In these three following chapters, S. Paul, for the common good of those whom he had converted, and to obviate the prejudice raised by his adversaries against his person and preaching, is forced to set in a true light his apostolical authority, the favours he had received from God, his actions, his labours, and his sufferings, with an apology for mentioning them, giving all the glory to God. Wi.
Ver. 1-11. Who in presence indeed am lowly.† Lit. humble, (see Luke i. v. 48.) that is, of a mean aspect, as to exterior appearances, and my speech contemptible, without the ornaments of human eloquence, but am said to be bold when absent, reprehending and threatening by my letters, which are owned to be weighty and strong, let such persons think, and be convinced, that such as I am by my letters, they shall find me by deeds, when I come, and shall be present with them. I desire and beseech you, that I may not be bold when I come, to make use of my authority, nor of those spiritual arms and weapons, of censures and excommunications, nor perhaps of exemplary punishments, which God sometimes in a miraculous manner shewed by his apostles. See the examples of Ananias and Saphira struck dead at S. Peter's words, (Acts v.) of Elymas struck with blindness for opposing S. Paul's preaching. Acts xiii. He puts them in mind, that the power, which God has given to his apostles, is so great and prevalent, that no force upon earth has been able to resist or hinder the designs of God, as to the spreading of the gospel, and the faith of Christ, and as he expresseth it, to the destruction of fortifications, we subverting counsels, and every thing that opposed the knowledge of God, who reduceth whom he pleaseth to the obedience of Christ. He admonishes them all to return to the obedience due to him, and the true ministers of the gospel, lest he be obliged to revenge, that is, punish such as remain disobedient. He acknowledges that his apostolical power was given him for the good and edification of the faithful, not for their destruction, which he will take care not to abuse. In fine, he tells them here in short, and more at large in the following chapter, that they may, if they please, consider outward appearances, his apostolical functions, the miracles God has wrought in his favour, what he has done, and suffered, by which will appear the advantages he has above his adversaries, who spoke with contempt of him. Wi.
[†] V. 1. Humilis sum, tapeinoV.
Ver. 2. I beg of you now to hear my apology, that I may not be obliged to make us of my authority, when present among you, which they say I have abused, and usurped over you. There is in this discourse a little irony against the facility with which the Corinthians heard the enemies of S. Paul. He alludes to those false teachers who decried his doctrine, by preaching up the observance of the ceremonial parts of the law, for they were Jews, and had introduced many new practices into the Church. We may here take notice, that these observations are applicable to the epistles of S. Paul to the Galatians, and Philippians, for they are the same false teachers whom he there attacks, and who accused S. Paul of being a hypocrite, a seducer, in a word, one who walked according to the flesh. Estius and S. Chrys.
Ver. 4. For the weapons, &c. The powers with which we are endowed will easily overturn all obstacles, or fortifications which devils may raise against us. They will easily refute the pride, the learning, and the eloquent sophisms of philosophers, and reduce every height, or high-minded philosopher, to the obedience of Christ. Calmet.
--- Hence doth our Saviour pray, "I praise thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father, for so hath it seemed good in thy sight." Matt. xi. 25.
Ver. 6. Having in readiness. God gave power, not only to persuade, and to convince the incredulous, but also to punish them, as we see in the examples of Simon Magus and Elymas. What then should hinder him from using the same against these false apostles? But he says, your obedience must first be fulfilled. God forbid that I should first use the sword, before I have tried the ways of sweetness and conciliation. But if any remain obstinate, then I will employ the arms that God has given me. Grotius.
--- This sweet and forcible example of the apostle is worthy the imitation of all superiors, temporal and ecclesiastical, how ever high their dignity or command. A.
Ver. 12. &c. The following verses to the end of the chapter, are equally obscure, both in the Greek and Latin text.
--- We dare not rank or compare ourselves, &c. He seems to write this ironically, by way of mocking at those, who commended and preferred themselves before others. But I will not compare myself with others, but will only compare† myself with myself, to shew that my actions agree with my words and my letters.
--- We will not glory beyond our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath measured to us, a measure to reach even to you. Here he speaks of a measure, and a rule. By the measure, with which God measured to him, he means the places and countries, in which he, and the other apostles were appointed to preach, and plant the gospel: and by the rule also prescribed him, he means that it was given him as a rule not to preach, where other ministers of Christ had preached. When he says, therefore, we will not glory beyond our measure,†† or (as it is implied in the Greek) of things out of the measure, the sense is, I will not, like false preachers, pretend to have preached in places out of my province, or which were not measured out to me, nor have we extended ourselves farther than we ought to have done, when we came to you, for you were within our measure. Nor have I transgressed the rule, because others had not preached to you before me, so that I have not boasted in other men's labours. But as your faith is growing, and increasing, when I have sufficiently settled the gospel among you, I hope my measure may be enlarged, and that without breaking the settled rule, I may preach also to people and places beyond you. This is what seems to be understood by these words, to be enlarged or magnified, even to an abundance, and yet not to glory in other men's labours, but to glory in the Lord only, and in what we do, as we have been directed, and assisted by him. Wi.
[†] V. 12. Ipsi in nobis nos metipsos metientes; the Greek is somewhat different, autoi en eautoiV eautouV metrounteV, ipsi in seipsis, seipsos mensurantes.
[††] V. 15. Non in immensum, ouk eiV ta ametra, non in non mensurata.
Ver. 13. The apostle here reprehends the vain boasting of false teachers. I will not, like them, say, that I have carried the light of the gospel to the utmost limits of the globe, that I have converted millions of men, avoided an infinity of dangers, performed many miracles, &c. No: I confine myself to the part assigned me by God. I will only glory in having come even to you. This I can do with justice, and without arrogance. Each one has his share, his measure, or his part to cultivate in the vineyard of Christ. Calmet, and V.
Ver. 16. The words, measure, rule, &c. signify through the whole of this chapter a share, or an allotment of any place to cultivate. S. Paul never gloried like the persons whom he is here blaming, that he entered into other men's labours. But still neither those persons who have come to you, nor we who first preached the gospel to you, have any right to glory, except in God alone. Calmet.
--- We still hope, that your faith every day increasing, we shall be able to extend our measure much further, and carry the gospel to nations far beyond you, without interfering with any other, by glorying of having built on what they had already prepared. V.