2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:…
True religion is very simple and very deep. A s simple as this statement, "God is good"; as deep as life and death. But it has ever been hard for men to receive religion in all its simplicity and in all its depth. They want something they can touch and handle, something to fill the imagination, something with many colours to attract the eye. And human teachers have ever been ready to adapt themselves to this craving, and have put their teaching into a shape in which they thought it most likely to be received. And yet it is sometimes the part of the Christian minister, in following the example of Christ and of St. Paul, to "use great plainness of speech": to tell the people, not what they most wish or expect to hear, not what is most in accordance with their previous ideas and prejudices, but what he himself thinks and knows, what he has found in his own experience to be of lasting value, or, in Scriptural language, the truth which he believes that he has heard of God. St. Paul made the greatest effort that was ever made by any one, excepting only Christ, to bring men to receive a spiritual religion. He strove to show to the Jew that God in Christ was the Father of all men, and not of the Jew only; that righteousness meant not the mere outward performance of certain acts, but a right attitude of the heart towards God. And we read in this Epistle to the Corinthians that this teaching of St. Paul was "to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness." Now, why was this? Let us try to imagine how they must have felt in listening to him. Let us imagine the Jew being told that the law of Moses was abolished and done away, that the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin; that the Passover, the commemoration of the great deliverance that had first made the Jews a nation, was only a type and a shadow which was vanishing; that the peculiar people must no longer think that Jehovah had any special regard for them, but must learn to embrace the Gentiles, who for half their lives had been polluting themselves with abominations of idols. Was this, the Jewish objector might say — was this, indeed, to stand upon the ancient paths and to restore the desolations of many generations? Was it not rather to remove the landmarks, to tear up the foundations? Such then was the nature of the offence which the teaching of St. Paul gave to the Jew. Let us now turn and ask what impression it was likely to produce upon the Gentiles. I think I hear one of them crying, "What will this babbler say? And are we not to worship the sun going forth as a giant to run his course, nor the moon walking in brightness, nor the earth, nor the glorious heaven that smiles on us with pure radiance in the daytime and gazes on us with a thousand eyes at night? The Diana of the Ephesians, the Jupiter of Lystria or of Athens, these are to be nothing to us. Those are no gods, you tell us, that are made with hands. Would you take from them the only stay, the only consolation which they have amid the miseries of their feeble life, and offer them instead an unseen God, to be comprehended only with the mind! Take heed that you are not destroying what you cannot restore." Now St. Paul was not the first nor the last who in teaching a spiritual religion, in trying to open a way between the soul of man and the Spirit of God, had won for himself amongst the people of his own time the name of a godless and irreligious man. Isaiah is heard proclaiming in the name of God, "Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth, they are a trouble unto me, I am weary to bear them. Bring no more vain oblations. Cease to do evil, learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." And Ezekiel is heard to cry, "The son shall not bear the iniquity of his father. The soul that sinneth, it shall die." But Isaiah fell a victim to the idolatrous fanaticism of his countrymen, and of Ezekiel the people said, "Doth he not speak parables?" And so all the Hebrew prophets, one by one, bore witness equally against the formalism and idolatry of the people, and were rejected equally. And what of Christ Himself? Was He not put to death for blasphemy: because He had said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up," and because He told the Chief Priests that "The hour was coming when the Son of Man should sit on the right hand of Power"? We need not fear, then, or be discouraged, if it should be found that in some matters either of doctrine or of custom and tradition there is still a veil upon the people's heart which clouds for them the perfect vision of the righteousness and goodness, the justice and mercy, of Almighty God: nor should the Christian teacher, who thinks he sees it is so, shrink from trying to remove the veil: if he may hope thereby to bring the minds of his countrymen nearer to a pure and spiritual religion. Least of all is he to be deterred by the imputation of impiety, or of infidelity and atheism, which has been shared by all religious teachers who have had anything to tell mankind, including Christ Himself. But still the unveiling of Divine truth to human apprehensions must be a gradual process, and is not to be completed in this life, and the same St. Paul who says, "That we all, beholding with open face the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory," had already said to this same Corinthian Church, "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as I also am known."
(Prof. Lewis Campbell.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: