|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:6-11 Many excuse themselves from the work of religion, though they may make a show, and profess it. They may impose upon others, yet they deceive themselves if they think to impose upon God, who knows their hearts as well as actions; and as he cannot be deceived, so he will not be mocked. Our present time is seed time; in the other world we shall reap as we sow now. As there are two sorts of sowing, one to the flesh, and the other to the Spirit, so will the reckoning be hereafter. Those who live a carnal, sensual life, must expect no other fruit from such a course than misery and ruin. But those who, under the guidance and influences of the Holy Spirit, live a life of faith in Christ, and abound in Christian graces, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. We are all very apt to tire in duty, particularly in doing good. This we should carefully watch and guard against. Only to perseverance in well-doing is the reward promised. Here is an exhortation to all to do good in their places. We should take care to do good in our life-time, and make this the business of our lives. Especially when fresh occasions offer, and as far as our power reaches.
Verse 8. - For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption (o%ti o( spei/rwn ei) th\n sa/rka e(autou = e)k th = sarko\ qeri/sei fqora/n); for he that soweth unto his own flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption. "Fort" the causal force of the particle ὅτι, properly "because," is here greatly attenuated, being employed to introduce a sentence commending to acceptance the foregoing one, simply by a detailed exposition of particulars illustrating its meaning. This is the case also in 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Ephesians 2:18; Philippians 4:16. In regard to the connection of this first half of the eighth verse with the preceding context, we must take note of the sternly monitory tone which marks ver. 7. This shows that in the sentence, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," the apostle has more immediately in view the terrible harvest to be reaped by those who acted as if they thought that God might be overreached. We may infer from this that this first clause of ver. 8 is mainly the thought which up to here the writer had it on his mind to inculcate - the "corruption" which a man would reap from a life of self-indulgence. But, after completing the statement of this thought, his tone forthwith changes; the frown clearing away from his countenance, he adds, to the threatening admonition of the first clause, the cheering promise of the second, while a more genial tone marks his further remarks on the subject in vers. 9 and 10. The second limb of the verse thus appears introduced in the same way as the second does in Romans 8:13; and in both cases with the conjunction δέ. "Sowing unto his own flesh." Many critics render, "into his own flesh," as if, with a shifting of the image, which is certainly not uncommon with St. Paul, the flesh were now the ground into which the seed is cast. This relation, however, to the verb "sow" (see Alford and Ellicott) is in the New Testament expressed differently, by ἐν, in, or by ἐπί, upon; while εἰς in Matthew 13:22 denotes "among." It is more obvious to take εἰς as "unto," "denoting the immediate object of the action, that to which it tends, that in which it terminates" (Webster and Wilkinson, 'Commentary'). This way of construing suits better in the phrase, εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα, which follows. Applying the image of sowing generally, the apostle in ver. 7 speaks of the quality of the sowing (not precisely the quality of the seed) as determining the quality of the harvest; and here, of one kind of sowing being "unto the flesh," the other "unto the Spirit." "He that soweth unto his own flesh;" that is, he whose general action in life is referred to his own personal gratification in his lower nature - to his own profit, pleasure, honour. The addition of ἑαυτοῦ ("his own") has a marked reference to the topic which led to this general statement: the apostle has in his view a man's gratifying his own merely worldly inclinations, to the disregard of the well-being, even the physical well-being, of other men. To sow unto the flesh of our brethren, in one sense, namely, for the promotion of their physical well-being, would bear a different aspect from sowing unto oar own flesh. "Shall from the flesh reap corruption." This by some commentators has been interpreted thus: In the harvest of That Day, nought will be found with him of all those things on which his heart has been set - nought save, at the best, mere rottenness, disappointment, and illusion. This would be analogous to the moral with which our Lord pointed his parable of the rich fool, to whom God said, "Whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?" "So is he," added Christ, "that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:20, 21). The word φθορά, corruption, involves at least as much as this; but this view alone would furnish an inadequate antitheten to "eternal life," as also it gives less force to the word itself than it appears from its ordinary use to convey. One essential element of this verbal noun φθορὰ is the notion of decay, or the condition of being impaired, spoilt, wasted away (cf. Colossians 2:20; Romans 8:21), It is used of corruption in our moral nature in 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 2:12, 19; as φθείρω and διαφθείρω are likewise applied in 2 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Timothy 6:5. But the clear presentment of its sense, when connected as it is here with "flesh," is afforded by its antithesis, with respect to the "body" or "flesh," to ἀφθαρσία in 1 Corinthians 15:42, "It is sown in corruption., it is raised in incorruption," and ibid., 1 Corinthians 15:50," Neither doth corruption inherit incorruption;" and by the opposed adjectives "corruptible" and "incorruptible ' (φθαρτός and ἄφθαρτος) in 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54, as well as by the use of διαφθορὰ of the rotting away of a dead body, in Acts 2:27, 31; Acts 13:34-37. That the apostle uses the word "corruption" with a direct reference to "flesh," and therefore as alluding to or rather expressing a certain qualification of the flesh's condition, is shown by his inserting the words, ἐκ τῆς σαρκός, "of the flesh." Strictly speaking those words are not necessary for the completeness of the sentence. To all appearance they are added aetiologically, to make prominent the thought that what is sown unto the flesh may be expected to issue in corruption, because corruption is the natural end of flesh itself. For an analogous reason, "of the Spirit" is inserted in the antithetic statement; the Spirit being essentially not only living, but vivific. The words, then, seem to mean this' "shall from the flesh reap that corruption which the flesh, un-quickened by the Spirit of God [for comp. Romans 8:11], must itself issue in." In endeavouring more exactly to determine the sense of these words, it is well in the first instance to confine our view to the conceptions relative to this subject presented by St. Paul. In reviewing these, we observe that St. Paul never predicates ἀφθαρσία ("incorruption," "incorruptible-ness") of the future bodily condition of "those who perish (οἱ ἀπολλύμενοι)." On the contrary, in 1 Corinthians 15:42-54 he clearly restricts this conception of bodily being to the case of those whose body shall be assimilated to that of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, as indeed it is only to them that the entire discourse (vers. 20-58) relates. So again in Philippians 3:21, the "fashioning anew of the body of our humiliation into conformity with the body of his glory" is evidently limited to those whoso end is not "perdition (ἀπώλεια)." Again, in 2 Corinthians 5:1 the "house not made with hands, eternal," appears to be an exclusive designation of the resurrection-body of the accepted believer. Once more, in Romans 2:7 the words, "to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and incorruption (ἀφθαρσίαν)," imply that incorruption is an attribute exclusively pertaining to the happiness after which true Christians aspire. All that we meet with elsewhere in St. Paul's writings fits in perfectly with his holding the view that, while "there shall be a resurrection both of the just and unjust," as he stated to Felix (Acts 24:15) - a resurrection surely he meant in the body - the bodies of the accepted alone wilt be incorruptible, the bodies of the lost being, for all that appears in his teaching, left in some sense subject to corruption. In what way the apostle in his own mind connected this conception, of in-corruption being a quality exclusively pertaining to the future condition of the just. with that of the "eternal destruction (αἰώνιος ὄλεθρος)" awaiting them who know not God (2 Thessalonians 1:9), we shall, perhaps, do wisely in not attempting to determine. We can, it is true, imagine ways of conjoining the two notions; 'but it will be best not to positively affirm that this or that that was St. Paul's manner of viewing the subject. Possibly the Spirit had not revealed this to him. if so, he might feel it incumbent upon him to forbear from giving forth definite statements on matters not really disclosed to his view, and, therefore, not intended to form a part of revealed truth. This, however, should not keep us back from accepting what appears to be the only probable view of the sense of the present passage, namely, that they who live a life of selfishness and carnal self-indulgence will reap the final award of having a body with flesh, in some most real and important sense, subject to corruption. The consideration that the apostle is thinking of the awards of the day of judgment, at once meets the objection that corruption is predicable of the Christian's body also. It is obvious to reply that, though the body of a believer is sown in corruption even as the body of an unrighteous man, it is revealed to us that it will be raised in incorruption; which it is nowhere said that the body of him who dies in his sins will be. As applied to objects lying on the other side of the veil which parts the spiritual world from that visible world whence all our images of thought are derived, this term "corruption" must be understood as describing a condition of bodily being, not necessarily identical with, but very conceivably only in some respects analogous to, that which it describes in relation to a corpse in our present state. The resurrection stale, with all that pertains to it, inscrutably blending, as the story, of the forty days commencing with Christ s resurrection exemplifies, spiritual phenomena with corporeal, is one which we are wholly unable to understand or to realize. This may be thought a very superfluous observation. But it is not so. The attempts intellectually to realize the events which we are hereafter to witness and to be the subjects of, and the dogmatic affirmations relating to them, made, not merely in past ages, but in the very present, render it necessary that we should distinctly keep this truth in view. The physical theory of that future state, and the eventual history which is to be evolved in it, we not merely do not know, but are absolutely incapable of forecasting. We dare not say one syllable about them beyond what is distinctly told us; and what is told us, we are to remember, is through the very nature of the case no other than images, presented in a dark dim mirror, which shows them so obscurely, that to our intellective perception they seem riddles rather than revelations: Ἄρτι γὰρ βλέπομεν δἰ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is, in fact, not our intellect, but our moral sense, that the revelations of the future state are designed to inform. Next, looking out from the field of purely Pauline doctrine upon the teaching presented in other parts of the New Testament, we are reminded at once of that awful and repeated word of our Lord concerning the "Gehenna of fire" - "where their worm (σκώληξ) dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48). It is known that, before our Lord appeared upon earth, this conception of Gehenna, the terms of which beyond question were borrowed from the closing verses of Isaiah, had already become current in the eschatological views of the Jews. This is evidenced by Judith 16:17; Ecclus. 7:17. This imagery our Lord adopted, recognizing, it should seem, in this portion of rabbinical teaching a just evolution of ideas which had been presented in the inspired volumes of the Old Testament - a development of them which we may fairly attribute to the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit promised to God's restored people, as e.g, in Ezekiel 36:24-28. We cannot doubt that the "worm" which our Lord spoke of means the worm which preys upon rotting flesh. The image, therefore, exactly accords with the word "corruption" as interpreted above. Whether the apostle glanced at that discourse of Christ, or was even aware of it, is uncertain; but that he both knew of it and even inferred from it in using this word "corruption," is by no means unlikely. One other reference to "corruption" as the future doom of at least certain of the lost, is found in 2 Peter 2:12, which, according to the now approved reading of the Greek text, runs thus: "But these, as creatures without reason, born mere animals to be taken and destroyed - shall in their destroying be destroyed [or, 'in their corruption shall even rot away'] (ἐν τῇ φθορᾷ αὐτῶν καὶ φθαρήσονται)." Possibly the word φθορά, taken as "corruption," points here to moral corruption; but the verb φθαρήσονται may very well point to the miserable doom of rotting away by which they shall judicially perish, moral corruption working physical corruption. But the exact sense is doubtful. With the clause before us we must group Romans 8:13, "If ye live after the flesh, ye are certain to die;" whilst the sentence which follows, "But if by the Spirit ye put to death the doings of the body, ye shall live," answers to the closing sentence of the present verse; as also does "death" as "the wages of sin," balanced against the "eternal life" which is "the gift of God," in Romans 6:25. The contrasted thoughts in Philippians 3:19, 20 likewise closely touch those here presented to us. But he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting (ὁ δὲ σπείρων εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα ἐκ τοῦ Πνεύματος θερίσει ζωὴν αἰώνιον); but he that soweth unto the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life eternal. That is, he that expends thought, time, effort, money, upon the furthering, in himself and in others, of the fruits of the Spirit, shall receive, from that Holy Spirit to whose guidance dwelling within him he resigns himself, that quickening of his whole being, body, soul, and spirit, for an everlasting existence in glory, which it is the proper work of that Divine Agent to effect. For the latter clause, comp. Romans 8:11, "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you [as the guiding, animating influence in your lives], he that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of his Spirit dwelling within you;" in which passage the aetiologleal clause, "by reason of his Spirit dwelling in you," corresponds exactly with the aetiological clause, "of the Spirit," in the words before us. The two verses which follow show that one specific form of sowing unto the Spirit which the apostle has definitely in view, while enforcing the general idea, is that of Christian beneficence. How closely the practice of Christian beneficence was in the apostle's mind, in conformity with Christ's own teaching (Matthew 25. etc.), connected with the securing of the future blissful immortality, is markedly shown in 1 Timothy 6:18, 19; - not the less so if we adopt the now approved reading, ἵνα ἐκιλάβωνται τοῦ ὄντως ζωῆς, "that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For he that soweth to his flesh,.... Not that taking due care of a man's body, seeking the preservation of its health, providing proper food and raiment for himself, and all necessaries for the good and support of his family, is to be called sowing to his flesh, nor is he to be called a carnal sower; but he is such an one that pampers his flesh, gratifies and indulges the lusts of it, who minds the things of the flesh, lives after it, and does the works of it, who spends his substance in a luxurious way upon himself and family; or whose whole bent, and study, and employment, is to increase his worldly riches, to aggrandize himself and posterity, to the neglect of his own soul, the interest of religion, the poor of the church, and ministers of the Gospel:
shall of the flesh reap corruption; shall by such carnal methods procure for himself, in this world, nothing but what is corruptible, as silver and gold be, and such treasure as moth and rust corrupt; such substance as will not endure, but is perishing, and may be by one providence or another taken from him; so that all his care in sowing comes to nothing, and is of no advantage to himself, nor to his posterity; see Haggai 1:4, and shall fall into the pit of corruption, and be punished with everlasting destruction, and die the second death in the world to come.
But he that soweth to the Spirit; not his own, but the Spirit of God; or that soweth spiritual things, that minds and savours the things of the Spirit, lives in the Spirit, and walks in the Spirit; that lays out his worldly substance in promoting spiritual things, in encouraging the spiritual ministers of the word, in supporting the interest of spiritual religion, in relieving the poor of Christ's churches, in contributing to the spread of the Gospel, and the administration of the word and ordinances in other places, as well as where he is more immediately concerned:
shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting; in the use of such spiritual means, though not as meritorious, or as causes, he shall attain to, and enjoy eternal happiness in the other world; or of, and by the Spirit of God, by whose grace and strength he sows, and does all the good things he does, by and of him sanctifying him, and making him meet for it, and not of himself, or any works of righteousness done by him, shall he inherit eternal life; which is the pure gift of God through Jesus Christ, and bestowed as a reward of his own grace.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. Translate, "He that soweth unto his own flesh," with a view to fulfilling its desires. He does not say, "His spirit," as he does say, "His flesh." For in ourselves we are not spiritual, but carnal. The flesh is devoted to selfishness.
corruption—that is, destruction (Php 3:19). Compare as to the deliverance of believers from "corruption" (Ro 8:21). The use of the term "corruption" instead, implies that destruction is not an arbitrary punishment of fleshly-mindedness, but is its natural fruit; the corrupt flesh producing corruption, which is another word for destruction: corruption is the fault, and corruption the punishment (see on 1Co 3:17; 2Pe 2:12). Future life only expands the seed sown here. Men cannot mock God because they can deceive themselves. They who sow tares cannot reap wheat. They alone reap life eternal who sow to the Spirit (Ps 126:6; Pr 11:18; 22:8; Ho 8:7; 10:12; Lu 16:25; Ro 8:11; Jas 5:7).
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