RPM, Volume 18, Number 34, August 14 to August 20, 2016

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament
Explanatory and Practical
Part 67

By Albert Barnes



Introduction to 2nd Corinthians Chapter 12

THIS chapter is a continuation of the same general subject which was discussed in the two previous chapters. The general design of the apostle is to defend himself from the charges brought against him in Corinth; and especially, as would appear, from the charge that he had no claims to the character of an apostle. In the previous chapters he had met these charges, and had shown that he had just cause to be bold towards them; that he had in his life given evidence that he was called to this work; and especially that by his successes and by his sufferings he had shown that he had evidence that he had been truly engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus. This chapter contains the following subjects :—

(1.) Paul appeals to another evidence that he was engaged in the apostolic office—an evidence to which none of his accusers could appeals that he had been permitted to behold the glories of the heavenly world, 2 Co 12:1-10. In the previous chapter he had mentioned his trials. Here he says, (2 Co 12:1) that as they had compelled him to boast, he would mention the revelation which he had had of the Lord. He details, therefore, the remarkable vision which he had had several years before, (2 Co 12:2-4,) when he was caught up to heaven, and permitted to behold the wonders there. Yet he says, that lest such an extraordinary manifestation should exalt him above measure, he was visited with a sore and peculiar trial—a trial from which he prayed earnestly to be delivered, but that he received answer that the grace of God would be sufficient to support him, 2 Co 12:5-9. It was in view of this, he says, (2 Co 12:10,) that he had pleasure in infirmities and sufferings in the cause of the Redeemer.

(2.) He then (2 Co 12:11,12) sums up what he had said; draws the conclusion that he had given every sign or evidence that he was an apostle; that in all that pertained to toil, and patience, and miracles, he had shown that he was commissioned by the Saviour; though with characteristic modesty he said he was nothing.

(3.) He then expresses his purpose to come again and see them, and his intention then not to be burdensome to them, 2 Co 12:13-15. He was willing to labour for them, and to exhaust his strength in endeavouring to promote their welfare without receiving support from them; for he regarded himself in the light of a father to them, and it was not usual for children to support their parents.

(4.) In connexion with this, he answers another charge against himself. Some accused him of being crafty; that though he did not burden them, yet he knew well how to manage so as to secure what he wanted without burdening them, or seeming to receive anything from them, 2 Co 12:16. To this he answers by an appeal to fact. Particularly he appeals to the conduct of Titus when with them, in full proof that he had no such design, 2 Co 12:17-19.

(5.) In the conclusion of the chapter he expresses his fear that when he should come among them he would find much that would humble them, and give him occasion for severity of discipline, 2 Co 12:20,21. This apprehension is evidently expressed in order that they might be led to examine themselves, and to put away whatever was wrong.

Verse 1. It is not expedient. It is not well; it does not become me. This may either mean that he felt and admitted that it did not become him to boast in this manner; that there was an impropriety in his doing it, though circumstances had compelled him—and in this sense it is understood by nearly, or quite, all expositors; or it may be taken ironically: "Such a man as I am ought not to boast. So you say, and so it would seem. A man who has done no more than I have; who has suffered nothing; who has been idle and at ease as I have been, ought surely not to boast. And since there is such an evident impropriety in my boasting and speaking about myself, I will turn to another matter, and inquire whether the same thing may not be said about visions and revelations. I will speak, therefore, of a man who had some remarkable revelations, and inquire whether he has any right to boast of the favours imparted to him." This seems to me to be the probable interpretation of this passage.

To glory. To boast, 2 Co 10:8,13; 11:10.

One of the charges which they alleged against him was, that he was given to boasting without any good reason. After the enumeration in the previous chapter of what he had done and suffered, he says that this was doubtless very true. Such a man has nothing to boast of.

I will come. Marg., "For I will." Our translators have omitted the word (gar) for in the text, evidently supposing that it is a mere expletive. Doddridge renders it, "nevertheless." But it seems to me that it contains an important sense, and that it should be rendered by THEN: "Since it is not fit that I should glory, then I will refer to visions, etc. I will turn away, then, from that subject, and come to another." Thus the word (gar) is used in Joh 7:41, "Shall, THEN, (mh gar) Christ come out of Galilee?" Ac 8:31, "How can I, THEN, (pwv gar) except some man should guide me" See also Ac 19:35; Ro 3:3; Php 1:18.

To visions. The word vision is used in the Scriptures often to denote the mode in which Divine communications were usually made to men. This was done by causing some scene to appear to pass before the mind as in a landscape, so that the individual seemed to see a representation of what was to occur in some future period. It was usually applied to prophecy, and is often used in the Old Testament. See Barnes "Isa 1:1, and also See Barnes "Ac 9:10".

The vision which Paul here refers to was that which he was permitted to have of the heavenly world, 2 Co 12:4. He was permitted to see what perhaps no other mortal had seen, the glory of heaven.

And revelations of the Lord. Which the Lord had made. Or it may mean manifestations which the Lord had made of himself to him. The word rendered revelations means, properly, an uncovering, apokaluqeiv, from apokaluptw, to uncover; and denotes a removal of the vail of ignorance and darkness, so that an object may be clearly seen; and is thus applied to truth revealed, because the obscurity is removed, and the truth becomes manifest.

{1} "I will come" "For I will"


Verse 2. I knew a man in Christ. I was acquainted with a Christian; the phrase, "in Christ," meaning nothing more than that he was united to Christ, or was a Christian. See Ro 16:7. The reason why Paul did not speak of this directly as a vision which he had himself seen, was probably that he was accused of boasting, and he had admitted that it did not become him to glory. But though it did not become him to boast directly, yet he could tell them of a man concerning whom there would be no impropriety evidently in boasting. It is not uncommon, moreover, for a man to speak of himself in the third person. Thus Caesar in his Commentaries uniformly speaks of himself. And so John in his Gospel speaks of himself, Joh 13:23,24; 19:26; 21:20.

John did it on account of his modesty, because he would not appear to put himself forward, and because the mention of his own name, as connected with the friendship of the Saviour in the remarkable manner in which he enjoyed it, might have savoured of pride. For a similar reason Paul may have been unwilling to mention his own name here; and he may have abstained from referring to this occurrence elsewhere because it might savour of pride, and might also excite the envy or ill-will of others. Those who have been most favoured with spiritual enjoyments will not be the most ready to proclaim it. They will cherish the remembrance in order to excite gratitude in their own hearts, and support them in trial; they will not blazon it abroad as if they were more the favourites of Heaven than others are. That this refers to Paul himself is evident for the following reasons:

(1) His argument required that he should mention something that had occurred to himself. Anything that had occurred to another would not have been pertinent.

(2.) He applies it directly to himself, (Co 12:7,) when he says that God took effectual measures that he should not be unduly exalted in view of the abundant revelations bestowed on him.

About fourteen years ago. On what occasion, or where this occurred, or why he concealed the remarkable fact so long, and why there is no other allusion to it, is unknown; and conjecture is useless. If this epistle was written, as is commonly supposed, about the year 58, then this occurrence must have happened about the year 44. This was several years after his conversion, and of course this does not refer to the trance mentioned in Ac 9:9, at the time when he was converted. Dr. Benson supposes that this vision was made to him when he was praying in the temple after his return to Jerusalem, when he was directed to go from Jerusalem to the Gentiles, (Ac 22:17,) and that it was intended to support him in the trials which he was about to endure. There can be little danger of error in supposing that its object was to support him in those remarkable trials, and that God designed to impart to him such views of heaven and its glory, and of the certainty that he would soon be admitted there, as to support him in his sufferings, and make him willing to bear all that should be laid upon him. God often gives to his people some clear and elevated spiritual comforts before they enter into trials, as well as while in them; he prepares them for them before they come. This vision Paul had kept secret for fourteen years. He had doubtless often thought of it; and the remembrance of that glorious hour was doubtless one of the reasons why he bore trials so patiently, and was willing to endure so much. But before this he had had no occasion to mention it. He had other proofs in abundance that he was called to the work of an apostle; and to mention this would savour of pride and ostentation. It was only when he was compelled to refer to the evidences of his apostolic mission that he refers to it here.

Whether in the body, I cannot tell. That is, I do not pretend to explain it. I do not know how it occurred. With the fact he was acquainted; but how it was brought about he did not know. Whether the body was caught up to heaven; whether the soul was for a time separated from the body; or whether the scene passed before the mind in a vision, so that he seemed to have been caught up to heaven, he does not pretend to know. The evident idea is, that at the time he was in a state of insensibility in regard to surrounding objects, and was unconscious of what was occurring, as if he had been dead. Where Paul confesses his own ignorance of what occurred to himself, it would be vain for us to inquire; and the question how this was done is immaterial. No one can doubt that God had power, if he chose, to transport the body to heaven; or that he had power for a time to separate the soul from the body; or that he had power to represent to the mind so clearly the view of the heavenly world, that he would appear to see it. See Ac 7:56. It is clear only that he lost all consciousness of anything about him at that time, and that he saw only the things in heaven. It may be added here, however, that Paul evidently supposed that his soul might be taken to heaven without the body, and that it might have separate consciousness, and a separate existence. He was not, therefore, a materialist, and he did not believe that the existence and consciousness of the soul was dependent on the body.

God knoweth. With the mode in which it was done, God only could be acquainted. Paul did not attempt to explain that. That was to him of comparatively little consequence, and he did not lose his time in a vain attempt to explain it. How happy would it be if all theologians were as ready to be satisfied with the knowledge of a fact, and to leave the mode of explaining it with God, as this prince of theologians was. Many a man would have busied himself with a vain speculation about the way in which it was done; Paul was contented with the fact that it had occurred.

Such an one caught up. The word which is here used (arpazw) means, to seize upon, to snatch away as wolves do their prey, (Joh 10:12;) or to seize with avidity or eagerness, Mt 11:12; or to carry away, to hurry off by force, or involuntarily. See Joh 6:15; Ac 8:39; 23:10.

In the case before us there is implied the idea that Paul was conveyed by a foreign force; or that he was suddenly seized and snatched up to heaven. The word expresses the suddenness and the rapidity with which it was done. Probably it was instantaneous, so that he appeared, at once to be in heaven. Of the mode in which it was done, Paul has given no explanations; and conjecture would be useless.

To the third heaven. The Jews sometimes speak of seven heavens, and Mohammed has borrowed this idea from the Jews. But the Bible speaks of but three heavens; and among the Jews in the apostolic ages, also, the heavens were divided into three:

(1.) The aerial, including the clouds and the atmosphere, the heavens above us, until we come to the stars.

(2.) The starry heavens—the heavens in which the sun, moon, and stars appear to be situated.

(3.) The heavens beyond the stars. That heaven was supposed to be the residence of God, of angels, and of holy spirits. It was this upper heaven, the dwelling-place of God, to which Paul was taken, and whose wonders he was permitted to behold—this region where God dwelt, where Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father, and where the spirits of the just were assembled. The fanciful opinions of the Jews about seven heavens may be seen detailed in Schoettgen or in Wetstein, by whom the principal passages from the Jewish writings relating to the subject have been collected. As their opinions throw no light on this passage, it is unnecessary to detail them here.

{a} "in Christ" Ro 16:7

{2} "fourteen years ago" "A.D. 46" Ac 22:17


Verse 3. And I knew such a man. It is not uncommon to repeat a solemn affirmation in order that it may be made more emphatic. This is done here. Paul repeats the idea, that he was intimately acquainted with such a man, and that he did not know whether he was in the body or out of the body. All that was known to God.


Verse 4. Into paradise. The word paradise (paradeison) occurs but three times in the New Testament, Lu 23:43; Re 2:7; and in this place. It occurs often in the Septuagint, as the translation of the word garden, Ge 2:8-10,15,16; 3:1-3,8,10,23,24; 13:10; Nu 24:6; Eze 28:13; 31:8,9; Joe 2:3.

And also Isa 1:30; Jer 29:5; and of the word Pardes in Ne 2:8; Ec 2:5; So 4:13.

It is a word which had its origin in the language of eastern Asia, and which has been adopted in the Greek, the Roman, and other western languages. In Sanscrit, the word paradesha means a land elevated and cultivated; in Armenian, pardes denotes a garden around the house planted with trees, shrubs, grass, for use and ornament. In Persia, the word denotes the pleasure-gardens and parks with wild animals around the country residences of the monarchs and princes. Hence it denotes in general a garden of pleasure; and in the New Testament is applied to the abodes of the blessed after death, the dwelling-place of God and of happy spirits; or to heaven as a place of blessedness. Some have supposed that Paul here, by the word "paradise," means to describe a different place from that denoted by the phrase "the third heaven;" but there is no good reason for this supposition. The only difference is, that this word implies the idea of a place of blessedness; but the same place is undoubtedly referred to.

And heard unspeakable words. The word which is here rendered "unspeakable," (arrhta) may either mean what cannot be spoken, or what ought not to be spoken. The word means unutterable, ineffable; and whichever idea we attach to it, Paul meant to say that he could not attempt by words to do justice to what he saw and heard. The use of the word "words" here would seem to imply that he heard the language of exalted praise; or that there were truths imparted to his mind which he could not hope to convey in any language spoken by men.

Which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Marg., "possible." Witsius supposes that the word exon may include both, and Doddridge accords with the interpretation. See also Robinson's Lexicon. The word is most commonly used in the signification of lawful. Thus, Mt 14:4, "It is not lawful for thee to have her;" Ac 16:21, "Which it is not lawful for us to observe;" Ac 22:25, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman," etc. In the same sense of lawful it is used in Mt 12:2,10,12; Mt 20:15; Mr 2:26; 10:2.

When it refers to possibility, it probably means moral possibility; that is, propriety, or it means that it is right. It seems to me, therefore, that the word here rather means that it was not proper to give utterance to those things; it would not be right to attempt it. It might be also true that it would not have been possible for language to convey clearly the ideas connected with the things which Paul was then permitted to see; but the main thought is, that there was some reason why it would not be proper for him to have attempted to communicate those ideas to men at large. The Jews held that it was unlawful to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, i.e., the name of four letters, (HEBREW,) JEHOVAH; and whenever that name occurred in their Scriptures, they substituted the name Adonai in its place. They maintain, indeed, that the true pronunciation is utterly lost, and none of them to this day attempt to pronounce it. But this was mere superstition; and it is impossible that Paul should have been influenced by any such reason as this.

The transaction here referred to is very remarkable. It is the only instance in the Scriptures of any one who was taken to heaven, either in reality or in vision, and who returned again to the earth, and was then qualified to communicate important truths about the heavenly world from personal observation. Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven; but they returned not to converse with men. Elijah appeared with Moses in conversation with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration; but they conversed with him only about his decease, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem, Lu 9:31. There would have been no propriety for them to have spoken to Jesus of heaven, for he came down from heaven and was in heaven, (Joh 3:13,) and they were not permitted to speak to the disciples of heaven. Lazarus was raised from the dead, (Joh 11), and many of the saints which had slept in their graves arose at the death of Jesus, (Mt 27:52,) but there is no intimation that they communicated anything to the living about the heavenly world. Of all the millions who have been taken to heaven, not one has been permitted to return to bear his testimony to its glories; to witness for God that he is faithful to his promises; to encourage his pious friends to persevere; or to invite his impenitent friends to follow him to that glorious world. And so fixed is the law, so settled is the principle, that even Lazarus was not permitted to go, though at the earnest request of the rich man in hell, and warn his friends not to follow him to that world of woe, Lu 16:27-31. Mohammed, indeed, feigned that he had made a journey to heaven, and he attempts to describe what he saw; and the difference between true inspiration and false or pretended inspiration is strikingly evinced by the difference between Paul's dignified silence—verba sacro digna silentio (Horace)—and the puerilities of the prophet of Mecca. See the Koran, chap. xvii. As the difference between the true religion and imposture is strikingly illustrated by this, we may recur to the principal events which happened to the impostor on his celebrated journey. The whole account may be seen in Prideaux's Life of Mohammed, p. 43, seq. He solemnly affirmed that he had been translated to the heaven of heavens; that on a white beast, less than a mule, but larger than an ass, he had been conveyed from the temple of Mecca to that of Jerusalem; had successively ascended the seven heavens with his companion Gabriel, receiving and returning the salutations of its blessed inhabitants; had then proceeded alone within two bow-shots of the throne of the Almighty, when he felt a cold which pierced him to the heart, and was touched on the shoulder by the hand of God, who commanded him to pray fifty times a day, but with the advice of Moses he was prevailed on to have the number reduced to five; and that he then returned to Jerusalem and to Mecca, having performed a journey of thousands of years in the tenth part of a night.

The fact that Paul was not permitted to communicate what he had seen is very remarkable. It is natural to ask why it is so? Why has not God sent down departed saints to tell men of the glories of heaven? Why does he not permit them to come and bear testimony to what they have seen and enjoyed? Why not come and clear up the doubts of the pious; why not come and convince a thoughtless world; why not come and bear honourable testimony for God that he is faithful to reward his people? And especially why did he not suffer Paul, whom he had permitted to behold the glories of paradise, to testify simply to what he had seen, and tell us what was there?

To these questions, so obvious, it is impossible to give an answer that we can demonstrate to be the true one. But we may suggest some reasons which may furnish a plausible answer, and which may serve to remove some of the perplexity in the case. I would, therefore, suggest that the following may have been some of the reasons why Paul was not permitted to communicate what he saw to men:

(1.) It was designed for the support of Paul himself, in view of the very remarkable trials which he was about to endure. God had called him to great toils and self-denials. He was to labour much alone; to go to foreign lands; to be persecuted, and ultimately put to death; and it was his purpose to qualify him for this work by some peculiar manifestation of his favour. He accordingly gave him such views of heaven that he would be supported in his trials by a conviction of the undoubted truth of what he taught, and by the prospect of certain glory when his labours should end. It was one instance when God gave peculiar views to prepare for trials, as he often does to his people now, preparing them in a peculiar manner for peculiar trials. Christians, from some cause, often have more elevated views and deeper feeling before they are called to endure trials than they have at other times—peculiar grace to prepare them for suffering. But as this was designed in a peculiar manner for Paul alone, it was not proper for him to communicate what he saw to others.

(2.) It is probable that if there were a full revelation of the glories of heaven, we should not be able to comprehend it; or even if we did, we should be incredulous in regard to it. So unlike what we see; so elevated above our highest comprehension; probably so unlike what we now anticipate, is heaven, that we should be slow to receive the revelation. It is always difficult to describe what we have not seen, even on earth, so that we shall have any very clear idea of it: how much more difficult must it be to describe heaven! We are often incredulous about what is reported to exist in foreign lands on earth, which we have not seen, and a long time is often necessary before we will believe it. The king of Siam, when told by the Dutch ambassador that water became so hard in his country that men might walk on it, said, "I have often suspected you of falsehood, but now I know that you lie." So incredulous might we be, with our weak faith, if we were told what-actually exists in heaven. We should not improbably turn away from it as wholly incredible.

(3.) There are great truths which it is not the design of God to reveal to men. The object is to communicate enough to win us, to comfort us, to support our faith—not to reveal all. In eternity there must be boundless truths and glories which are not needful for us to know now, and which, on many accounts, it would not be proper to be revealed to men. The question is not, do we know all, but have we enough safely to guide us to heaven, and to comfort us in the trials of life.

(4.) There is enough revealed of heaven for our guidance and comfort in this world. God has told us what it will be in general. It will be a world without sin; without tears; without wrong, injustice, fraud, or wars; without disease, pestilence, plague, death; and it is easy to fill up the picture sufficiently for all our purposes. Let us think of a world where all shall be pure and holy; of a world free from all that we now behold that is evil; free from pain, disease, death; a world where "friends never depart, foes never come;" a world where all shall be harmony and love—and where all this shall be ETERNAL; and we shall see that God has revealed enough for our welfare here. The highest hopes of man are met when we anticipate AN ETERNAL HEAVEN; the heaviest trials may be cheerfully borne when we have the prospect of EVERLASTING REST.

(5.) One other reason may be assigned why it was not proper for Paul to disclose what he saw, and why God has withheld more full revelations from men about heaven. It is, that his purpose is that we shall here walk by faith and not by sight. We are not to see the reward, nor to be told fully what it is. We are to have such confidence in God that we shall assuredly believe that he will fully reward and bless us, and under this confidence we are to live and act here below. God designs, therefore, to try our faith, and to furnish an abundant evidence that his people are disposed to obey his commands, and to put their trust in his faithfulness. Besides, if all the glories of heaven were revealed; if all were told that might be; and if heaven were made as attractive to mortal view as possible, then it might appear that his professed people were influenced solely by the hope of the reward. As it is, there is enough to support and comfort; not enough to make it the main and only reason why we serve God. It may be added,

(a.) that we have all the truth which we shall ever have about heaven here below. No other messenger will come; none of the pious dead will return. If men, therefore, are not willing to be saved in view of the truth which they have, they must be lost. God will communicate no more.

(b.) The Christian will soon know all about heaven. He will soon be there. He begins no day with any certainty that he may not close it in heaven; he lies down to rest at no time with any assurance that he will not wake in heaven, amidst its full and eternal splendours.

(c.) The sinner will soon know fully what it is to lose heaven. A moment may make him fully sensible of his loss—for he may die; and a moment may put him for ever beyond the possibility of reaching a world of glory.

{a} "and hear unspeakable words" Lu 23:43; Re 2:7

{1} "lawful" "possible"


Verse 5. Of such an one will I glory. Of such a man it would be right to boast. It would be admitted that it is right to exult in such a man, and to esteem him to be peculiarly favoured by God. I will boast of him as having received peculiar honour from the Lord. Bloomfield, however, supposes that the words rendered "of such an one" should be translated "of such a thing," or of such a transaction; meaning, "I can indeed justly boast of my being caught up to heaven, as of a thing the whole glory of which pertains to him who has thus exalted me; but of myself, or of anything in me, I will not boast." So Rosenmuller explains it. But it seems to me that the connexion requires that we should understand it of a person, and that the passage is partly ironical. Paul speaks in the third person. He chooses to keep himself directly out of view. And though he refers really to himself, yet he would not say this directly, but says that of such a man they would admit it would be proper to boast.

Yet of myself. Directly. It is not expedient for me to boast of myself. "You would allow me to boast of such a man as I have referred to; I admit that it is not proper for me to boast directly of myself."

But in mine infirmities. My weaknesses, trials, pains, sufferings; such as many regard as infirmities. See Barnes "2 Co 11:30".

{a} "of myself" 2 Co 12:9,10; 11:30

{*} "infirmities" "me weakness"


Verse 6. For though I would desire to glory. I take this to be a solemn and serious declaration of the irony which precedes; and that Paul means to say seriously, that if he had a wish to boast as other men boasted, if he chose to make much of his attainments and privileges, he would have enough of which to make mention. It would not be mere empty boasting without any foundation or any just cause, for he had as much of which to speak in a confident manner pertaining to his labours as an apostle, and his evidence of the Divine favour, as could be urged by any one. "I might go on to speak much more than I have done, and to urge claims which all would admit to be well-founded."

I shall not be a fool." It would not be foolish boasting; for it would be according to truth. I could urge much more than I have done; I could speak of things which no one would be disposed to call in question as laying the foundation of just claims to my being regarded as eminently favoured of God; I could seriously state what all would admit to be such."

For I will say the truth. That is, "Whatever I should say on this subject would be the simple truth. I should mention nothing which has not actually occurred. But I forbear, lest some one should form an improper estimate of me." The apostle seems to have intended to have added something more, but he was checked by the apprehension to which he here refers. Or perhaps he means to say, that if he should boast of the vision to which he had just referred, if he should go on to say how highly he had been honoured and exalted by it, there would be no impropriety in it. It was so remarkable, that if he confined himself strictly to the truth, as he would do, still it would be regarded by all as a very extraordinary honour, and one to which no one of the false teachers could refer as laying a foundation for his boasting.

Lest any man should think of me, etc. The idea in this part of the verse I take to be this: "I desire and expect to be estimated by my public life. I expect to be judged of men by my deeds, by what they see in me, and by my general reputation in respect to what I have done in establishing the Christian religion. I am willing that my character and reputation, that the estimate in which I shall be held by mankind, shall rest on that. I do not wish that my character among men shall be determined by my secret feelings; or by any secret extraordinary communication from heaven which I may have, and which cannot be subjected to the observation of my fellow-men. I am willing to be estimated by my public life; and however valuable such extraordinary manifestations may be to me as an individual, or however much they may comfort me, I do not wish to make them the basis of my public reputation. I expect to stand and be estimated by my public deeds; by what all men see and hear of me; and I would not have them form even a favourable opinion of me beyond that." This is the noble language of a man who was willing to enjoy such a reputation as his public life entitled him to. He wished to have the basis of his reputation such that all men could see and examine it. Unlike enthusiasts and fanatics, he appealed to no secret impulses; did not rest his claims for public confidence on any peculiar communications from heaven; but wished to be estimated by his public deeds. And the important truth taught is, that however much communion we may have with God; however much comfort and support in prayer, and in our favoured moments of fellowship with God; or however much we may fancy in this way that we are the favourites of Heaven; and however much this may support us in trial, still this should not be made the foundation of claim to the favourable opinions of our fellow-men. By our public character; by our well-known actions; by our lives as seen by men, we should desire to be estimated, and we should be satisfied with such a measure of public esteem as our deportment shall fairly entitle us to. We should seldom, perhaps, refer to our moments of secret, happy, and most favoured communion with God. Paul kept his most elevated joys, in this respect, secret for fourteen years: what an example to those who are constantly blazoning their Christian experience abroad, and boasting of what they have enjoyed! We should never refer to such moments as a foundation for the estimate in which our character shall be held by our fellow-men. We should never make this the foundation of a claim to the public confidence in us. For all such claims, for all the estimate in which we shall be held by men, we should be willing to be tried by our lives. Paul would not even make a vision of heaven— not even the privilege of having beheld the glories of the upper world, though a favour conferred on no other living man—a ground of the estimate in which his character should be held! What an example to those who wish to be estimated by secret raptures, and by special communications to their souls from heaven! No. Let us be willing to be estimated by men by what they see in us; to enjoy such a reputation as our conduct shall fairly entitle us to. Let our communion with God cheer our own hearts; but let us not obtrude this on men as furnishing a claim for an exalted standing in their estimation.

{+} "say" "speak"


Verse 7. And lest I should be exalted. Lest I should be spiritually proud; lest I should become self-confident and vain, and suppose that I was a special favourite of Heaven. If Paul was in danger of spiritual pride, who is not? If it was necessary for God to adopt some special measures to keep him humble, we are not to be surprised that the same thing should occur in other cases. There is abundant reason to believe that Paul was naturally a proud man. He was by nature self-confident; trusting in his own talents and attainments, and eminently ambitious. When he became a Christian, therefore, one of his besetting sins would be pride; and as he had been peculiarly favoured in his call to the apostleship; in his success as a preacher; in the standing which he had among the other apostles, and in the revelations imparted to him, there was also peculiar danger that he would become self-confident, and proud of his attainments. There is no danger that more constantly besets Christians, and even eminent Christians, than pride. There is no sin that is more subtle, insinuating, deceptive; none that lurks more constantly around the heart, and that finds a more ready entrance, than pride. He who has been characterized by pride before his conversion, will be in special danger of it afterwards; he who has eminent gifts in prayer, or in conversation, or in preaching, will be in special danger of it; he who is eminently successful will be in danger of it; and he who has any extraordinary spiritual comforts will be in danger of it. Of this sin he who lives nearest to God may be in most special danger; and he who is most eminent in piety should feel that he also occupies a position where the enemy will approach him in a sly and subtle manner, and where he is in peculiar danger of a fall. Possibly the fear that he might be in danger of being made proud by the flattery of his friends may have been one reason why Paul kept this thing concealed for fourteen years; and if men wish to keep themselves from the danger this sin, they should not be forward to speak even of the most favoured moments of their communion with God.

Through the abundance of the revelations. By my being raised thus to heaven, and by being permitted to behold the wonders of the heavenly world, as well as by the numerous communications which God had made to me at other times.

There was given to me. That is, God was pleased to appoint me. The word which Paul uses is worthy of special notice. It is that this "thorn in the flesh" was given to him, implying that it was a favour. He does not complain of it; he does not say it was sent in cruelty; he does not even speak of it as an affliction; he speaks of it as a gift, as any man would of a favour that had been bestowed. Paul had so clear a view of the benefits which resulted from it, that he regarded it as a favour, as Christians should every trial.

A thorn in the flesh. The word here used (skoloq) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, anything pointed or sharp, e.g., a stake or palisade, (Xen. Anab. 5,2,5;) or the point of a hook. The word is used in the Septuagint to denote a thorn or prickle, as a translation of HEBREW, (sir) in Hos 2:6, "I will hedge up thy way with thorns;" to denote a pricking briar in Eze 28:24, as a translation of HEBREW, (sillon,) meaning a thorn or prickle, such as is found in the shoots and twigs of the palm-tree; and to denote "pricks in the eyes," Nu 33:55, as a translation of HEBREW, (sikkim,) thorns or prickles. So far as the word here used is concerned, it means a sharp thorn or prickle; and the idea is, that the trial to which he refers was as troublesome and painful as such a thorn would be in the flesh. But whether he refers to some infirmity or pain in the flesh or the body is another question, and a question in which interpreters have been greatly divided in opinion. Every one who has become familiar with commentaries knows that almost every expositor has had his own opinion about this, and also that no one has been able to give any good reason for his own. Most of them have been fanciful; and many of them eminently ridiculous. Even Baxter, who was subject himself to some such disorder, supposes that it might be the stone or gravel; and the usually very judicious Doddridge supposes that the view which he had of the glories of heavenly objects so affected his nerves as to produce a paralytic disorder, and particularly a stammering in his speech, and perhaps also a ridiculous distortion of the countenance. This opinion was suggested by Whitby, and has been adopted also by Benson, Macknight, Slade, and Bloomfield. But though sustained by most respectable names, it would be easy to show that it is mere conjecture, and perhaps quite as improbable as any of the numerous opinions which have been maintained on the subject. If Paul's speech had been affected, and his face distorted, and his nerves shattered by such a sight, how could he doubt whether he was in the body or out of it when this occurred? Many of the Latin Fathers supposed that some unruly and ungovernable lust was intended. Chrysostom and Jerome suppose that he meant the headache; Tertullian, an earache; and Rosenmuller supposes that it was the gout in the head, (kopfgicht,) and that it was a periodical disorder such as affected him when he was with the Galatians, Ga 4:13. But all conjecture here is vain; and the numerous strange and ridiculous opinions of commentators is a melancholy attestation of their inclination to fanciful conjecture, where it is impossible, in the nature of the case, to ascertain the truth. All that can be known of this is, that it was some infirmity of the flesh, some bodily affliction or calamity, that was like the continual piercing of the flesh with a thorn, Ga 4:13; and that it was something that was designed to prevent spiritual pride. It is not indeed an improbable supposition that it was something that could be seen by others, and that thus tended to humble him when with them.

The messenger of Satan. Among the Hebrews it was customary to attribute severe and painful diseases to Satan. Comp. Job 2:6,7, See Barnes "Lu 13:16".

In the time of the Saviour, malignant spirits are known to have taken possession of the body in numerous cases, and to have produced painful bodily diseases; and Paul here says that Satan was permitted to bring this calamity on him.

To buffet me. To buffet, means to smite with the hand; then to maltreat in any way. The meaning is, that the effect and design of this was deeply to afflict him. Doddridge and Clarke suppose that the reference is here to the false teacher whom Satan had sent to Corinth, and who was to him the source of perpetual trouble. But it seems more probable to me that he refers to some bodily infirmity. The general truth taught in this verse is, that God will take care that his people shall not be unduly exalted by the manifestations of his favour, and by the spiritual privileges which he bestows on them. He will take measures to humble them; and a large part of his dealings with his people is designed to accomplish this. Sometimes it will be done, as in the case of Paul, by bodily infirmity or trial, by sickness, or by long and lingering disease; sometimes by great poverty, and by an humble condition of life; sometimes by reducing us from a state of affluence, where we were in danger of being exalted above measure; sometimes by suffering us to be slandered and calumniated, by suffering foes to rise up against us who shall blacken our character, and in such a manner that we cannot meet it; sometimes by persecution; sometimes by want of success in our enterprises, and, if in the ministry, by withholding his Spirit; sometimes by suffering us to fall into sin, and thus greatly humbling us before the world. Such was the case with David and with Peter; and God often permits us to see in this manner our own weakness, and to bring us to a sense of our dependence and to proper humility by suffering us to perform some act that should be ever afterward a standing source of our humiliation; some act so base, so humiliating, so evincing the deep depravity of our hearts, as for ever to make and keep us humble. How could David be lifted up with pride after the murder of Uriah? How could Peter after having denied his Lord with a horrid oath? Thus many a Christian is suffered to fall by the temptation of Satan, to show him his weakness and to keep him from pride; many a fall is made the occasion of the permanent benefit of the offender. And perhaps every Christian who has been much favored with elevated spiritual views and comforts can recall something which shall be to him a standing topic of regret and humiliation in his past life. We should be thankful for any calamity that will humble us; and we should remember that clear and elevated views of God and heaven are, after all, more than a compensation for all the sufferings which it may be necessary to endure in order to make us humble.

{a} "in the flesh" Eze 28:24; Ga 4:14

{b} "messenger of Satan" Job 2:7; Lu 13:16


Verse 8. For this thing. On account of this; in order that this calamity might be removed.

I besought the Lord. The word "Lord" in the New Testament, when it stands without any other word in connexion to limit its signification, commonly denotes the Lord Jesus Christ. See Barnes "Ac 1:24".

The following verse here shows conclusively that it was the Lord Jesus to whom Paul addressed this prayer. The answer was, that his grace was sufficient for him; and Paul consoled himself by saying that it was a sufficient support if the power of Christ, implied in that answer, should rest on him. He would glory in trials if such was their result. Even Rosenmuller maintains that it was the Lord Jesus to whom this prayer was addressed, and says that the Socinians themselves admit it. So Grotius (on 2 Co 12:9) says that the answer was given by Christ. But if this refers to the Lord Jesus, then it proves that it is right to go to him in times of trouble, and that it is right to worship him. Prayer is the most solemn act of adoration which we can perform; and no better authority can be required for paying Divine honours to Christ than the fact that Paul worshipped him, and called upon him to remove a severe and grievous calamity.

Thrice. This may either mean that he prayed for this often, or that he sought it on three set and solemn occasions. Many commentators have supposed that the former is meant. But to me it seems probable that Paul, on three special occasions, earnestly prayed for the removal of this calamity. It will be recollected that the Lord Jesus prayed three times in the garden of Gethsemane that the cup might be removed from him, Mt 26:44. At the third time he ceased, and submitted to what was the will of God. There is some reason to suppose that the Jews were in the habit of praying three times for any important blessing, or for the removal of any calamity; and Paul in this would not only conform to the usual custom, but especially he would be disposed to imitate the example of the Lord Jesus. Among the Jews three was a sacred number, and repeated instances occur where an important transaction is mentioned as having been done thrice. See Nu 22:28; 24:10; 1 Sa 3:8; 20:41; 1 Ki 18:34; Pr 22:20; Jer 7:4; 22:29; Joh 21:17. The probability therefore is, that Paul on three different occasions earnestly besought the Lord Jesus that this calamity might be removed from him. It might have been exceedingly painful; or it might, as he supposed, interfere with his success as a preacher; or it might have been of such a nature as to expose him to ridicule; and he prayed, therefore, if it were possible that it might be taken away. The passage proves that it is right to pray earnestly and repeatedly for the removal of any calamity. The Saviour so prayed in the garden; and Paul so prayed here. Yet it also proves that there should be a limit to such prayers. The Saviour prayed three times; and Paul limited himself to the same number of petitions, and then submitted to the will of God. This does not prove that we should be limited to exactly this number in our petitions; but it proves that there should be a limit; that we should not be over anxious; and that when it is plain from any cause that the calamity will not be removed, we should submit to it. The Saviour in the garden knew that the cup would not be removed, and he acquiesced. Paul was told indirectly that his calamity would not be removed, and he submitted. We may expect no such revelation from heaven, but we may know in other ways that the calamity will not be removed; and we should submit. The child or other friend for whom we prayed may die; or the calamity, as, e.g., blindness, or deafness, or loss of health, or poverty, may become permanent, so that there is no hope of removing it; and we should then cease to pray that it may be removed, and we should cheerfully acquiesce in the will of God. So David prayed most fervently for his child when it was alive; when it was deceased, and it was of no further use to pray for it, he bowed in submission to the will of God, 2 Sa 12:20.

{a} "thing" De 3:23-27; Ps 77:2; La 3:8; Mt 26:44


Verse 9. And he said unto me. The Saviour replied. In what way this was done, or whether it was done at the time when the prayer was offered, Paul does not inform us. It is possible, as Macknight supposes, that Christ appeared to him again, and spake to him in an audible manner. Grotius supposes that this was done by the HEBREW (Bath-qol— "daughter of the voice") so frequently referred to by the Jewish writers, and which they suppose to be referred to in 1 Ki 19:12, by the phrase, "a still small voice." But it is impossible to determine in what way it was done, and it is not material. Paul was in habits of communion with the Saviour, and was accustomed to receive revelations from him. The material fact here is, that the request was not granted in the exact form in which he presented it, but that he received assurance of grace to support him in his trial. It is one of the instances in which the fervent prayer of a good man, offered undoubtedly in faith, was not answered in the form in which he desired, though substantially answered in the assurance of grace sufficient to support him. It furnishes, therefore, a very instructive lesson in regard to prayer, and shows us that we are not to expect as a matter of course that all our prayers will be literally answered, and that we should not be disappointed or disheartened if they are not. It is a matter of fact that not all the prayers even of the pious, and of those who pray having faith in God as a hearer of prayer, are literally answered. Thus the prayer of David (2 Sa 12:16-20) was not literally answered: the child for whose life he so earnestly prayed died. So the Saviour's request was not literally answered, Mr 14:36. The cup of suffering which he so earnestly desired should be taken away, was not re- moved. So in the case before us. Compare also De 3:23-27; Job 30:20; La 3:8. So in numerous cases now, Christians pray with fervour and with faith for the removal of some calamity which is not removed; or for something which they regard as desirable for their welfare, which is withheld. Some of the reasons why this is done are obvious:

(1.) The grace that will be imparted if the calamity is not removed, will be of greater value to the individual than would be the direct answer to his prayer. Such was the case with Paul; so it was doubtless with David; and so it is often with Christians now. The removal of the calamity might be apparently a blessing, but it might also be attended with danger to our spiritual welfare; the grace imparted may be of permanent value, and may be connected with the development of some of the loveliest traits of Christian character.

(2.) It might not-be for the good of the individual who prays that the exact thing should be granted. When a parent prays with great earnestness and with insubmision for the life of a child, he knows not what he is doing. If the child lives, he may be the occasion of much more grief to him than if he had died. David had far more trouble from Absalom than he had from the death of the child for which he so earnestly prayed. At the same time, it may be better for the child that he should be removed. If he dies in infancy he will be saved. But who can tell what will be his character and destiny, should he live to be a man? So of other things.

(3.) God has often some better thing in store for us than would be the immediate answer to our prayer. Who can doubt that this was true of Paul? The promised grace of Christ as sufficient to support us, is of more value than would be the mere removal of any bodily affliction.

(4.) It would not be well for us, probably, should our petition be literally answered. Who can tell what is best for himself? If the thing were obtained, who can tell how soon we might forget the Benefactor, and become proud and self-confident? It was the design of God to humble Paul; and this could be much better accomplished by continuing his affliction, and by imparting the promised grace, than by withdrawing the affliction, and withholding the grace. The very thing to be done was to keep him humble; and this affliction could not be withdrawn without also foregoing the benefit. It is true, also, that where things are in themselves proper to be asked, Christians sometimes ask them in an improper manner, and this is one of the reasons why many of their prayers are not answered. But this does not pertain to the case before us.

My grace is sufficient for thee. A much better answer than it would have been to have removed the calamity; and one that seems to have been entirely satisfactory to Paul. The meaning of the Saviour is, that he would support him; that he would not suffer him to sink exhausted under his trials; that he had nothing to fear. The affliction was not indeed removed; but there was a promise that the favour of Christ would be shown to him constantly, and that he would find his support to be ample. If Paul had this support, he might well bear the trial; and if we have this assurance, as we may have, we may welcome affliction, and rejoice that calamities are brought upon us. It is a sufficient answer to our prayers if we have the solemn promise of the Redeemer that we shall be upheld, and never sink under the burden of our heavy woes.

My strength is made perfect in weakness. That is, the strength which I impart to my people is more commonly and more completely manifested when my people feel that they are weak. It is not imparted to those who feel that they are strong, and who do not realize their need of Divine aid. It is not so completely manifested to those who are vigorous and strong, as to the feeble. It is when we are conscious that we are feeble, and when we feel our need of aid, that the Redeemer manifests his power to uphold, and imparts his purest consolations. Grotius has collected several similar passages from the classic writers, which may serve to illustrate this expression. Thus Pliny, vii. Epis. 26, says, "We are best where we are weak." Seneca says, "Calamity is the occasion of virtue." Quintilian, "All temerity of mind is broken by bodily calamity." Minutius Felix, "Calamity is often the discipline of virtue." There are few Christians who cannot bear witness to the truth of what the Redeemer here says, and who have not experienced the most pure consolations which they have known, and been most sensible of his comforting presence and power, in times of affliction.

Most gladly therefore, etc. I count it a privilege to be afflicted, if my trials may be the means of my more abundantly enjoying the favour of the Redeemer. His presence and imparted strength are more than a compensation for all the trials that I endure.

That the power of Christ. The strength which Christ imparts; his power manifested in supporting me in trials.

May rest upon me. episkhnwsh. The word properly means to pitch a tent upon; and then to dwell in or upon. Here it is used in the sense of abiding upon; or remaining with. The sense is, that the power which Christ manifested to his people rested with them, or abode with them in their trials, and therefore he would rejoice in afflictions, in order that he might partake of the aid and consolation thus imparted. Learn hence,

(1.) that a Christian never loses anything by suffering and affliction. If he may obtain the favour of Christ by his trials, he is a gainer. The favour of the Redeemer is more than a compensation for all that we endure in his cause.

(2.) The Christian is a gainer by trial. I never knew a Christian that was not ultimately benefited by trials. I never knew one who did not find that he had gained much that was valuable to him in scenes of affliction. I do not know that I have found one who would be willing to exchange the advantages he has gained in affliction for all that the most uninterrupted prosperity and the highest honours that the world could give would impart.

(3.) Learn to bear trials with joy. They are good for us. They develop some of the most lovely traits of character. They injure no one, if they are properly received. And a Christian should rejoice that he may obtain what he does obtain in affliction, cost what it may. It is worth more than it costs; and when we come to die, the things that we shall have most occasion to thank God for will be our afflictions. And, oh, if they are the means of raising us to a higher seat in heaven, and placing us nearer the Redeemer there, who will not rejoice in his trials ?

{*} "strength" "power"

{b} "glory in my" 1 Pe 4:14

{+} "infirmities" "weaknesses"

{c} "power of Christ" 1 Pe 4:14


Verse 10. Therefore I take pleasure. Since so many benefits result from trials; since my afflictions are the occasion of obtaining the favour of Christ in so eminent a degree, I rejoice in the privilege of suffering. There is often real pleasure in affliction, paradoxical as it may appear. Some of the happiest persons I have known are those who have been deeply afflicted; some of the purest joys which I have witnessed have been manifested on a sick bed, and in the prospect of death. And I have no doubt that Paul, in the midst of all his infirmities and reproaches, had a joy above that which all the wealth and honour of the world could give. See here the power of religion. It not only supports—it comforts. It not only enables one to bear suffering with resignation, but it enables him to rejoice. Philosophy blunts the feelings; infidelity leaves men to murmur and repine in trial; the pleasures of this world have no power even to support or comfort in times of affliction; but Christianity. furnishes positive pleasure in trial, and enables the sufferer to smile through his tears.

In infirmities. In my weaknesses. See Barnes "2 Co 11:30".

In reproaches. In the contempt and scorn with which I meet as a follower of Christ. See Barnes "2 Co 11:21.

In necessities. In want. See Barnes "2 Co 6:4, See Barnes "2 Co 6:4,5".

In distresses for Christ's sake. See Barnes "2 Co 6:4".

In the various wants and difficulties to which I am exposed on account of the Saviour, or which I suffer in his cause.

For when I am weak, then am I strong. When I feel weak; when I am subjected to trial, and nature faints and fails, then strength is imparted to me, and I am enabled to bear all. The more I am borne down with trials, the more do I feel my need of Divine assistance, and the more do I feel the efficacy of Divine grace. Such was the promise in De 33:25, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." So in Heb 11:34, "Who out of weakness were made strong." What Christian has not experienced this, and been able to say that when he felt himself weak, and felt like sinking under the accumulation of many trials, he has found his strength according to his day, and felt an arm of power supporting him? It is then that the Redeemer manifests himself in a peculiar manner; and then that the excellency of the religion of Christ is truly seen, and its power appreciated and felt.

{*} "infirmities" "weaknesses"


Verse 11. I am become a fool in glorying. The meaning of this expression I take to be this: "I have been led along in speaking of myself until I admit I appear foolish in this kind of boasting. It is folly to do it, and I would not have entered on it unless I had been driven to it by my circumstances, and the necessity which was imposed on me of speaking of myself." Paul doubtless desired that what he had said of himself should not be regarded as an example for others to follow. Religion repressed all vain boasting and self-exultation; and to prevent others from falling into a habit of boasting, and then pleading his example as an apology, he is careful to say that he regarded it as folly; and that he would by no means have done it if the circumstances of the case had not constrained him. If any one, therefore, is disposed to imitate Paul in speaking of himself, and what he has done, let him do it only when he is in circumstances like Paul, and when the honour of religion and his usefulness imperiously demand it; and let him not forget that it was the deliberate conviction of Paul that boasting was the characteristic of a fool!

Ye have compelled me. You have made it necessary for me to vindicate my character, and to state the evidence of my Divine commission as an apostle.

For I ought to have been commended of you. By you. Then this boasting, so foolish, would have been unnecessary. What a delicate reproof! All the fault of this foolish boasting was theirs. They knew him intimately. They had derived great benefits from his ministry, and they were bound in gratitude, and from a regard to right and truth, to vindicate him. But they had not done it; and hence, through their fault, he had been compelled to go into this unpleasant vindication of his own character.

For in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles. Neither in the evidences of my call to the apostolic office, 1 Co 9:1, seq.; nor in the endowments of the Spirit; nor in my success; nor in the proofs of a Divine commission in the power of working miracles. See Barnes "2 Co 11:5".

Though I be nothing. This expression was either used in sarcasm or seriously. According to the former supposition it means that he was regarded as nothing; that the false apostles spoke of him as a mere nothing, or as having no claims to the office of an apostle. This is the opinion of Clarke, and many of the recent commentators. Bloomfield inclines to this. According to the latter view, it is an expression of humility on the part of Paul, and is designed to express his deep sense of his unworthiness in view of his past life—a conviction deepened by the exalted privileges conferred on him, and the exalted rank to which he had been raised as an apostle. This was the view of most of the early commentators. Doddridge unites the two. It is not possible to determine with certainty which is the true interpretation; but it seems to me that the latter view best accords with the scope of the passage, and with what we have reason to suppose the apostle would say at this time. It is true that in this discussion (2 Co 10, seq.) there is much that is sarcastic. But in the whole strain of the passage before us he is serious. He is speaking of his sufferings, and of the evidences that he was raised to elevated rank as an apostle, and it is not quite natural to suppose that he would throw in a sarcastic remark just in the midst of this discussion. Besides, this interpretation accords exactly with what he says in 1 Co 15:9, "For I am the least of all the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle." If this be the correct interpretation, then it teaches,

(1.) that the highest attainments in piety are not inconsistent with the deepest sense of our nothingness and unworthiness.

(2.) That the most distinguished favours bestowed on us by God are consistent with the lowest humility.

(3.) That those who are most favoured in the Christian life, and most honoured by God, should not be unwilling to take a low place, and to regard and speak of themselves as nothing. Compared with God, what are they? Nothing. Compared with the angels, what are they? Nothing. As creatures compared with the vast universe, what are we. Nothing: an atom, a speck. Compared with other Christians, the eminent saints who have lived before us, what are we? Compared with what we ought to be, and might be, what are we? Nothing. Let a man look over his past life, and see how vile and unworthy it has been; let him look at God, and see how great and glorious he is; let him look at the vast universe, and see how immense it is; let him think of the angels, and reflect how pure they are; let him think of what he might have been, of how much more he might have done for his Saviour; let him look at his body, and think how frail it is, and how soon it must return to the dust; and no matter how elevated his rank among his fellow-worms, and no matter how much God has favoured him as a Christian or a minister, he will feel, if he feels right, that he is nothing. The most elevated saints are distinguished for the deepest humility; those who are nearest to God feel most their distance; they who are to occupy the highest place in heaven feel most deeply that they axe unworthy of the lowest.

{a} "in nothing" 2 Co 11:5

{b} "I be nothing" Lu 17:10; 1 Co 3:7; Eph 3:8


Verse 12. Truly the signs of an apostle. Such miracles as the acknowledged apostles worked. Such "signs" or evidences that they were Divinely commissioned. See Barnes "Mr 16:16" See Barnes "Mr 16:17" See Barnes "Ro 15:19".

Were wrought among you. That is, by me. See Barnes "1 Co 9:2".

In all patience. I performed those works notwithstanding the opposition which I met with. I patiently persevered in furnishing the evidence of my Divine commission. There was a succession of miracles demonstrating that I was from God, notwithstanding the unreasonable opposition which I met with, until I convinced you that I was called to the office of an apostle.

In signs, and wonders. In working miracles. See Barnes "Ac 2:22".

What these miracles at Corinth were, we are not distinctly informed. They probably, however, were similar to those wrought in other places, in healing the sick, etc.; the most benevolent, as it was one of the most decisive proofs of the Divine power.

{a} "signs of an apostle" 1 Co 9:2


Verse 13. For what is it, etc. This verse contains a striking mixture of sarcasm and irony, not exceeded, says Bloomfield, by any example in Demosthenes. The sense is, "I have given among you the most ample proofs of my apostolic commission. I have conferred on you the highest favours of the apostolic office. In these respects you are superior to all other churches. In one respect only are you inferior—it is in this, that you have not been burdened with the privilege of supporting me. If you had had this, you would have been inferior to no others. But this was owing to me; and I pray that you will forgive me this. I might have urged it; I might have claimed it; I might have given you the privilege of becoming equal to the most favoured in all respects. But I have not pressed it, and you have not done it, and I ask your pardon." There is a delicate insinuation that they had not contributed to his wants, See Barnes "2 Co 11:8" an intimation that it was a privilege to contribute to the support of the gospel, and that Paul might have been "burdensome to them," See Barnes "1 Co 9:1" and Barnes on 1 Co 9:2-12 and an admission that he was in part to blame for this, and had not in this respect given them an opportunity to equal other churches in all respects.

Was not burdensome to you. See Barnes "2 Co 10:8".

Forgive me this wrong. "If it be a fault, pardon it. Forgive me that I did not give you this opportunity to be equal to other churches. It is a privilege to contribute to the support of the gospel, and they who are permitted to do it should esteem themselves highly favoured. I pray you to pardon me for depriving you of any of your Christian privileges." What the feelings of the Corinthians were about forgiving Paul for this, we know not; but most churches would be as ready to forgive a minister for this as for any other offence.

{b} "I, myself" 2 Co 11:9


Verse 14. Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you. That is, this is the third time that I have purposed to come and see you, and have made preparation for it. He does not mean that he had been twice with them, and was now coming the third time; but that he had twice before intended to go, and had been disappointed. See 1 Co 16:5; 2 Co 1:15,16.

His purpose had been to visit them on his way to Macedonia, and again on his return from Macedonia. lie had now formed a third resolution, which he had a prospect of carrying into execution.

And I will not be burdensome to you. I resolve still, as I have done before, not to receive a compensation that shall be oppressive to you. See Barnes "2 Co 11:9,10".

For I seek not your's, but you. I desire not to obtain your property, but to save your souls. This was a noble resolution; and it is the resolution which should be formed by every minister of the gospel. While a minister of Christ has a claim to a competent support, his main purpose should not be to obtain such a support. It should be the higher and nobler object of winning souls to the Redeemer. See Paul's conduct in this respect explained in the. See Barnes "Ac 20:33".

For the children, etc. There is great delicacy and address in this sentiment. The meaning is, "It is not natural and usual for children to make provisions for their parents. The common course of events and of duty is for parents to make provision for their offspring. I, therefore, your spiritual father, choose to act in the same way. I make provision for your spiritual wants; I labour and toil for you as a father does for his children. I seek your welfare, as he does, by constant self-denial. In return, I do not ask you to provide for me, any more than a father ordinarily expects his children to provide for him. I am willing to labour as he does, content with doing my duty, and promoting the welfare of those under me." The words rendered "ought not" (ou ofeilei) are to be understood in a comparative sense. Paul does not mean that a child ought never to provide for his parents, or to lay anything up for a sick, a poor, and an infirm father; but that the duty of doing that was slight and unusual compared with the duty of a parent to provide for his children. The one was of comparatively rare occurrence; the other was constant, and was the ordinary course of duty. It is a matter of obligation for a child to provide for an aged and helpless parent; but commonly the duty is that of a parent to provide for his children. Paul felt like a father toward the church in Corinth; and he was willing, therefore, to labour for them without compensation.

{c} "I seek not your's" 1 Co 10:33; 1 Th 2:8


Verse 15. And I will very gladly spend. I am willing to spend my strength, and time, and life, and all that I have for your welfare, as a father cheerfully does for his children. Any expense which may be necessary to promote your salvation I am willing to submit to. The labour of a father for his children is cheerful and pleasant. Such is his love for them that he delights in toil for their sake, and that he may make them happy. The toil of a pastor for his flock should be cheerful. He should be willing to engage in unremitted efforts for their welfare; and if he has any right feeling he will find a pleasure in that toil. He will not grudge the time demanded; he will not be grieved that it exhausts his strength, or his life, any more than a father will who toils for his family. And as the pleasures of a father who is labouring for his children are among the purest and most pleasant which men ever enjoy, so it is with a pastor. Perhaps, on the whole, the pleasantest employment in life is that connected with the pastoral office; the happiest moments known on earth are in the duties, arduous as they are, of the pastoral relation. God thus, as in the relation of a father, tempers toil and pleasure together; and accompanies most arduous labours with present and abundant reward.

Be spent. Be exhausted and worn out in my labours. So the Greek word means. Paul was willing that his powers should be entirely exhausted and his life consumed in this service.

For you. Marg., as in the Greek, for your souls. So it should have been rendered. So Tindal renders it. The sense is, that he was willing to become wholly exhausted if by it he might secure the salvation of their souls.

Though the more abundantly I love you, etc. This is designed doubtless as a gentle reproof. It refers to the fact that notwithstanding the tender attachment which he had evinced for them, they had not manifested the love in return which he had a right to expect. It is possible that there may be an allusion to the case of a fond, doting parent. It sometimes happens that a parent fixes his affections with undue degree on some one of his children; and in such cases it is not uncommon that the child evinces special ingratitude and want of love. Such may be the allusion here—that Paul had fixed his affections on them like a fond, doting father, and that he had met with a return by no means corresponding with the fervour of his attachment; yet still he was willing, like such a father, to exhaust his time and strength for their welfare. The doctrine is, that we should be willing to labour and toil for the good of others, even when they evince great ingratitude. The proper end of labouring for their welfare is not to excite their gratitude, but to obey the will of God; and no matter whether others are grateful or not; whether they love us or not; whether we can promote our popularity with them or not, let us do them good always. It better shows the firmness of our Christian principle to endeavour to benefit others when they love us the less for all our attempts, than it does to attempt to do good on the swelling tide of popular favour.

{1} "for you" "your souls"


Verse 16. But be it so. This is evidently a charge of his enemies; or at least a charge which it might be supposed they would make. Whether they ever in fact made it, or whether the apostle merely anticipates an objection, it is impossible to determine. It is clearly to be regarded as the language of objectors; for,

(1.) it can never be supposed that Paul would state as a serious matter that he had caught them with deceit or fraud.

(2.) He answers it as an objection in the following verse. The meaning is, "We admit that you did not burden us. You did not exact a support from us. But all this was mere trick. You accomplish the same thing in another way. You professed when with us not to seek our property but our souls. But in various ways you contrived to get our money, and to secure your object. You made others the agents for doing this, and sent them among us under various pretexts to gain money from us." It will be remembered that Paul had sent Titus among them to take up the collection for the poor saints in Judea, 2 Co 8:6; and it is not at all improbable that some there had charged Paul with making use of this pretence only to obtain money for his own private use. To guard against this charge was one of the reasons why Paul was so anxious to have some persons appointed by the church to take charge of the contribution. See 1 Co 16:3, See Barnes "2 Co 8:19, also 2 Co 8:20-21.

Being crafty. Being cunning. That is, by sending persons to obtain money on different pretences.

I caught you with guile. I took you by deceit or fraud. That is, making use of fraud in pretending that the money was for poor and afflicted saints, when in reality it was for my own use. It is impossible that Paul should have ever admitted this of himself; and they greatly pervert the passage who suppose that it applies to him, and then plead that it is right to make use of guile in accomplishing their purposes. Paul never carried his measures by dishonesty, nor did he ever justify fraud. See Barnes "Ac 23:6".


Verse 17. Did I make a gain, etc. In refuting this slander, Paul appeals boldly to the facts, and to what they knew. "Name the man, says he, who has thus defrauded you under my instructions. If the charge is well-founded, let him be specified, and let the mode in which it was done be distinctly stated." The phrase "make a gain," (from pleonektew,) means, properly, to have an advantage; then to take advantage, to seek unlawful gain. Here Paul asks whether he had defrauded them by means of any one whom he had sent to them.


Verse 18. I desired Titus. To go and complete the collection which you had commenced. See 2 Co 8:6.

And with him I sent a brother. See Barnes "2 Co 8:18".

Did Titus make a gain of you? They knew that he did not. They had received him kindly, treated him with affection, and sent him away with every proof of confidence and respect. 2 Co 7:7. How then could they now pretend that he had defrauded them?

Walked we not in the same spirit? Did not all his actions resemble mine? Was there not the same proof of honesty, sincerity, and love which I have ever manifested? This is a very delicate turn. Paul's course of life when with them they admitted was free from guile and from any attempt to get money by improper means. They charged him only with attempting it by means of others. He now boldly appeals to them, and asks whether Titus and he had not in fact acted in the same manner; and whether they had not alike evinced a spirit free from covetousness and deceit?

{a} "Titus, and with him" 2 Co 7:2

{b} "Did Titus" 2 Co 8:6


Verse 19. Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? See Barnes "2 Co 5:12".

The sense is, do not suppose that this is said from mere anxiety to obtain your favour, or to ingratiate ourselves into your esteem. This is said doubtless to keep himself from the suspicion of being actuated by improper motives, he had manifested great solicitude certainly in the previous chapters to vindicate his character; but he here says that it was not from a mere desire to show them that his conduct was right; it was from a desire to honour Christ.

We speak before God in Christ. We declare the simple and undisguised truth as in the presence of God. I have no mere desire to palliate my conduct; I disguise nothing; I conceal nothing; I say nothing for the mere purpose of self-vindication; but I can appeal to the Searcher of hearts for the exact truth of all that I say. The phrase "before God in Christ" means, probably, "I speak as in the presence of God and as a follower of Christ, as a Christian man." It is the solemn appeal of a Christian to his God for the truth of what he said, and a solemn asseveration that what he said was not for the mere purpose of excusing or apologizing for (Greek) his conduct.

But we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. All that I have done has been for your welfare. My vindication of my character, and my effort to disabuse you of your prejudices, have been that you might have unwavering confidence in the gospel, and might be built up in holy faith. On the word edify, See Barnes "Ro 14:19, See Barnes "1 Co 8:1" See Barnes "1 Co 10:23".

{*} "excuse" "defend"

{c} "ourselves" 2 Co 5:12


Verse 20. For I fear, lest, when I come. 2 Co 12:14.

I shall not find you such as I would. That is, walking in the truth and order of the gospel, he had feared that the disorders would not be removed, and that they would not have corrected the errors which prevailed, and for which he had rebuked them. It was on this account that he had said so much to them. His desire was that all these disorders might be removed, and that he might be saved from the necessity of exercising severe discipline when he should come among them.

And that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not. That is, that I shall be compelled to administer discipline, and that my visit may not be as pleasant to you as you would desire. For this reason he wished all disorder corrected, and all offences removed; that everything might be pleasant when he should come. See 1 Co 4:21. See Barnes "2 Co 10:2".

Lest there be debates. I fear that there may be existing there debates, etc., which will require the interposition of the authority of an apostle. On the meaning of the word debate, see See Barnes "Ro 1:29".

Envyings. See Barnes "1 Co 3:3".

Wraths. Anger or animosities between contending factions, the usual effect of forming parties.

Strifes. Between contending factions. See Barnes "1 Co 3:3".

Backbitings. See Barnes "Ro 1:30".

Whisperings. See Barnes "Ro 1:29".

Swellings. Undue elation; being puffed up, See Barnes "2 Co 8:1; 1 Co 4:6,18,19; 5:2; such as would be produced by vain self-confidence.

Tumults. Disorder and confusion arising from this existence of parties. Paul, deeply sensible of the evil of all this, had endeavoured in this correspondence to suppress it, that all things might be pleasant when he should come among them.

{d} "when I come" 1 Co 4:21; 2 Co 13:2,10

{+} "debates" "contentions"


Verse 21. And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me, etc. Lest I should, be compelled to inflict punishment on those whom I supposed to have been converted under my ministry. I had rejoiced in them as true converts. I had counted them as among the fruit of my ministry. Now to be compelled to inflict punishment on them as having no religion would mortify me and humble me. The infliction of punishment on members of the church is a sort of punishment to him who inflicts it as well as to him who is punished. Members of the church should walk uprightly, lest they overwhelm the ministry in shame.

And that I shall bewail many, etc. If they repented of their sin, he could still rejoice in them. If they continued in their sin, till he came, it would be to him a source of deep lamentation. It is evident from the word "many" here, that the disorders had prevailed very extensively in the church at Corinth. The word rendered "have sinned already" means, "who have sinned before;" and the idea is, that they were old offenders, and that they had not yet repented.

The uncleanness. See Barnes "Ro 1:24".

And fornication, and lasciviousness, etc. See Barnes "1 Co 5:1" See Barnes "1 Co 6:18".

This was the sin to which they were particularly exposed in Corinth, as it was the sin for which that corrupt city was distinguished. See the Introduction to the First Epistle. Hence the frequent cautions in these epistles against it; and hence it is not to be wondered at that some of those who had become professing Christians had fallen into it. It may be added, that it is still the sin to which converts from the corruptions and licentiousness of paganism are particularly exposed.

{a} "humble me" 2 Co 2:1

{b} "repented of the uncleanness" Re 2:21

{c} "fornication and lasciviousness" 1 Co 5:1



Introduction to 2nd Corinthians Chapter 13

THIS closing chapter of the epistle relates to the following subjects:

(1.) The assurance of Paul that he was about to come among them, 2 Co 13:1-4, and that he would certainly inflict punishment on all who deserved it. His enemies had reproached him as being timid and pusillanimous. See Barnes "2 Co 10:1,2,10,11.

They had said that he was powerful to threaten, but afraid to execute. It is probable that they had become more bold in this from the fact that he had twice purposed to go there and had failed. In reply to all this, he now in conclusion solemnly assures them that he was coming, and that in all cases where an offence was proved by two or three witnesses, punishment would be inflicted, 2 Co 13:1. He assures them 2 Co 13:2 that he would not spare; and that since they sought a proof that Christ had sent him, they should witness that proof in the punishment which he would inflict, 2 Co 13:3; for that Christ was now clothed with power, and was able to execute punishment, though he had been crucified, 2 Co 13:4.

(2.) Paul calls on them solemnly to examine themselves, and to see whether they had any true religion, 2 Co 13:5,6. In the state of things which existed there, in the corruption which had abounded in the church, he solemnly commands them to institute a faithful inquiry to know whether they had been deceived; at the same time expressing the hope that it would appear, as the result of their examination, that they were not reprobates.

(3.) He earnestly prays to God that they might do no evil; that they might be found to be honest and pure, whatever might be thought of Paul himself, or whatever might become of him, 2 Co 13:7. Their repentance would save Paul from exerting his miraculous power in their punishment, and might thus prevent the proof of his apostolic authority which they desired; and the consequence might be that they might esteem him to be a reprobate, for he could not exert his miraculous power except in the cause of truth, 2 Co 13:8. Still he was willing to be esteemed an impostor if they would do no evil.

(4.) He assures them that he earnestly wished their perfection, and that the design of his writing to them, severe as he had appeared, was their edification, 2 Co 8:9,10.

(5.) Then he bids them an affectionate and tender farewell, and closes with the usual salutations and benedictions, 2 Co 13:11-14.

Verse 1. This is the third time, etc.

See Barnes "12:4".

For an interesting view of this passage, see Paley's Horae Paulinae on this epistle, No. xi. It is evident that Paul had been to Corinth but once before this, but he had resolved to go before a second time, but had been disappointed.

In the mouth of two or three witnesses, etc. This was what the law of Moses required, De 19:15. See Barnes "Joh 8:17".

Comp. Mt 18:16. But in regard to its application here, commentators are not agreed. Some suppose that Paul refers to his own epistles which he had sent to them as the two or three witnesses by which his promise to them would be made certain; that he had purposed it and promised it two or three times; and that as this was all that was required by the law, it would certainly be established. This is the opinion of Bloomfield, Rosenmuller, Grotius, Hammond, Locke, and some others. But, with all the respect due to such great names, it seems to me that this would be trifling and childish in the extreme. Lightfoot supposes that he refers to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who would be witnesses to them of his purpose. See 1 Co 16:17. But the more probable opinion, it seems to me, is that of Doddridge, Macknight, and others, that he anticipated that there would be necessity for the administration of discipline there, but that he would feel himself under obligation in administering it to adhere to the reasonable maxim of the Jewish law. No one should be condemned or punished where there were not at least two or three witnesses to prove the offence; but where there were, discipline would be administered, according to the nature of the crime.

{d} "In the mouth" De 19:15; Heb 10:28,29


Verse 2. I told you before. That I would not spare offenders; that I would certainly punish them. He had intimated this before in the first epistle, 1 Co 4:21; 1 Co 5.

And foretell you. Now apprize you of my fixed determination to punish every offender as he deserves.

As if I were present, the second time. The mention of the "second time" here proves that Paul had been with them but once before. He had formed the resolution to go to them, but had been disappointed. The time when he had been with them is recorded in Ac 18:1, seq. He now uses the same language to them which he says he would use if he were with them, as he had expected to be, the second time. See the remarks of Paley on this passage, referred to above.

And being absent. See Barnes "1 Co 5:3".

To them which heretofore have sinned. To all the offenders in the church. They had supposed that he would not come to them, 1 Co 4:18, or that if he came he would not dare to inflict punishment, 2 Co 10:9-11. They had, therefore, given themselves greater liberty, and had pursued their own course, regardless of his authority and commands.

I will not spare. I will punish them. They shall not escape.

{e} "which heretofore" 2 Co 12:21


Verse 3. Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me. See Barnes on previous chapters. They had called in question his apostolic authority; they had demanded the evidence of his Divine commission. He says that he would now furnish such evidence by inflicting just punishment on all offenders, and they should have abundant proof that Christ spoke by him, or that he was inspired.

Which to you-ward is not weak. Or who, that is, Christ, is not weak, etc. Christ has manifested his power abundantly towards you, that is, either by the miracles that had been wrought in his name; or by the diseases and calamities which they had suffered on account of their disorders and offences, See Barnes "1 Co 11:30" See Barnes "1 Co 5:1" and following, or by the force and efficacy of his doctrine. The connexion, it seems to me, requires that we should understand it of the calamities which had been inflicted by Christ on them for their sins, and which Paul says would be inflicted again if they did not repent. The idea is, that they had had ample demonstration of the power of Christ to inflict punishment, and they had reason to apprehend it again.

{*} "you-ward" "towards you"

{f} "mighty in you" 1 Co 9:2


Verse 4. For though he was crucified through weakness. Various modes have been adopted of explaining the phrase "through weakness." The most probable explanation is that which refers to the human nature which he had assumed, Php 2:7,8; 1 Pe 3:18, and to the appearance of weakness which he manifested. He did not choose to exert his power. He appeared to his enemies to be weak and feeble. This idea would be an exact illustration of the point before the apostle. He is illustrating his own conduct, and especially in the fact that he had not exerted his miraculous powers among them in the punishment of offenders; and he does it by the example of Christ, who though abundantly able to have exerted his power and to have rescued himself from his enemies, yet was willing to appear weak, and to be crucified. It is very clear,

(1.) that the Lord Jesus seemed to his enemies to be weak and incapable of resistance.

(2.) That he did not put forth his power to protect his life. He in fact offered no resistance, as if he had no power.

(3.) He had a human nature that was peculiarly sensitive, and sensible to suffering; and that was borne down and crushed under the weight of mighty woes. See Barnes "Isa 53:2,3".

From all these causes he seemed to be weak and feeble; and these appear to me to be the principal ideas in this expression.

Yet he liveth. He is not now dead. Though he was crucified, yet he now lives again, and is now capable of exerting his great power. He furnishes proof of his being alive, in the success which attends the gospel, and in the miracles which are wrought in his name and by his power. There is a living Redeemer in heaven; a Redeemer who is able to exert all the power which he ever exerted when on earth; a Redeemer, therefore, who is able to save the soul; to raise the dead; to punish all his foes.

By the power of God. In raising him from the dead, and placing him at his own right hand. See Eph 1:19-21. Through the power of God he was brought from the tomb, and has a place. assigned him at the head of the universe.

For we also are weak in him. Marg., "with him." We his apostles, also, are weak in virtue of our connexion with him. We are subject to infirmities and trials; we seem to have no power; we are exposed to contempt; and we appear to our enemies to be destitute of strength. Our enemies regard us as feeble; and they despise us.

But we shall live with him, etc. That is, that we shall show to you that we are alive. By the aid of the power of God we shall show that we are not as weak as our foes pretend; that we are invested with power; and that we are able to inflict the punishment which we threaten. This is one of the numerous instances in which Paul illustrated the case before him by a reference to the example and character of Christ. The idea is, that Christ did not exert his power, and appeared to be weak, and was put to death. So Paul says that he had not exerted his power, and seemed to be weak. But, says he, Christ lives, and is clothed with strength; and so we, though we appear to be weak, shall exert among you, or towards you, the power with which he has invested us, in inflicting punishment on our foes.

{g} "he was crucified" Php 2:7,8; 1 Pe 3:8

{1} "weak in him" "with"


Verse 5. Examine yourselves. See Barnes "1 Co 11:28".

The particular reason why Paul calls on them to examine themselves was, that there was occasion to fear that many of them had been deceived. Such had been the irregularities and disorders in the church at Corinth; so ignorant had many of them shown themselves of the nature of the Christian religion, that it was important, in the highest degree, for them to institute a strict and impartial examination to ascertain whether they had not been altogether deceived. This examination, however, is never unimportant or useless for Christians; and an exhortation to do it is always in place. So important are the interests at stake, and so liable are the best to deceive themselves, that all Christians should be often induced to examine the foundation of their hope of eternal salvation.

Whether ye be in the faith. Whether you are true Christians. Whether you have any true faith in the gospel. Faith in Jesus Christ, and in the promises of God through him, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a true Christian; and to ascertain whether we have any true faith, therefore, is to ascertain whether we are sincere Christians. For some reasons for such an examination, and some remarks on the mode of doing it, See Barnes "1 Co 11:28".

Prove your own selves. The word here used (dokimazete) is stronger than that before used, and rendered "examine," (peirazete.) This word, prove, refers to assaying or trying metals by the powerful action of heat; and the idea here is, that they should make the most thorough trial of their religion, to see whether it would stand the test. See Barnes "1 Co 3:13".

The proof of their piety was to be arrived at by a faithful examination of their own hearts and lives; by a diligent comparison of their views and feelings with the word of God; and especially by making trial of it in life. The best way to prove our piety is to subject it to actual trial in the various duties and responsibilities of life. A man who wishes to prove an axe, to see whether it is good or not, does not sit down and look at it, or read all the treatises which he can find on axe-making, and on the properties of iron and steel, valuable as such information would be; but he shoulders his axe, and goes into the woods, and puts it to the trial there. If it cuts well; if it does not break; if it is not soon made dull, he understands the quality of his axe better than he could in any other way. So if a man wishes to know what his religion is worth, let him try it in the places where religion is of any value. Let him go into the world with it. Let him go and try to do good; to endure affliction in a proper manner; to combat the errors and follies of life; to admonish sinners of the error of their ways; and to urge forward the great work of the conversion of the world, and he will soon see there what his religion is worth—as easily as a man can test the qualities of an axe. Let him not merely sit down and think, and compare himself with the Bible, and look at his own heart—valuable as this may be in many respects; but let him treat his religion as he would anything else—let him subject it to actual experiment. That religion which will enable a man to imitate the example of Paul, or Howard, or the great Master himself, in doing good, is genuine. That religion which will enable a man to endure persecution for the name of Jesus; to bear calamity without murmuring; to submit to a long series of disappointments and distresses for Christ's sake, is genuine. That religion which will prompt a man unceasingly to a life of prayer and self-denial; which will make him ever conscientious, industrious, and honest; which will enable him to warn sinners of the error of their ways, and which will dispose him to seek the friendship of Christians, and the salvation of the world, is pure and genuine. That will answer the purpose. It is like the good axe with which a man can chop all day long, in which there is no flaw, and which does not get dull, and which answers all the purposes of an axe. Any other religion than this is worthless.

Know ye not your own selves. That is, "Do you not know yourselves?" This does not mean, as some may suppose, that they might know of themselves, without the aid of others, what their character was; or that they might themselves ascertain it; but it means that they might know themselves—that is, their character, principles, conduct. This proves that Christians may know their true character. If they are Christians, they may know it with as undoubted certainty as they may know their character on any other subject. Why should not a man be as able to determine whether he loves God, as whether he loves a child, a parent, or a friend? What greater difficulty need there be in understanding the character on the subject of religion than on any other subject; and why should there be any more reason for doubt on this than on any other point of character? And yet it is remarkable, that while a child has no doubt that he loves a parent, or a husband a wife, or a friend a friend, almost all Christians are in very great doubt about their attachment to the Redeemer, and to the great principles of religion. Such was not the case with the apostles and early Christians. "I know," says Paul, "whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him," etc., 2 Ti 1:12. "We KNOW," says John, speaking in the name of the body of Christians, "that we have passed from death unto life," 1 Jo 3:14. "We KNOW that we are of the truth," 1 Jo 3:19. "We KNOW that he abideth in us," 1 Jo 3:24. "We KNOW that we dwell in him," 1 Jo 4:13. See also 1 Jo 5:2,19,20.

So Job said, "I KNOW that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth," etc., Job 29:25. Such is the current language of Scripture. Where, in the Bible, do the sacred speakers and writers express doubts about their attachment to God and the Redeemer? Where is such language to be found as we hear from almost all professing Christians, expressing entire uncertainty about their condition; absolute doubt whether they love God or hate him; whether they are going to heaven or hell; whether they are influenced by good motives or bad; and even making it a matter of merit to be in such doubt, and thinking it wrong not to doubt? What would be thought of a husband that should make it a matter of merit to doubt whether he loved his wife; or of a child that should think it wrong not to doubt whether he loved his father or mother? Such attachments ought to be doubted—but they do not occur in the common relations of life. On the subject of religion men often act as they do on no other subject; and if it is right for one to be satisfied of the sincerity of his attachments to his best earthly friends, and to speak of such attachment without wavering or misgiving, it cannot be wrong to be satisfied with regard to our attachment to God, and to speak of that attachment, as the apostles did, in language of undoubted confidence.

How that Jesus Christ is in you. To be in Christ, or for Christ to be in us, is a common mode in the Scriptures of expressing the idea that we are Christians. It is language derived from the close union which subsists between the Redeemer and his people. See the phrase explained See Barnes "Ro 8:10".

Except ye be reprobates? See Barnes "Rom 1:28".

The word rendered "reprobates," (adokimoi,) means, properly, not approved, rejected; that which will not stand the trial. It is properly applicable to metals, as denoting that they will not bear the tests to which they are subjected, but are found to be base or adulterated. The sense here is, that they might know that they were Christians, unless their religion was base, false, adulterated; or such as would not bear the test. There is no allusion here to the sense which is sometimes given to the word reprobate, of being cast off or abandoned by God, or doomed by him to eternal ruin in accordance with an eternal purpose. Whatever may be the truth on that subject, nothing is taught in regard to it here. The simple idea is, that they might know that they were Christians, unless their religion was such as would not stand the test, or was worthless.

{a} "yourselves" 1 Co 11:28; 1 Jo 3:20,21

{b} "is in you" Ro 8:10; Ga 4:19

{c} "reprobates" 1 Co 9:27; 2 Ti 3:8


Verse 6. But I trust, etc. The sense of this verse is, "Whatever may be the result of your examination of yourselves, I trust (Gr., I hope) you will not find us false and to be rejected; that is, I trust you will find in me evidence that I am commissioned by the Lord Jesus to be his apostle." The idea is, that they would find, when he was among them, that he was endowed with all the qualifications needful to confer a claim to the apostolic office.

{*} "reprobates" "disapproved"


Verse 7. Now I pray to God that ye do no evil. I earnestly desire that you may do right, and only right; and I beseech God that it may be so, whatever may be the result in regard to me, and whatever may be thought of my claims to the apostolic office. This is designed to mitigate the apparent severity of the sentiment in 2 Co 13:6. There he had said that they would find him fully endowed with the power of an apostle. They would see that he was able abundantly to punish the disobedient. They would have ample demonstration that he was endowed by Christ with all the powers appropriate to an apostle, and that all that he had claimed had been well-founded, all that he threatened would be executed. But this seemed to imply that he desired that there should be occasion for the exercise of that power of administering discipline; and he therefore, in this verse, removes all suspicion that such was his wish, by saying solemnly, that he prayed to God that they might never do wrong; that they might never give him occasion for the exercise of his power in that way, though as a consequence he would be regarded as a reprobate, or as having no claims to the apostolic office. He would rather be regarded as an impostor, rather lie under the reproach of his enemies that he had no claims to the apostolic character, than that they, by doing wrong, should give him occasion to show that he was not a deceiver.

Not that we should appear approved. My great object, and my main desire, is not to urge my claims to the apostolic office, and clear up my own character; it is that you should lead honest lives, whatever may become of me and my reputation.

Though we be as reprobates. I am willing to be regarded as rejected, disapproved, worthless, like base metal, provided you lead honest and holy lives. I prefer to be so esteemed, and to have you live as becomes Christians, [rather] than that you should dishonour your Christian profession, and thus afford me the opportunity of demonstrating, by inflicting punishment, that I am commissioned by the Lord Jesus to be an apostle. The sentiment is, that a minister of the gospel should desire that his people should walk worthy of their high calling, whatever may be the estimate in which he is held. He should never desire that they should do wrong—how can he do it?—in order that he may take occasion from their wrong-doing to vindicate, in any way, his own character, or to establish a reputation for skill in administering discipline, or in governing a church. What a miserable ambition it is—and as wicked as it is miserable—for a man to wish to take advantage of a state of disorder, or of the faults of others, in order to establish his own character, or to obtain reputation. Paul spurned and detested such a thought; yet it is to be feared it is sometimes, done.


Verse 8. For we. That is, we the apostles.

Can do nothing against the truth, etc. That is, we who are under the influence of the Spirit of God, who have been commissioned by him as apostles, can do nothing that shall be against that great system of truth which we are appointed to promulgate and defend. You need, therefore, apprehend no partial or severe discipline from us; no unjust construction of your conduct. Our aim is to promote the truth, and to do what is right; and we cannot, therefore, by any regard to our own reputation, or to any personal advantage, do what is wrong, or countenance or desire what is wrong in others. We must wish that which is right to be done by others, whatever may be the effect on us—whether we are regarded as apostles or deceivers. I suppose, therefore, that this verse is designed to qualify and confirm the sentiment in the previous verse, that Paul meant to do only right; that he wished all others to do right; and that whatever might be the effect on his own reputation, or however he might be regarded, he could not go against the great system of gospel truth which he preached, or even desire that others should ever do wrong, though it might in any way be for his advantage. It was a fixed principle with him to act only in accordance with truth; to do what was right.

{b} "even your perfection" 1 Th 3:10; Heb 6:1


Verse 9. For we are glad, when we are weak, etc. We rejoice in your welfare, and are willing to submit to self-denial and to infirmity, if it may promote your spiritual strength. In the connexion in which this stands it seems to mean, "I am content to appear weak, provided you do no wrong; I am willing not to have occasion to exercise my power in punishing offenders, and had rather lie under the reproach of being actually weak, than to have occasion to exercise my power by punishing you for wrong-doing; and provided you are strong in the faith and in the hope of the gospel, I am very willing, nay, I rejoice that I am under this necessity of appearing weak."

And this also we wish. I desire this in addition to your doing no evil.

Even your perfection. The word here used occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though the verb from which it is derived (katartizw) occurs often, Mt 4:21; 21:16; Mr 1:19; Lu 6:40; Rom 9:22; 1 Co 1:10; 2 Co 13:11; Ga 6:1; 1 Th 3:10, et al. See Barnes "2 Co 13:11".

On the meaning of the word, see Ro 9:22. The idea of restoring, putting in order, fitting, repairing, is involved in the word always; and hence the idea of making perfect—i, e., of completely restoring anything to its proper place. Here it evidently means that Paul wished their entire reformation—so that there should be no occasion for exercising discipline. Doddridge renders it, "perfect good order." Macknight, "restoration." For this restoration of good order Paul had diligently laboured in these epistles; and this was an object near to his heart.

{b} "even your perfection" 1 Th 3:10; Heb 6:1


Verse 10. Therefore I write these things, etc. This is a kind of apology for what he had said, and especially for the apparently harsh language which he had felt himself constrained to use. He had reproved them; he had admonished them of their faults; he had threatened punishment, all of which was designed to prevent the necessity of severe measures when he should be with them.

Lest being present I should use sharpness. In order that when I come may not have occasion to employ severity. See the sentiment explained in See Barnes "2 Co 10:2".

According to the power, etc. That I may not use the power with which Christ has invested me for maintaining discipline in his church. The same form of expression is found in 2 Co 10:8. See Barnes "2 Co 10:8".

{c} "sharpness according" Tit 1:13

{d} "to the power" 2 Co 10:8

{+} "to destruction" "for destruction"

{++} "to edification" "for edification"


Verse 11. Finally, brethren. loipon. The remainder; all that remains is for me to bid you an affectionate farewell. The word here rendered "farewell," (cairete,) means usually to joy and rejoice, or to be glad, Lu 1:14; Joh 16:20,22; and it is often used in the sense of "joy to you!" "hail!" as a salutation, Mt 26:49; Mt 27:29. It is also used as a salutation at the beginning of an epistle, in the sense of greeting, Ac 15:23; 23:26; Jas 1:1.

It is generally agreed, however, that it is here to be understood in the sense of farewell, as a parting salutation, though it may be admitted that there is included in the word an expression of a wish for their happiness. This was among the last words which Cyrus, when dying, addressed to his friends.

Be perfect. See Barnes "2 Co 13:9, See Barnes "Ro 9:22".

It was a wish that every disorder might be removed; that all that was out of joint might be restored; that everything might be in its proper place; and that they might be just what they ought to be. A command to be perfect, however, does not prove that it has ever in fact been obeyed; and an earnest wish on the part of an apostle that others might be perfect,, does not demonstrate that they were; and this passage should not be adduced to prove that any have been free from sin. It may be adduced, however, to prove that an obligation rests on Christians to be perfect, and that there is no natural obstacle to their becoming such, since God never can command us to do an impossibility. Whether any one, but the Lord Jesus, has been perfect, however, is a question on which different denominations of Christians have been greatly divided. It is incumbent on the advocates of the doctrine of sinless perfection to produce some one instance of a perfectly sinless character. This has not yet been done.

Be of good comfort. Be consoled by the promises and supports of the gospel. Take comfort from the hopes which the gospel imparts. Or the word may possibly have a reciprocal sense, and mean, comfort one another. See Schleusner. Rosenmuller renders it, "receive admonition from all with a grateful mind, that you may come to greater perfection." It is, at any rate, the expression of an earnest wish, on the part of the apostle, that they might be happy.

Be of one mind. They had been greatly distracted, and divided into different parties and factions. At the close of the epistle he exhorts them, as he had repeatedly done before, to lay aside these strifes, and to be united, and manifest the same spirit. See Barnes "Ro 12:16" See Barnes "Ro 15:5" See Barnes "1 Co 1:10".

The sense is, that Paul desired that dissensions should cease, and that they should be united in opinion and feeling as Christian brethren.

Live in peace. With each other. Let contentions and strifes cease. To promote the restoration of peace had been the main design of these epistles.

And the God of love and peace. The God who is all love, and who is the Author of all peace. What a glorious appellation is this! There can be no more beautiful expression, and it is as true as it is beautiful, that God is a God of love and of peace. He is infinitely benevolent; he delights in exhibiting his love; and he delights in the love which his people evince for each other. At the same time he is the Author of peace, and he delights in peace among men. When Christians love each other, they have reason to expect that the God of love will be with them; when they live in peace, they may expect the God of peace will take up his abode with them. In contention and strife we have no reason to expect his presence; and it is only when we are willing to lay aside all animosity that we may expect the God of peace will fix his abode with us.

{e} "perfect" 2 Co 13:9

{a} "of one mind" Ro 12:16; 15:5; Eph 4:3; Php 2:2; 1 Pe 3:8


Verse 12. Greet. Salute. See Barnes "Ro 16:3".

With an holy kiss. See Barnes "Ro 16:16".

{b} "Greet" Ro 16:16


Verse 13. All the saints salute you. That is, all who were with Paul, or in the place where he was. The epistle was written from Macedonia, probably from Philippi. See Introduction to Epistle, paragraph 3.


Verse 14. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. See Barnes "Ro 16:20".

This verse contains what is usually called the apostolic benediction the form which has been so long, and which is almost so universally used, in dismissing religious assemblies. It is properly a prayer; and it is evident that the optative eih, "May the grace," etc., is to be supplied. It is the expression of a desire that the favours here referred to may descend on all for whom they are thus invoked.

And the love of God. May the love of God towards you be manifest. This must refer peculiarly to the Father, as the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the other members of the sentence. The "love of God" here referred to is the manifestation of his goodness and favour in the pardon of sin, in the communication of his grace, in the comforts and consolations which he imparts to his people, in all that constitutes an expression of love. The love of God brings salvation; imparts comfort; pardons sin; sanctifies the soul; fills the heart with joy and peace; and Paul here prays that all the blessings which are the fruit of that love may be with them.

And the communion of the Holy Ghost. See Barnes "1 Co 10:16".

The word communion (koinwnia) means, properly, participation, fellowship, or having anything in common, Ac 2:42; Ro 15:26; 1 Co 1:9; 10:16; 2 Co 6:14; 8:4; 9:13; Ga 2:9; Eph 3:9; 1 Jo 1:3.

This is also a wish or prayer of the apostle Paul; and the desire is either that they might partake of the views and feelings of the Holy Ghost—that is, that they might have fellowship with him—or that they might all in common partake of the gifts and graces which the Spirit of God imparts, lie gives love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (Ga 5:22,) as well as miraculous endowments; and Paul prays that these things might be imparted freely to all the church in common, that all might participate in them, all might share them.

Amen. This word is wanting, says Clarke, in almost every Ms. of any authority. It was, however, early affixed to the epistle.

In regard to this closing verse of the epistle, we may make the following remarks:

(1.) It is a prayer; and if it is a prayer addressed to God, it is no less so to the Lord Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit. If so, it is right to offer worship to the Lord Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit.

(2.) There is a distinction in the Divine nature; or there is the existence of what is usually termed Three Persons in the God-head. If not, why are they mentioned in this manner? If the Lord Jesus is not Divine and equal with the Father, why is he mentioned in this connexion? How strange it would be for Paul, an inspired man, to pray in the same breath, "the grace of a man or an angel" and "the love of God" be with you! And if the "Holy Spirit" be merely an influence of God, or an attribute of God, how strange to pray that the "love of God" and the participation or fellowship of an "influence of God," or an "attribute of God," might be with them!

(3.) The Holy Spirit is a person, or has a distinct personality. He is not an attribute of God, nor a mere Divine influence. How could prayer be addressed to an attribute, or am influence? But here, nothing can be plainer than that there were favours which the Holy Ghost, as an intelligent and conscious agent, was expected to bestow. And nothing can be plainer than that they were favours in some sense distinct from those which were conferred by the Lord Jesus, and by the Father. Here is a distinction of some kind as real as that between the Lord Jesus and the Father; here are favours expected from him distinct from those conferred by the Father and the Son; and there is therefore, here, all the proof that there can be, that there is in some respects a distinction between the persons here referred to, and that the Holy Spirit is an intelligent, conscious agent.

(4.) The Lord Jesus is not inferior to the Father, that is, he has an equality with God. If he were not equal, how could he be mentioned, as he here is, as bestowing favours like God, and especially why is he mentioned first? Would Paul, in invoking blessings, mention the name of a mere man or an angel, before that of the eternal God?

(5.) The passage, therefore, furnishes a proof of the doctrine of the Trinity that has not yet been answered and, it is believed cannot be. On the supposition that there are three Persons in the adorable Trinity, united in essence, and yet distinct in some respects, all is plain and clear. But on the supposition that the Lord Jesus is a mere man, an angel, or an archangel, and that the Holy Spirit is an attribute, or an influence from God, how unintelligible, confused, strange does all become! That Paul, in the solemn close of the epistle, should at the same time invoke blessings from a mere creature, and from God, and from an attribute, surpasses belief. But that he should invoke blessings from him who was the equal with the Father, and from the Father himself, and from the sacred Spirit sustaining the same rank, and in like manner imparting important blessings, is in accordance with all that we should expect, and makes all harmonious and appropriate.

(6.) Nothing could be a more proper close of the epistle; nothing is a more appropriate close of public worship, than such an invocation. It is a prayer to the ever-blessed God, that all the rich influences which he gives as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, may be imparted; that all the benefits which God confers in the interesting relations in which he makes himself known to us, may descend and bless us. What more appropriate prayer can be offered prayer can be offered at the close of public worship. How seriously should it be pronounced as a congregation is about to separate, perhaps to come together no more! With what solemnity should all join in it, and how devoutly should all pray, as they thus separate, that these rich and inestimable blessings may rest upon them! With hearts up-lifted to God it should be pronounced and heard; and every worshipper should leave the sanctuary deeply feeling that what he most needs, as he leaves the place of public worship—as he travels on the journey of life—as he engages in its duties or meets its trials—as he looks at the grave and eternity, is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the blessings which the Holy Spirit imparts in renewing and sanctifying and comforting his people. What more appropriate prayer than this for the writer and reader of these Notes! May that blessing rest alike upon us, though we may be strangers in the flesh; and may those heavenly influences guide us alike to the same everlasting kingdom of glory!

In regard to the subscription at the end of this epistle, it may be observed, that it is wanting in a great part of the most ancient Mss., and is of no authority whatever. See Notes at the end of the epistle to the Romans, and 1 Corinthians. In this case, however, this subscription is in the main correct, as there is evidence that it was written from Macedonia, and not improbably from Philippi. See the Introduction to the epistle.

End of Barnes Notes on 2nd Corinthians

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