|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-7 The best of men would faint, if they did not receive mercy from God. And that mercy which has helped us out, and helped us on, hitherto, we may rely upon to help us even to the end. The apostles had no base and wicked designs, covered with fair and specious pretences. They did not try to make their ministry serve a turn. Sincerity or uprightness will keep the favourable opinion of wise and good men. Christ by his gospel makes a glorious discovery to the minds of men. But the design of the devil is, to keep men in ignorance; and when he cannot keep the light of the gospel of Christ out of the world, he spares no pains to keep men from the gospel, or to set them against it. The rejection of the gospel is here traced to the wilful blindness and wickedness of the human heart. Self was not the matter or the end of the apostles' preaching; they preached Christ as Jesus, the Saviour and Deliverer, who saves to the uttermost all that come to God through him. Ministers are servants to the souls of men; they must avoid becoming servants to the humours or the lusts of men. It is pleasant to behold the sun in the firmament; but it is more pleasant and profitable for the gospel to shine in the heart. As light was the beginning of the first creation; so, in the new creation, the light of the Spirit is his first work upon the soul. The treasure of gospel light and grace is put into earthen vessels. The ministers of the gospel are subject to the same passions and weaknesses as other men. God could have sent angels to make known the glorious doctrine of the gospel, or could have sent the most admired sons of men to teach the nations, but he chose humbler, weaker vessels, that his power might be more glorified in upholding them, and in the blessed change wrought by their ministry.
Verse 2. - But have renounced; rather, but we renounced. We renounced them once and forever at our baptism. The hidden things of dishonesty; literally, of shame; meaning, of course, of all that causes shame. Disgraceful as may be calunmies of my Jewish opponents, I have said farewell forever to everything for which a good man would blush. "Honest" was originally like the Greek word καλὸς, a general expression for moral excellence, as in Pope's line -
"An honest man's the noblest work of God." Fletcher's -
"Man is his own star, and the soul that can
Be honest is the only perfect man." In craftiness. The word implies all subtle, cunning, underhand dealing (2 Corinthians 11:3), and it is clear from 2 Corinthians 12:16 that St. Paul had been charged with such conduct. The word is both used and illustrated in Luke 20:23. Handling the word of God deceitfully. He has already repudiated this charge by implication in 2 Corinthians 2:17, and he was always anxious to maintain an attitude of transparent sincerity (2 Corinthians 1:12) by uttering the truth and the whole truth (2 Corinthians 2:17; Acts 20:27), and not adulterating it. He had to meet such insinuations even in his first extant letter (1 Thessalonians 2:3). By manifestation of the truth. The constant recurrence to this thought shows the apostle's anxiety to remove the suspicion, created by the attacks of his opponents, that he had an esoteric teaching for some (2 Corinthians 1:13), kept some of his doctrines "The truth" cannot be preached by the aid of lies. The prominence of the word "manifest" in this Epistle is remarkable. St. Paul seems to be haunted by it (2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11; 2 Corinthians 7:12; 2 Corinthians 11:6). Commending ourselves. This is the only form of self-commendation or of "commendatory letter" for which I care. There is evidently a reference to the same verb used in 2 Corinthians 3:1. Before God (see 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 7:12; Galatians 1:20). These solemn appeals are meant to show that it would be morally impossible for him to act as he was charged with acting. If he can assert his own integrity he will do so only as consciously in the presence of God.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty,.... Or "shame"; this is a further account of the conduct of the first ministers of the Gospel, and very worthy of our imitation, and in which the apostle strikes at the different manner of behaviour in the false apostles: this may respect both doctrine and practice; they abhorred and rejected everything that was scandalous and reproachful to the Gospel of Christ; in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, they had their conversation in the world; they were open and above board, both in principle and practice; the same men in public, as in private; they used no art to cover their doctrines, or hide their conversations; everything of this kind was detestable to them; whereas the false teachers took a great deal of pains to colour over both their sentiments and their lives; and "a shame it was to speak of the things that were done of them in secret", Ephesians 5:12. Moreover, they were
not walking in craftiness; they used no sly and artful methods to please men, to gain applause from them, or make merchandise of them; they did not lie in wait to deceive, watching an opportunity to work upon credulous and incautious minds; they did not, by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple; nor put on different forms, or make different appearances, in order to suit themselves to the different tempers and tastes of men, as did the false apostles:
not handling the word of God deceitfully. They did not corrupt it with human doctrines, or mix and blend it with philosophy, and vain deceit; they did not wrest the Scriptures to serve any carnal or worldly purpose; nor did they accommodate them to the lusts and passions of men; or conceal any part of truth, or keep back any thing which might be profitable to the churches:
but by the manifestation of the truth, commending themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God; that is, they with all plainness and evidence clearly preached the truth as it is in Jesus, presenting it to, and pressing it upon the consciences of men; where they left it, and to which they could appeal; and all this they did, in the sight and presence of the omniscient God, to whom they knew they must give an account of themselves and their ministry.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. renounced—literally, "bid farewell to."
of dishonesty—rather, "of shame." "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" (Ro 1:16). Shame would lead to hiding (2Co 4:3); whereas "we use great plainness of speech" (2Co 3:12); "by manifestation of the truth." Compare 2Co 3:3, "manifestly declared." He refers to the disingenuous artifices of "many" teachers at Corinth (2Co 2:17; 3:1; 11:13-15).
handling … deceitfully—so "corrupt" or adulterate "the word of God" (2Co 2:17; compare 1Th 2:3, 4).
commending—recommending ourselves: recurring to 2Co 3:1.
to—to the verdict of.
every man's conscience—(2Co 5:11). Not to men's carnal judgment, as those alluded to (2Co 3:1).
in the sight of God—(2Co 2:17; Ga 1:10).
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