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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 10

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Verse 1

Having finished his exhortation, he now proceeds partly to refute the calumnies with which he had been defamed by the false apostles, and partly to repress the insolence (740) of certain wicked persons, who could not bear to be under restraint. Both parties, with the view of destroying Paul’s authority, construed the vehemence with which he thundered in his Epistles to be θρασοδειλίαν — (mere bravado,) (741) because when present he was not equally prepared to show himself off in respect of appearance, and address, but was mean and contemptible. “See,” said they, “here is a man, that, under a consciousness of his inferiority, is so very modest and timid, but now, when at a distance, makes a fierce attack! Why is he less bold in speech than in letters? Will he terrify us, when he is at a distance, who, when present, is the object of contempt? How comes he to have such confidence as to imagine, that he is at liberty to do anything with us?” (742) They put speeches of this kind into circulation, with the view of disparaging his strictness, and even rendering it odious. Paul replies, that he is not bold except in so far as he is constrained by necessity, and that the meanness of his bodily presence, for which he was held in contempt, detracted nothing from his authority, inasmuch as he was distinguished by spiritual excellence, not by carnal show. Hence those would not pass with impunity, who derided either his exhortations, or his reproaches, or his threatenings. The words I myself are emphatic; as though he had said, that however the malevolent might blame him for inconstancy, he was in reality not changeable, but remained uniformly the same.

1.I exhort you. The speech is abrupt, as is frequently the case with speeches uttered under the influence of strong feeling. The meaning is this: “I beseech you, nay more, I earnestly entreat you by the gentleness of Christ, not to compel me, through your obstinacy, to be more severe than I would desire to be, and than I will be, towards those who despise me, on the ground of my having nothing excellent in external appearance, and do not recognize that spiritual excellence, with which the Lord has distinguished me, and by which I ought rather to be judged of.”

The form of entreaty, which he makes use of, is taken from the subject in hand, when he says — by the meekness and gentleness of Christ Calumniators took occasion to find fault with him, because his bodily presence was deficient in dignity, (743) and because, on the other hand, when at a distance, he thundered forth in his Epistles. Both calumnies he befittingly refutes, as has been said, but he declares here, that nothing delights him more than gentleness, which becomes a minister of Christ, and of which the Master himself furnished an example.

Learn of me, says he, for I am meek and lowly.
My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
(Matthew 11:29.)

The Prophet also says of him,

His voice will not be heard in the streets:
a bruised reed he shall not break, etc. (Isaiah 42:2.)

That gentleness, therefore, which Christ showed, he requires also from his servants. Paul, in making mention of it, intimates that he is no stranger to it. (744) “I earnestly beseech you not to despise that gentleness, which Christ showed us in his own person, and shows us every day in his servants, nay more, which ye see in me.”

Who in presence He repeats this, as if in the person of his adversaries, by way of imitating them. (745) Now he confesses, so far as words go, what they upbraided him with, yet, as we shall see, in such a way as to concede nothing to them in reality.

(740)L’insolence et audace;” — “The insolence and audacity.”

(741)Vne hardiesse d’vn vanterau;” — “The boldness of a braggadocio.” Θρασοδειλία is a compound of θράσος (boldness) and δείλια (timidity.)

(742) Qu’il pense auoir toute authorite sur nous;” — “That he thinks he has entire authority over us.”

(743)Auoit bien peu de dignite et maieste en apparence;” — “Had very little dignity and majesty in appearance”

(744)Il n’est pas nouueau a la pratiquer;” — “He is no stranger to the practice of it.”

(745)En contrefaisant les propos qu’ils tenoyent de luy;” — “By imitating the speeches that they uttered respecting him.” — See volume 1, p.65.

Verse 2

2.I beseech you, that I may not be bold, when I am present. Some think, that the discourse is incomplete, and that he does not express the matter of his request. (746) I am rather of opinion, however, that what was wanting in the former clause is here completed, so that it is a general exhortation. “Show yourselves docile and tractable towards me, that I may not be constrained to be more severe.” It is the duty of a good pastor to allure his sheep peacefully and kindly, that they may allow themselves to be governed, rather than to constrain them by violence. Severity, it is true, is, I acknowledge, sometimes necessary, but we must always set out with gentleness, and persevere in it, so long as the hearer shews himself tractable. (747) Severity must be the last resource. “We must,” says he, “try all methods, before having recourse to rigor; nay more, let us never be rigorous, unless we are constrained to it.” In the mean time, as to their reckoning themselves pusillanimous and timid, when he had to come to close quarters, he intimates that they were mistaken as to this, when he declares that he will stoutly resist face to face the contumacious (748) “They despise me,” says he, “as if I were a pusillanimous person, but they will find that I am braver and more courageous than they could have wished, when they come to contend in good earnest.” From this we see, when it is time to act with severity — after we have found, on trial being made, that allurements and mildness have no good effect. “I shall do it with reluctance,” says Paul, “but still I have determined to do it.” Here is an admirable medium; for as we must, in so far as is in our power, draw men rather than drive them, so, when mildness has no effect, in dealing with those that are stern and refractory, rigor must of necessity be resorted to: otherwise it will not be moderation, nor equableness of temper, but criminal cowardice. (749)

Who account of us. Erasmus renders it — “Those who think that we walk, as it were, according to the flesh.” The Old Interpreter came nearer, in my opinion, to Paul’s true meaning — “Qui nos arbitrantur, tanquam secundum carnem ambulemus;” — (“Those who think of us as though we walked according to the flesh;” (750)) though, at the same time, the phrase is not exactly in accordance with the Latin idiom, nor does it altogether bring out the Apostle’s full meaning. For λογιζεσθαι is taken here to mean — reckoning or esteeming. (751) “They think of us,” says Paul, “or they take this view of us, as though we walked according to the flesh.”

To walk according to the flesh, Chrysostom explains to mean — acting unfaithfully, or conducting one’s self improperly in his office; (752) and, certainly, it is taken in this sense in various instances in Paul’s writings. The term flesh, however, I rather understand to mean — outward pomp or show, by which alone the false Apostles are accustomed to recommend themselves. Paul, therefore, complains of the unreasonableness of those who looked for nothing in him except the flesh, that is, visible appearance, as they speak, or in the usual manner of persons who devote all their efforts to ambition. For as Paul did not by any means excel in such endowments, as ordinarily procure praise or reputation among the children of this world, (Luke 16:8,) he was despised as though he had been one of the common herd. But by whom? (753) Certainly, by the ambitious, who estimated him from mere appearance, while they paid no regard to what lay concealed within.

(746)Et le sens seroit, Ie vous prie, afin qu’il ne faille point vser de hardiesse;” — “And the meaning would be, I beseech you, in order that I may not have occasion to use boldness.”

(747)Docile et traittable;” — “Teachable and tractable.”

(748)Aux rebelles et obstinez;” — “The rebellious and obstinate.”

(749)Couardice ou nonchalance;” — “Cowardice or indifference.”

(750) Wiclif (1380) renders it: “that demen” (i.e., judge) “us as if we wandren aftir the fleisch.” Tyndale (1534,) Cranmer (1539,) and Geneva (1557,) read as follows: “which repute us as though we walked carnally.” Rheims (1582) — “which thinke us as though we walke according to the flesh.” — Ed.

(751) “The sense is, ‘I entreat, I say, that I may not have to be bold when I am present, with that confidence, wherewith I intend to be bold against certain, who regard me as walking after the flesh,’ i.e., guided by worldly principles. There seems to be a paraniomasia in λογίζομαι and λογιζομένους, which, if introduced into English, may perhaps be best expressed by reckon. ” — Bloomfield.Ed.

(752) Nec satis recte (ut opinor) Chrysostomus κατὰ σάρκα perinde exposuit, acsi accusaretur Apostolus eo nomine quod Spiritu Dei non duceretur, sed pravis carnis affectibus;” — “Nor is it altogether with propriety, in my opinion, that Chrysostom has explained κατὰ σάρκα, as if the Apostle were accused on this ground — that he was not led by the Spirit of God, but by the depraved affections of the flesh.” — BezaEd.

(753)Mais qui estoyent ceux qui le mesprisoyent ainsi ?” — “But who are those that despised him thus?”

Verse 3

3.For though we walk in the flesh. Walking in the flesh means here — living it the world; or, as he expresses it elsewhere,

being at home in the body. (2 Corinthians 5:6.)

For he was shut up in the prison of his body. This, however, did not prevent the influence of the Holy Spirit from showing itself marvelously in his weakness. There is here again a kind of concession, which, at the same time, is of no service to his adversaries.

Those war according to the flesh, who attempt nothing but in dependence upon worldly resources, in which alone, too, they glory. They have not their confidence placed in the government and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul declares that he is not one of this class, inasmuch as he is furnished with other weapons than those of the flesh and the world. Now, what he affirms respecting himself is applicable, also, to all true ministers of Christ. (754) For they

carry an inestimable treasure in earthen vessels,

as he had previously said. (2 Corinthians 4:7.) Hence, however they may be surrounded with the infirmities of the flesh, the spiritual power of God, nevertheless, shines forth resplendently in them.

(754)Tous vrais seruiteurs et ministres de Jesus Christ;” — “All true servants and ministers of Jesus Christ.”

Verse 4

4.For the weapons of our warfare. The warfare corresponds with the kind of weapons. He glories in being furnished with spiritual weapons. The warfare, accordingly, is spiritual. Hence it follows by way of contraries, (755) that it is not according to the flesh In comparing the ministry of the gospel to a warfare, he uses a most apt similitude. The life of a Christian, it is true, is a perpetual warfare, for whoever gives himself to the service of God will have no truce from Satan at any time, but will be harassed with incessant disquietude. It becomes, however, ministers of the word and pastors to be standard-bearers, going before the others; and, certainly, there are none that Satan harasses more, that are more severely assaulted, or that sustain more numerous or more dreadful onsets. That man, therefore, is mistaken, who girds himself for the discharge of this office, and is not at the same time furnished with courage and bravery for contending; for he is not exercised otherwise than in fighting. For we must take this into account, that the gospel is like a fire, by which the fury of Satan is en-kindled. Hence it cannot but be that he will arm himself for a contest, whenever he sees that it is advanced.

But by what weapons is he to be repelled? It is only by spiritual weapons that he can be repelled. Whoever, therefore, is unarmed with the influence of the Holy Spirit, however he may boast that he is a minister of Christ, will nevertheless, not prove himself to be such. At the same time, if you would have a full enumeration of spiritual weapons, doctrine must be conjoined with zeal, and a good conscience with the efficacy of the Spirit, and with other necessary graces. Let now the Pope go, and assume to himself the apostolic dignity (756) What could be more ridiculous, if our judgment is to be formed in accordance with the rule here laid down by Paul!

Mighty through God. Either according to God, or from God. I am of opinion, that there is here an implied antithesis, so that this strength is placed in contrast with the weakness which appears outwardly before the world, and thus, paying no regard to the judgments of men, he would seek from God approbation of his fortitude. (757) At the same time, the antithesis will hold good in another sense — that the power of his arms depends upon God, not upon the world.

In the demolishing of fortresses. He makes use of the term fortresses to denote contrivances, and every high thing that is exalted against God, (758) as to which we shall find him speaking afterwards. It is, however, with propriety and expressiveness that he so designates them; for his design is to boast, that there is nothing in the world so strongly fortified as to be beyond his power to overthrow. I am well aware how carnal men glory in their empty shows, and how disdainfully and recklessly they despise me, as though there were nothing in me but what is mean and base, while they, in the mean time, were standing on a lofty eminence. But their confidence is foolish, for that armor of the Lord, with which I fight, will prevail in opposition to all the bulwarks, in reliance upon which they believe themselves to be invincible. Now, as the world is accustomed to fortify itself in a twofold respect for waging war with Christ — on the one hand, by cunning, by wicked artifices, by subtilty, and other secret machinations; and, on the other hand, by cruelty and oppression, he touches upon both these methods. For by contrivances he means, whatever pertains to carnal wisdom.

The term high thing denotes any kind of glory and power in this world. There is no reason, therefore, why a servant of Christ should dread anything, however formidable, that may stand up in opposition to his doctrine. Let him, in spite of it, persevere, and he will scatter to the winds every machination of whatever sort. Nay more, the kingdom of Christ cannot be set up or established, otherwise than by throwing down everything in the world that is exalted. For nothing is more opposed to the spiritual wisdom of God than the wisdom of the flesh; nothing is more at variance with the grace of God than man’s natural ability, and so as to other things. Hence the only foundation of Christ’s kingdom is the abasement of men. And to this effect are those expressions in the Prophets:

The moon shall be ashamed, and the sun shall be confounded,
when the Lord shall begin to reign in that day; (Isaiah 24:23.)


The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the high looks of mortals shall be abased, and the Lord alone shall be
exalted in that day.(Isaiah 5:15, and Isaiah 2:17)

Because, in order that God alone may shine forth, it is necessary that the glory of the world should vanish away.

(755)Par vn argument prins (comme on appelle) des choses contraires;” — “By an argument taken (as the expression is) from things contrary.”

(756) Qu’il s’attribue tant qu’il voudra le titre de dignite Apostolique;” — “Let him assume to himself, as much as he pleases, the title of Apostolic dignity.”

(757)Aiusi le sens seroit, que laissant la tousles jugemens des hommes, il se retireroit vers Dieu pour auoir approbation de sa force;” — “Thus the meaning would be, that, disregarding all the judgments of men, he would direct his view God-ward to have approbation of his fortitude.”

(758) “The word here rendered strongholds (ὀχυρώματα) means properly — fastnesses, fortresses, or strong fortifications. It is here beautifully used to denote the various obstacles, resembling a fortress, which exist, and which are designed and adapted to oppose the truth and the triumph of the Christian’s cause. All these obstacles are strongly fortified [...] The whole world is fortified against Christianity; and the nations of the earth have been engaged in little else, than in raising and strengthening such strongholds for the space of six thousand years. The Christian religion goes forth against all the combined and concentrated powers of resistance of the whole world; and the warfare is to be waged against every strongly fortified place of error and of sin. These strong fortifications of error and of sin are to be battered down and laid in ruins by our spiritual weapons.” — Barnes.Ed.

Verse 5

5.And bring into captivity I am of opinion, that, having previously spoken more particularly of the conflict of spiritual armor, along with the hinderances that rise up in opposition to the gospel of Christ, he now, on the other hand, speaks of the ordinary preparation, by which men must be brought into subjection to him. For so long as we rest in our own judgment, and are wise in our own estimation, we are far from having made any approach to the doctrine of Christ. Hence we must set out with this, that

he who is wise must become a fool, (1 Corinthians 3:18,)

that is, we must give up our own understanding, and renounce the wisdom of the flesh, and thus we must present our minds to Christ empty that he may fill them. Now the form of expression must be observed, when he says, that he brings every thought into captivity, for it is as though he had said, that the liberty of the human mind must be restrained and bridled, that it may not be wise, apart from the doctrine of Christ; and farther, that its audacity cannot be restrained by any other means, than by its being carried away, as it were, captive. Now it is by the guidance of the Spirit, that it is brought to allow itself to be placed under control, and remain in a voluntary captivity.

Verse 6

6.And are in readiness to avenge. This he adds, lest insolent men should presumptuously lift themselves up in opposition to his ministry, as if they could do so with impunity. Hence he says, that power had been given him — not merely for constraining voluntary disciples to subjection to Christ, but also for inflicting vengeance upon the rebellious, (759) and that his threats were not empty bugbears, (760) but had the execution quite in readiness — to use the customary expression. Now this vengeance is founded on Christ’s word —

whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven. (Matthew 18:18.)

For although God does not thunder forth immediately on the minister’s pronouncing the sentence, yet the decision is ratified, (761) and will be accomplished in its own time. Let it, however, be always understood, that it is when the minister fights with spiritual armor. Some understand it as referring to bodily punishments, by means of which the Apostles inflicted vengeance upon contumacious and impious persons; as for example, Peter struck Ananias and Sapphira dead, and Paul struck Elymas the sorcerer blind. (Acts 5:1, and Acts 13:6.) But the other meaning suits better, for the Apostles did not make use of that power invariably or indiscriminately. Paul, however, speaks in general terms that he has vengeance ready at hand against all the disobedient.

When your obedience shall be fulfilled How prudently he guards against alienating any by excessive severity! For as he had threatened to inflict punishment upon the rebellious, that he may not seem to provoke them, he declares that another duty had been enjoined upon him with regard to them — simply that of making them obedient to Christ. And, unquestionably, this is the proper intention of the gospel, as he teaches both in the commencement and in the close of the Epistle to the Romans. (Romans 1:5, and Romans 16:26.) Hence all Christian teachers ought carefully to observe this order, that they should first endeavor with gentleness to bring their hearers to obedience, so as to invite them kindly before proceeding to inflict punishment upon rebellion. (762) Hence, too, Christ (763) has given the commandment as to loosing before that of binding. (764)

(759) Des-rebelles et obstinez;” — “Upon the rebellious and obstinate.”

(760) Pour faire peur (comme on dit) aux petits enfans;” — “To frighten (as they say) little children.”

(761)Ferme et stable;” — “Firm and stable.”

(762)Auant qu’entrer a les menacer, et leur denoncer la peine de rebellion;” — “Before proceeding to threaten them, and denounce upon them the punishment of rebellion.”

(763)Et pour ceste cause Jesus Christ luy-mesme;” — “And for this reason Jesus Christ himself.”

(764) “Calvin manifestly alludes here to John 20:23, in commenting on which he says, “As the embassy of salvation and of eternal life has been committed to the Apostles, so, on the other hand, they have been armed with vengeance against all the ungodly, who reject the salvation offered to them, as Paul teaches. (2 Corinthians 10:6.) But this is placed in last order, because it was proper that the true and real design of preaching the gospel should be first exhibited. That we are reconciled to God belongs to the nature of the gospel; that believers are adjudged to eternal life may be said to be accidentally connected with it. For this reason, Paul, in the passage which I lately quoted, when he threatens vengeance against unbelievers, immediately adds — after that your obedience shall have been fulfilled; (2 Corinthians 10:6) for he means, that it belongs peculiarly to the gospel to invite all to salvation, but that it is accidental to it that it brings destruction to any.” — Calvin on John, vol. 2, p. 273. — Ed.

Verse 7

7.That are according to appearance. In the first place, the clause according to appearance, may be taken in two ways: either as meaning the reality itself, visible and manifest, or an outward mask, (765) that deceives us. The sentence, too, may be read either interrogatively or affirmatively: nay more, the verb βλέπετε may be taken either in the imperative mood, or in the subjunctive. I am rather of opinion, however, that it is expressive of chiding, and that the Corinthians are reaproved, because they suffered their eyes to be dazzled with empty show. “You greatly esteem others who swell out with mighty airs of importance, while you look down upon me, because I have nothing of show and boasting.” For Christ himself contrasts the judgment that is according to appearance with righteous judgment. (John 7:24, and John 8:15.) Hence he reproves the Corinthians, because, contenting themselves with show, or appearance, they did not seriously consider, what kind of persons ought to be looked upon as the servants of Christ.

If any one trusteth in himself — an expression that is full of great confidence, for he takes it, as it were, for granted, that he is so certainly a minister of Christ, that this distinction cannot be taken from him. “Whoever,” says he, “is desirous to be looked upon as a minister of Christ, must necessarily count me in along with himself.” For what reason? “Let him, ” says he. “think for himself, for whatever things he may have in himself, that make him worthy of such an honor, the same will he find in me.” By this he hinted to them, that whoever they might be that reviled him, ought not to be looked upon as the servants of Christ. It would not become all to speak thus confidently, for it might certainly happen — nay, it happens every day, that they same claim is haughtily advanced by persons, that are of no reputation, and are nothing else than a dishonor to Christ. (766) Paul, however, affirmed nothing respecting himself but what he had openly given proof of by clear and sure evidences among the Corinthians. Now should any one, while destitute of all proof of the reality, recommend himself in a similar manner, what would he do but expose himself to ridicule? Totrust in one’s self is equivalent to assuming to one’s self power and authority on the pretext that he serves Christ, while he is desirous to be held in estimation.

(765) "La masque et apparence exterieure;" — "An outward mask and appearance."

(766) "Vn tas de garnement;" — "A band of profligates."

Verse 8

8.For though I should boast more largely of my authority. It was a sign of modesty, that he put himself into the number of those, whom he greatly excelled. At the same time, he was not disposed to show such modesty, as not to retain his authority unimpaired. He accordingly adds, that he has said less than his authority entitled him to say; for he was not one of the ordinary class of ministers, but was even distinguished among the Apostles. Hence he says: “Though I should boast more, I should not be ashamed, for there will be good ground for it.” He anticipates an objection, because he does not fail to speak of his own glory, while at the same time he refrains from making farther mention of it, that the Corinthians may understand, that, if he boasts, it is against his will, as in truth the false Apostles constrained him to it; otherwise he would not have done so.

By the term power he means — the authority of his Apostleship, which he had among the Corinthians for, through all the ministers of the word have the same office in common, there are nevertheless, degrees of honor. Now God had placed Paul on a higher eminence than others, inasmuch as he had made use of his endeavors for founding (767) that Church, and had in many ways put honor upon his Apostleship. Lest, however, malevolent persons should stir up odium against him, on the ground of his making use of the term power, he adds the purpose for which it was given him — the salvation of the Corinthians. Hence it follows, that it ought not to be irksome to them, or grievous, for who would not bear patiently, nay more, who would not love what he knows to be of advantage to him? In the mean time, there is an implied contrast between his power, and that in which the false apostles gloried — which was of such a nature that the Corinthians received no advantage from it, and experienced no edification. There can, however, be no doubt, that all the ministers of the word are also, furnished with power; for of what sort were a preaching of the word, that was without power ? Hence it is said to all —

He that heareth you, heareth me;
he that rejecteth you, rejecteth me. (Luke 10:16.)

As however, many, on false grounds, claim for themselves what they have not, we must carefully observe, how far Paul extends his power — so as to be to the edification of believers. Those, then, who exercise power in the way of destroying the Church, prove themselves to be tyrants, and robbers — not pastors. In the second place, we must observe, that he declares, that it was given to him by God. He, therefore, that is desirous to have any thing in his power to do, must have God as the Author of his power. Others, it is true, will boast of this also, as the Pope with full mouth thunders forth, that he is Christ’s vicar. But what evidence does he give of this? (768) For Christ has not conferred power of this kind upon dumb persons, but upon the Apostles, and his other ministers, that the doctrine of his Gospel might not be without defense. Hence the whole power of ministers is included in the word — but in such a way, nevertheless, that Christ may always remain Lord and Master. Let us, therefore, bear in mind, that in lawful authority these two things are required — that it be given by God, and that it be exercised for the welfare of the Church. It is well known, who they are, on whom God has conferred this power, and in what way he has limited the power he has given. Those exercise it in a proper manner, who faithfully obey his commandment.

Here, however, a question may be proposed. “God says to Jeremiah,

Behold, I set thee over the nations, and kingdoms,
to plant, and to pluck up, to build and to destroy.
(Jeremiah 1:10.)

We have, also, found it stated a little before, (2 Corinthians 10:5) that the Apostles were set apart on the same footing — that they might destroy every thing that exalted itself against Christ. Nay more, the teachers of the gospel cannot build up in any other way, than by destroying the old man. Besides, they preach the gospel to the condemnation and destruction of the wicked.” I answer that, what Paul says here, has nothing to do with the wicked, for he addresses the Corinthians, to whom he wished his Apostleship to be beneficial. With regard to them, I say, he could do nothing but with a view to edification. We have already observed, also, that this was expressly stated, that the Corinthians might know, that the authority of this holy man was not assailed by any one but Satan, the enemy of their salvation, while the design of that authority was their edification.

At the same time, it is in other respects true in a general way, that the doctrine of the gospel has in its own nature a tendency to edification — not to destruction. For as to its destroying, that comes from something apart from itself — from the fault of mankind, while they stumble at the stone that was appointed form as a foundation (1 Peter 2:8.) As to the fact, that we are renewed after the image of God by the destruction of the old man — that is not at all at variance with Paul’s words, for in that case destruction is taken in a good sense, but here in a bad sense, as meaning the ruin of what is God’s, or as meaning the destruction of the soul — as if he had said, that his power was not injurious to them, for instead of this the advantage of it for their salvation was manifested.

(767) "Pour fonder et batir;" — "For founding and building up."

(768) "Mais que fait-il? Quel tesmoignage en rend-il, pour luy adiouster foy;" — "But what does he do? What proof does he give of it, that credit may be given him?"

Verse 9

9That I may not seem to terrify. Again he touches on the calumny which he had formerly refuted, (2 Corinthians 10:2,) that he was bold in his writings, while in their presence his courage failed him. On this pretext they disparaged his writings. (769) “What!” Said they, “will he terrify us by letters when at a distance, while, if present with us, he would scarcely venture to mutter a word!” Lest, therefore, his letters should have less weight, he answers, that no objection is advanced against him, that should either destroy or weaken his credit, and that of his doctrine, for deeds were not to be less valued than words. He was not less powerful in actions when present, than he was by words when absent. Hence it was unfair, that his bodily presence should be looked upon as contemptible. By deed, here, he means, in my opinion, the efficacy and success of his preaching, as well as the excellences that were worthy of an Apostle, and his whole manner of life. Speech, on the other hand, denotes — not the very substance of doctrine, but simply the form of it, and the bark, so to speak: for he would have contended for doctrine with greater keeness. The contempt, however, proceeded from this — that he was deficient in that ornament and splendor of eloquence, which secures favor. (770)

(769) "Ils rendoyent ses ecrits contemptibles;" — "They made his writings contemptible."

(770) "Par laquelle on acquiert grace enuers les hommes;" — "By which they acquire favor among men."

Verse 12

12.For we dare not. He says this by way of irony, for afterwards he does not merely compare himself boldly with them, but, deriding their vanity, he leaves them far behind him. Now by this irony he gives a stroke, not merely to those foolish boasters, (772) but also to the Corinthians, who encouraged them in their folly by their misdirected approbation. “I am satisfied,” says he, “with my moderate way; for I would not dare to put myself on a footing with your Apostles, who are the heralds of their own excellence.” In the mean time, when he intimates that their glory consists of mere speaking and boasting, he shows, how silly and worthless they are, while he claims for himself deeds instead of words, that is, true and solid ground of glorying. He may seem, however, to err in the very thing for which he reproves others, for he immediately afterwards commends himself. I answer, that his design must be taken into view, for those do not aim at their own commendation, who, entirely free from ambition, have no desire but to serve the Lord usefully. (773) As to this passage, however, there is no need of any other explanation than what may be gathered from the words themselves, for those are said to commend themselves, who, while in poverty and starvation as to true praise, exalt themselves in vain-glorious boasting, and falsely give out, that they are what they are not. This, also, appears from what follows.

But they measure themselves by themselves Here he points out, as with his finger their folly. The man that has but one eye sees well enough among the blind: the man that is dull of hearing hears distinctly enough among the totally deaf. Such were those that were satisfied with themselves, and showed themselves off among others, simply because they did not look to any that were superior to themselves, for if they had compared themselves with Paul, or any one like him, they would have felt constrained to lay aside immediately that foolish impression which they entertained, and would have exchanged boasting for shame.

For an explanation of this passage we need look no farther than to the monks; for as they are almost all of them the most ignorant asses, and at the same time are looked upon as learned persons, on account of their long robe and hood, if any one has merely a slight smattering of elegant literature, he proudly spreads out his feathers like a peacock — a marvelous fame goes abroad respecting him — among his companions he is adored (774) Were, however, the mask of the hood laid aside, (775) and a thorough examination entered upon, their vanity would at once be discovered. Why so? The old proverb holds good: “Ignorance is pert.” (776) But the excessively insolent arrogance of the monks (777) proceeds chiefly from this — that they measure themselves by themselves; for, as in their cloisters there is nothing but barbarism, (778) it is not to be wondered, if the man that has but one eye is a king among the blind. Such were Paul’s rivals, for inwardly they flattered themselves, not considering what virtues entitled a person to true praise, and how far short they came of the excellence of Paul, and those like him. And, certainly, this single consideration might justly have covered them with shame, but it is the just punishment of the ambitious, that by their silliness they expose themselves to ridicule, (than which there is nothing that they are more desirous to avoid,) and in place of glory, which they are immoderately desirous of, (779) they incur disgrace.

(772) Thrasones. — See vol. 1, p. 98, n. 1.

(773)Car ceux qui estans vuides de toute ambition, desirent seulement de seruir a Dieu auec fruit et proufit, ne regardent point a se priser euxmesmes;” — “For those who being void of all ambition, simply desire to serve God with advantage and profit, have no view to exalt themselves.”

(774) “The principal places in the public schools of learning were filled very frequently by monks of the mendicant orders. This unhappy circumstance prevented their emerging from that ignorance and darkness which had so long enveloped them; and it also rendered them inaccessible to that auspicious light of improved science, whose salutary beams had already been felt in several of the European provinces. The instructors of youth, dignified with the venerable titles of Artists, Grammarians, Physicians, and Dialecticians, loaded the memories of their laborious pupils with a certain quantity of barbarous terms, arid and senseless distinctions, and scholastic precepts delivered in the most inelegant style, and all such that could repeat this jargon with a certain readiness and rapidity were considered as men of uncommon eloquence and erudition. The whole body of the philosophers extolled Aristotle beyond all measure, while scarcely any studied him, and none understood him.” — Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, (Lond. 1825,) volume 4 — Ed.

(775)Laisser derriere ceste masque de frocs et coqueluches;” — “To leave behind that mask of frocks and cowls.”

(776) “Our author quotes the same proverb in vol. 1, p. 460; and also when commenting on 1 Timothy 1:7Ed.

(777)Ceste arrogance intolerable des moines;” — “This intolerable arrogance of the monks.”

(778)Pure barbaric et bestise;” — “Mere barbarism and stupidity.”

(779)Laquelle ils appetent par moyens real propres;” — “Which they aim at by improper means.”

Verse 13

13.But we will not boast beyond our measure He now contrasts his own moderation with the folly of the false Apostles, (780) and, at the same time, he shows what is the true measure of glorying — when we keep within the limits that have been marked out for us by the Lord. “Has the Lord given me such a thing? I shall be satisfied with this measure. I shall not either desire or claim to myself any thing more.” This he calls the measure of his rule. (781) For every one’s rule, according to which he ought to regulate himself is this — God’s gift and calling. At the same time, it is not lawful for us to glow in God’s gift and calling on our own account, but merely in so far as it is expedient for the glory of him, who is so liberal to us with this view — that we may acknowledge ourselves indebted to him for everything. (782)

A measure to reach. By this clause he intimates, that he stands in no need of commendations expressed in words among the Corinthians, who were a portion of his glow, as he says elsewhere, (Philippians 4:1,) ye are my crown. He carries out, however, the form of expression, which he had previously entered upon. “I have,” says he, “a most ample field for glorying, so as not to go beyond my own limits, and you are one department of that field.” He modestly reproves, however, their ingratitude, (783) in overlooking, in a manner, his apostleship, which ought to have been especially in estimation among them, on the ground of God’s commendation of it. In each clause, too, we must understand as implied, a contrast between him and the false Apostles, who had no such approbation to show.

(780)Il oppose maintenant sa modestie a la sotte outrecuidance des faux apostres;” — “He now contrasts his modesty with the foolish presumption of the false Apostles.”

(781) “Within the measured and determinate limits of the stadium, the athletae were bound to contend for the prize, which they forfeited without hope of recovery, if they deviated even a little from the appointed course. In allusion to this inviolable arrangement, the Apostle tells the Corinthians: We will not boast of things without our measure, etc. It may help very much to understand this and the following verses, if, with Hammond, we consider the terms used in them as agonistical. In this view of them, the ‘measure of the rule’ (τὸ μέτρον τοῦ κανόνος) alludes to the path marked out, and bounded by a white line, for racers in the Isthmian games, celebrated among the Corinthians; and so the Apostle represents his work in preaching the gospel as his spiritual race, and the province to which he was appointed as the compass or stage of ground, which God had distributed or measured out (ἐμέρισεν αὐτῳ) for him to run in. Accordingly, ‘to boast without his measure,’ (2 Corinthians 10:13, εἰς τὰ ἄμετρα) and to ‘stretch himself beyond his measure,’ (ὑπερεκτείνεσθαι) refer to one that ran beyond or out of his line. ‘We are come as far as to you’ (2 Corinthians 10:14, ἄχρι ὑμῶν ἐφθάσαμεν) alludes to him that came foremost to the goal; and ‘in another man’s line’ (2 Corinthians 10:16, ἐν ἀλλοτρίῳ κανόνι) signifies — ’in the province that was marked out for somebody else,’ in allusion to the line by which the race was bounded, each of the racers having the path which he ought to run chalked out to him, and if one stepped over into the other’s path he extended himself over his line.” — Paxton’s Illustrations (“Manners and Customs,” volume 2.) — Ed.

(782)Afin que nons luy facions hommage de tout ce que nons avons, confessans le tenir de luy;” — “That we may make acknowledgment to him as to every thing that we have, confessing that we hold it from him.”

(783)Or en parlant ainsi, il taxe (modestement toutesfois) leur ingratitude;” — “But by speaking thus he reproves, (modestly, however,) their ingratitude.”

Verse 14

14.For we do not overstretch. He alludes to persons who either forcibly stretch out their arms, or raise themselves up on their feet, when wishing to catch hold of what is not at their hand, (784) for of this nature is a greedy thirst for glory, nay more, it is often more disgusting. For ambitious persons do not merely stretch out their arms and lift up their feet, but are even carried headlong with the view of obtaining some pretext for glorying. (785) He tacitly intimates that his rivals were of this stamp. He afterwards declares on what ground he had come to the Corinthians — because he had founded their church by his ministry. Hence he says, in the gospel of Christ; for he had not come to them empty, (786) but had been the first to bring the gospel to them. The preposition in is taken by some in another way; for they render it, by the gospel, and this meaning does not suit ill. At the same time, Paul seems to set off to advantage his coming to the Corinthians, on the ground of his having been furnished with so precious a gift.

(784)Εκτείνω is to extend, to stretch himselfe to the full of his measure: ὑπερεκτείνω, to stretch himselfe beyond it, — to tenter himself far beyond his scantling.” — Leigh’s Critica Sacra. — Ed.

(785)Courent a bride auallee, et sont comme transportez a pour chasser quelque couleur de re glorifier;” — “They run with a loose bridle, and are, as it were, hurried forward with the view of obtaining some pretext for glorying.”

(786)Vuide ne despourueu;” — “Empty nor unprovided.”

Verse 15

15.In the labors of others. He now reproves more freely the false Apostles, who, while they had put forth their hand in the reaping of another man’s harvest, had the audacity at the same time to revile those, who had prepared a place for them at the expense of sweat and toil. Paul had built up the Church of the Corinthians — not without the greatest struggle, and innumerable difficulties. Those persons afterwards come forward, and find the road made and the gate open. That they may appear persons of consequence, they impudently claim for themselves what did not of right belong to them, and disparage Paul’s labors.

But having hope. He again indirectly reproves the Corinthians, because they had stood in the way of his making greater progress in advancing the gospel. For when he says that he hopes that, when their faith is increased the boundaries of his glowing will be enlarged, he intimates, that the weakness of faith under which they labored was the reason, why his career had been somewhat retarded. “I ought now to have been employed in gaining over new Churches, and that too with your assistance, if you had made as much proficiency as you ought to have done; but now you retard me by your infirmity. I hope, however, that the Lord will grant, that greater progress will be made by you in future, and that in this way the glory of my ministry will be increased according to the rule of the divine calling.” (787) To glory in things that have been prepared is equivalent to glorying in the labors of others; for, while Paul had fought the battle, they enjoyed the triumph. (788)

(787)Selon la regle et mesure de la vocation Diuine;” — “According to the rule and measure of the Divine calling.”

(788)Car combien que S. Paul eust guerroye, toutesfois les autres triomphoyent; c’est t dire, combien qu’il eust soustenu tout le fais et la peine, les autres en raportoyent la gloire;” — “For although Paul had fought the battle, yet others enjoyed the triumph: that is to say, though he had borne all the burden and trouble, others carried off the glory.”

Verse 17

17.But he that glorieth This statement is made by way of correction, as his glorying might be looked upon as having the appearance of empty boasting. Hence he cites himself and others before the judgment-seat of God, saying, that those glory on good grounds, who are approved by God. To glory in the Lord, however, is used here in a different sense from what it bears in the first chapter of the former Epistle, (1 Corinthians 1:31,) and in Jeremiah 9:24. For in those passages it means — to recognize God as the author of all blessings, in such a way that every blessing is ascribed to his grace, while men do not extol themselves, but glorify him alone. Here, however, it means — to place our glory at the disposal of God alone, (789) and reckon every thing else as of no value. For while some are dependent on the estimation of men, and weigh themselves in the false balance of public opinion, and others are deceived by their own arrogance, Paul exhorts us to be emulous of this glow — that we may please the Lord, by whose judgment we all stand or fall.

Even heathens say, that true glory consists in an upright conscience. (790) Now that is so much, but it is not all; for, as almost all are blind through excessive self-love, we cannot safely place confidence in the estimate that we form of ourselves. For we must keep in mind what he says elsewhere, (1 Corinthians 4:4,) that he is not conscious to himself of anything wrong, and yet is not thereby justified. What then? Let us know, that to God alone must be reserved the right of passing judgment upon us; for we are not competent judges in our own cause. This meaning is confirmed by what follows —

(789)Eta ce qu’il en iugera;” — “And according as he will judge of it.”

(790) “The heathens, though they could never attain to a true, spiritually sanctified, conscience, yet to live according to the natural dictates thereof, they accounted the only happiness, Nil conscire sibi (To be conscious to one’s self of no crime, Hor. Ep. 1:1, 61,) was the only thing that made happy Pindar called it, the good nurse in our old age. So great a matter is it to have the testimony of a good conscience, void of offense, for that is mille testesmore than all the testimonies in the world. ” — Burgesse on 2 Corinthians 1:0. — Ed.

Verse 18

For not he that commendeth himself is approved “For it is easy to impose upon men by a false impression, and this is matter of every day occurrence. Let us, therefore, leaving off all other things, aim exclusively at this — that we may be approved by God, and may be satisfied to have his approbation alone, as it justly ought to be regarded by us as of more value than all the applauses of the whole world. There was one that said, that to have Plato’s favorable judgment was to him worth a thousand. (791) The question here is not as to the judgment of mankind, in respect of the superiority of one to another, but as to the sentence of God himself, who has it in his power to overturn all the decisions that men have pronounced.

(791) The expression referred to occurs in the writings of Cicero. “Plato mihi unus est instar omnium;” — “Plato, even singly, is to me equal to all.” — (Cic. Brut. 51.) Cicero says elsewhere, that “he would rather err with Plato than think rightly with others.” — (Cic. Tusc. 1:17.) — Ed.

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/2-corinthians-10.html. 1840-57.
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