.
1. In almsgiving — works of charity. We give money, the cheapest sacrifice we can give.
2. In church life. Again we give money or a speech to escape the deeper sacrifices.
3. In social life. How few will forego the utterance of a bitter word or a doubtful deed lest they hurt the soul-life of those around us.
IV. COMPARE THIS RELUCTANCE WITH THE ALACRITY OF PAUL. He said, "I will very gladly spend," etc. Better still compare it with the spirit of Christ (John 10:15, 18).
1. The loveliness of Christian sacrifice is its voluntariness. "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
2. The blessed life either on earth or in heaven is not one exempt from sacrifice, but where its joy overwhelms its pain (2 Chronicles 29:28).
(J. Telford, B. A.)
1. There was a world when one said, bestow your heart on me, and I require no further bestowing; and the bestowing of love, though nothing but love, was something worth.
2. Such a world there was, but that world is worn out. Love and all is put out to interest.
3. Such is now the world's love, but specially at Corinth, where they set love to hire and love to sale.
4. There is no remedy then. St. Paul must apply himself to time and place wherein love depends upon yielding and paying.
5. Now, there is nothing so pliant as love, ever ready to transform itself to whatsoever may have likelihood to prevail.
6. St. Paul therefore cometh to it; and as he maketh his case a Father's case towards them.
7. Yea, "I will bestow." Now, alas! what can Paul bestow? Especially upon so wealthy citizens? What hath he to part with but his books and parchments? Ware, at Athens perhaps somewhat; but at Corinth, little used and less regarded. But, by the grace of God, there is something else. There be treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ Jesus. Indeed, this it is St. Paul can bestow; and this it is Corinth needs, and the more wealthy it is the more.But it is much more to be bestowed than to bestow.
1. For, first, they that bestow give but of their fruits; but he that is bestowed giveth fruit, tree, and all. Himself is in the deed of gift too.
2. Secondly, before there was but one act; here, in one, are both bestowing and being bestowed, and there being both must needs be better than one.
3. Thirdly, before that which was bestowed, what was it? Our good, not our blood; our living, not our life.
4. And indeed we see many can be content to bestow frankly, but at no hand. to be bestowed themselves. But hither, also, will St. Paul come without any reservation at all of himself; to do or suffer, "to spend or be spent." Bow to be spent? will he die? Yea, indeed. What, presently here at Corinth? No; for at this time and long after he was still alive. If there be no way to be bestowed but by dying out of hand; they that in field receive the bullet, or they that at the stake have the fire set to them, they and they only may be said to be bestowed. That is a way indeed, but not the only way. And that is said to be bestowed, not only that is defrayed at one entire payment, but that which by several sums is paid in, especially if it be when it is not due, nor could not be called for. By intentive meditation (for his books and parchments took somewhat from his sum), by sorrow and grief of heart he bestowed himself by inchmeal. And so far it is the case of all them that be in his case, as Christ termeth them the light of the world, lighting others and wasting themselves. True it is we value the inward affection above the outward action or passion. With men it is so too. When a displeasure is done us, say we not, we weigh not so much the injury itself as the malicious mind of him that did offer it? And if in evil it hold, why not in good much more? And will you see the mind wherewith St. Paul will do both these? Bestow he will and be bestowed too, and that not in any sort be contented to come to it, but willingly; willingly, nay readily, readily, nay gladly, most gladly. And now must we pause a little to see what will become of all this, and what these will work in the Corinthians. We marvel at the love, we shall more marvel when we see what manner of .men on whom it is bestowed. He complaineth though that, seeking their love, and nothing else, so hard was his hap, he found it not. And as he to be pitied, so they to be blamed. All other commodities return well from Corinth, only love is no traffic. St. Paul cannot make his own again, but must be a great loser withal. But all this while he lived still under hope, hope of winning their love for whose sakes he had trod under foot the love of himself. Love endureth not the name of difficulty, but shameth to confess anything too hard or too dangerous for it. For, verily, unkindness is a mighty enemy and the wounds of it deep. It serveth first to possess our souls of that excellent virtue, the greatest of the three. Nay, the virtue without which the rest be but ciphers — love. But love, the action of virtue, not the passion of vice. Love, not of the body, but of the soul, the precious soul of man (Proverbs 6.). And for them and for their love to be ready to prove it by St. Paul's trial. They that do thus, no good can be spoken of their love answerable to the desert of it. Heavenly it is, and in heaven to receive the reward. But when all is done we must take notice of the world's nature. For, as St. Paul left it, so we shall find it (that is) we shall not perhaps meet with that regard we promise ourselves. Surely, if love or well-doing or any good must perish (which is the second motive), and be lost through somebody's default (where it lighteth), much better it is that it perish in the Corinthians' hands than in Paul's; by them, in their evil receiving, than in his not bestowing. For so the sin shall be theirs, and we and our souls innocent before God. But perish it shall not. For howsoever of them it may be truly said, the more we love the less they; of Christ it never can nor ever shall be said. For St. Paul, for the little love at their hands, found the greater at His. Not lost, but laid out; not cast away, but employed on Him for whose love none ever hath or shall bestow aught but he shall receive a hundredfold.
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