2 Corinthians 1:12-24
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom…
On our behalf were the closing words of the preceding verse, and St. Paul would now impress upon the Corinthians that he was worthy of their confidence and affection. And yet, further, if their regard had been manifested by intercessions in his behalf, he wished to assure them that he had in his own mind a blessed witness to the truth and sincerity of his apostolic work. Conscience was this witness. It testified that, "in simplicity and godly sincerity" ("godly honesty and singleness," "a plain, single mind"), and with, out any carnal wisdom that is begotten of selfish intellect, and under the control of grace determining the matter and manner of his preaching, he had shown his character and done his work at Corinth. This was his "rejoicing;" it was inward, it was from God; it applied to his "conduct in the world," and especially to his labours among the Corinthians. Were they not the witnesses of all this? How could he be charged with duplicity? They read his heart in the letters written to their Church, and acknowledged his open and frank dealing. Certain persons were sharply censorious, questioning his integrity, attributing baseness to his motives, but some had testified to his "simplicity and godly sincerity," and rejoiced in his apostleship. And they and he would be united in this bond till the end, the day of the Lord Jesus. The day was already anticipated, and even now the "rejoicing" was a foretaste of its bliss. Such was his pleasure in them that, he had been anxious to visit Corinth and confer "a second benefit," and so enlarge his usefulness in their community, and bind their hearts and his in a fellowship closer, firmer, tenderer. Two visits had been intended. Circumstances had changed his purpose. Was he, then, light-minded, fickle, irresolute? The explicit statement of the reason is delayed, but, while not assigning at the moment the cause of postponing the visit, he meets the charges of his enemies by speaking the stern, strong language of that internal authority, the conscience, to which he had just referred. Was he playing the part of a trifler and deceiver by raising expectations he never meant to fulfil? Was he carnally minded, saying, "Yea, yea, and nay, nay," so emphatically? If he had this shifting and variable intellect (so said his enemies), what dependence was to be placed in such an apostle? Then the solemn protestation breaks forth, "As God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay." It was our purpose to come to you, but it was changed in the spirit of the gospel, and just as certainly as the preaching of Christ in this gospel was "yea," just so certainly was our conduct in this matter in the "yea" of the gospel, i.e. truthful and reliable. All God's promises were made to be kept, and they are "yea" in Christ and we are "yea" in him. The response of the Church is "Amen," and it glorifies God through our instrumentality, All is in the Spirit of Christ - our preaching, promising, and living. God has made us firm and strong in Christ, has given us the unction of his Spirit, so that while Jesus of Nazareth was by distinction the Anointed, and received the Holy Ghost without measure, he has taken us, apostles and believers, unto himself, and conferred on us the gifts of grace. We are "sealed;" the mark is evident that we belong to Christ, and this "earnest" or pledge is "in our hearts." On the broad ground of his apostolic ministry and fidelity to its obligations, St. Paul makes his first defence as to sincerity and consistency. The charge of his adversaries, that he was guilty of double-dealing, is without foundation. His teaching and its results were proofs beyond question that he was anointed to his work, and these believers were the acknowledgment, the "Amen," that certified the fact. Why did he defend himself, at first, in this general way? Why not come at once to the specific reason for not visiting Corinth as he had promised? The reason is obvious. These Judaizers were striking at his apostleship, and the true issue between him and them turned on this point. What did they care about the assurance that he was coming to Corinth? This was a small matter. The main thing with his opponents, in their fiery zeal, was to overthrow the power of his ministry among the Gentiles by heaping contempt on his character and couduct. St. Paul saw this clearly, and hence his line of argument, lie appealed to his ministry, to its fruits, most of all to the fact that the "yea" here was "yea," and the "Amen" of all converted souls was the endorsement of its success. And having met these slanders precisely in the form they were designed to affect him, he proceeds to tell the Corinthians why he had failed at the time to make them a visit. Hoping that his letter would lead them to see their grievous errors and induce them to repent and amend, he bad deferred the journey to Corinth. "To spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth." The "rod" of severity (1 Corinthians 4:21) might not be needed, it would not if they administered the proper discipline in the case of the incestuous man and rectified the disorders in the Church. lind he not asked them to decide whether he should come to them "with a rod, or in love and in the spirit of meekness"? In this spirit of tender conciliation he had waited to see the issue. And now, vindicating his action in this matter, he solemnly appeals to God to be a witness against his soul if he had not spoken the truth. "I call God for a record upon my soul." Was not the case very clear? In what stronger light could it be put? There was the testimony of conscience, the seal of God, the unction and the earnest, the yea and the Amen; and here, last of all, the calling on God to testify against him if he had been untruthful. But, writing as he was under the consciousness that every word would be subjected by his adversaries to a merciless criticism, he would explain that he claimed no "dominion" over their "faith." In fact, they were steadfast in the faith, and his only wish was to be a helper of their joy. Thus ends the first chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. It is personal in an uncommon degree, a revelation of the man and the apostle in one of the critical periods of his career. Yet it is not a new revelation, but rather a fuller disclosure of what had been previously seen in part. No man can be known in one attitude and aspect, To see him in a single light and from a fixed angle of observation is impossible. Sculptors and painters, in representing men, work under this limitation. They select a characteristic expression, a dominant appearance, an historic moment. But not so with the historian, the poet, the dramatist. St. Luke in the Acts gives us St. Paul in various positions; but St. Paul is his own biographer, and, in this chapter, admits us to the privacy of his heart. Throughout the Second Epistle we shall enjoy this inner communion with him, and feel every moment the heart that throbs beneath the words. - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
WEB: For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God we behaved ourselves in the world, and more abundantly toward you.