Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not your's but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you.—The visit to Corinth of Acts 18:1. followed by a long sojourn, may perhaps be reckoned as the first occasion; then came the projected journey from Ephesus to Corinth and thence to Macedonia (2Corinthians 1:16); now he was preparing for the third journey, announced in 1Corinthians 16:5-7, from Macedonia to Corinth. (See, however, the Note on 2Corinthians 13:1.)
I seek not your’s, but you.—The words point to the secret motive of the conduct which had annoyed some of the Corinthians. He loved them, as all true friends love, for their own sake, not for anything he might hope to gain from them. He must be sure that he had gained their hearts before he could receive their gifts as poor substitutes for their affections; and therefore he announces beforehand that he meant to persevere in the same line of conduct, working for his own maintenance as before. Romans 16:23 indicates that he so far deviated from his purpose as to accept the hospitality of Gaius of Corinth.
For the children ought not to lay up for the parents.—Better, perhaps, are not bound to lay by. There is a touch of exquisite delicacy and tenderness, reminding us of like characteristics in the Epistle to Philemon, in this apology for the seeming wrong of which men had complained. He could claim the rights of a father, as in 1Corinthians 4:15; might he not be allowed to fulfil a father’s obligations, and to give to his children rather than receive from them?
NOT YOURS BUT YOU
2 Corinthians 12:14Men are usually quick to suspect others of the vices to which they themselves are prone. It is very hard for one who never does anything but with an eye to what he can make out of it, to believe that there are other people actuated by higher motives. So Paul had, over and over again, to meet the hateful charge of making money out of his apostleship. It was one of the favourite stones that his opponents in the Corinthian Church, of whom there were very many, very bitter ones, flung at him. In this letter he more than once refers to the charge. He does so with great dignity, and with a very characteristic and delicate mixture of indignation and tenderness, almost playfulness. Thus, in the context, he tells these Corinthian grumblers that he must beg their pardon for not having taken anything of them, and so honoured them. Then he informs them that he is coming again to see them for the third time, and that that visit will be marked by the same independence of their help as the others had been. And then he just lets a glimpse of his pained heart peep out in the words of my text. ‘I seek not yours, but you.’ _There_ speaks a disinterested love which feels obliged, and yet reluctant, to stoop to say that it _is_ love, and that it _is_ disinterested. Where did Paul learn this passionate desire to possess these people, and this entire suppression of self in the desire? It was a spark from a sacred fire, a drop from an infinite ocean, an echo of a divine voice. The words of my text would never have been Paul’s if the spirit of them had not first been Christ’s. I venture to take them in that aspect, as setting forth Christ’s claims upon us, and bearing very directly on the question of Christian service and of Christian liberality.
I. So, then, first of all, I remark, Christ desires personal surrender.
‘I seek not yours, but _you_,’ is the very mother-tongue of love; but upon our lips, even when our love is purest, there is a tinge of selfishness blending with it, and very often the desire for another’s love is as purely selfish as the desire for any material good. But in so far as human love is pure in its desire to possess another, we have the right to believe the deep and wonderful thought that there is something corresponding to it in the heart of Christ, which is a revelation for us of the heart of God; and that, however little we may be able to construe the whole meaning of the fact, He does stretch out an arm of desire towards us; and for His own sake, as for ours, would fain draw us near to Himself, and is ‘satisfied,’ as He is not without it, when men’s hearts yield themselves up to Him, and let Him love them and lavish Himself upon them. I do not venture into these depths, but I would lay upon our hearts that the very inmost meaning of all that Jesus Christ has said, and is saying, to each of us by the records of His life, by the pathos of His death, by the miracle of His Resurrection, by the glory of His Ascension, by the power of His granted Spirit, is, ‘I seek you.’
And, brethren, our self-surrender is the essence of our Christianity. Our religion lies neither in our heads nor in our acts; the deepest notion of it is that it is the entire yielding up of ourselves to Jesus Christ our Lord. There is plenty of religion which is a religion of the head and of creeds. There is plenty of religion which is the religion of the hand and of the tongue, and of forms and ceremonies and sacraments; external worship. There is plenty of religion which surrenders to Him some of the more superficial parts of our personality, whilst the ancient Anarch, Self, sits undisturbed on his dark throne, in the depths of our being. But none of these are the religion that either Christ requires or that we need. The only true notion of a Christian is a man who can truly say, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’
And that is the only kind of life that is blessed; our only true nobleness and beauty and power and sweetness are measured by, and accurately correspond with, the completeness of our surrender of ourselves to Jesus Christ. As long as the earth was thought to be the centre of the planetary system there was nothing but confusion in the heavens. Shift the centre to the sun and all becomes order and beauty. The root of sin, and the mother of death, is making myself my own law and Lord; the germ of righteousness, and the first pulsations of life, lie in yielding ourselves to God in Christ, because He has yielded Himself unto us.
I need not remind you, I suppose, that this self-surrender is a great deal more than a vivid metaphor: that it implies a very hard fact; implies at least two things, that we have yielded ourselves to Jesus Christ, by the love of our hearts, and by the unreluctant submission of our wills, whether He commands or whether He sends sufferings or joys.
And, oh, brethren, be sure of this, that no such giving of myself away, in the sweet reciprocities of a higher than human affection, is possible, in the general, and on the large scale, if you evacuate from the Gospel the great truth, ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ I believe--and therefore I am bound to preach it--that the only power which can utterly annihilate and cast out the dominion of self from a human soul is the power that is lodged in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross for sinful men.
And whilst I would fully recognise all that is noble, and all that is effective, in systems either of religion, or of irreligious morality, which have no place within their bounds for that great motive, I am sure of this, that the evil self within us is too strong to be exorcised by anything short of the old message, ‘Jesus Christ has given His life for thee, wilt thou not give thyself unto Him?’
II. Christ seeks personal service.
‘I seek . . . you’; not only for My love, but for My tools; for My instruments in carrying out the purposes for which I died, and establishing My dominion in the world. Now I want to say two or three very plain things about this matter, which lies very near my heart, as to some degree responsible for the amount of Christian activity and service in this my congregation. Brethren, the surrender of ourselves to Jesus Christ in acts of direct Christian activity and service, will be the outcome of a real surrender of ourselves to Him in love and obedience.
I cannot imagine a man who, in any deep sense, has realised his obligations to that Saviour, and in any real sense has made the great act of self-renunciation, and crowned Christ as his Lord, living for the rest of his life, as so many professing Christians do, dumb and idle, in so far as work for the Master is concerned. It seems to me that, among the many wants of this generation of professing Christians, there is none that is more needed than that a wave of new consecration should pass over the Church. If men who call themselves Christians lived more in habitual contact with the facts of their redeeming Saviour’s sacrifice for them, there would be no need to lament the fewness of the labourers, as measured against the overwhelming multitude of the fields that are white to harvest. If once that flood of a new sense of Christ’s gift, and a consequent new completeness of our returned gifts to Him, flowed over the churches, then all the little empty ravines would be filled with a flashing tide. Not a shuttle moves, not a spindle revolves, until the strong impulse born of fire rushes in; and then, all is activity. It is no use to flog, flog, flog, at idle Christians, and try to make them work. There is only one thing that will set them to work, and that is that they shall live nearer their Master, and find out more of what they owe to Him; and so render themselves up to be His instruments for any purpose for which He may choose to use them.
This surrender of ourselves for direct Christian service is the only solution of the problem of how to win the world for Jesus Christ. Professionals cannot do it. Men of my class cannot do it. We are clogged very largely by the fact that, being necessarily dependent on our congregations for a living, we cannot, with as clear an emphasis as you can, go to people and say, ‘We seek not yours, but you.’ I have nothing to say about the present ecclesiastical arrangements of modern Christian communities. That would take me altogether from my present purposes, but I want to lay this upon your consciences, dear brethren, that you who have other means of living than proclaiming Christ’s name have an advantage, which it is at your peril that you fling away. As long as the Christian Church thought that an ordained priest was a man who could do things that laymen could not do, the limitation of Christian service to the priesthood was logical. But when the Christian Church, especially as represented by us Nonconformists, came to believe that a minister was only a man who preached the Gospel, which every Christian man is bound to do, the limitations of Christian service to the official class became an illogical survival, utterly incongruous with the fundamental principles of our conception of the Christian Church. And yet here it is, devastating our churches to-day, and making hundreds of good people perfectly comfortable, in an unscriptural and unchristian indolence, because, forsooth, it is the minister’s business to preach the Gospel. I know that there is not nearly as much of that indolence as there used to be. Thank God for that. There are far more among our congregations than in former times who have realised the fact that it is _every_ Christian man’s task, somehow or other, to set forth the great name of Jesus Christ. But still, alas, in a church with, say, 400 members, you may knock off the last cypher, and you will get a probably not too low statement of the number of people in it who have realised and fulfilled this obligation. What about the other 360 ‘dumb dogs, that will not bark’? And in that 360 there will probably be several men who can make speeches on political platforms, and in scientific lecture-halls, and about social and economical questions, only they cannot, for the life of them, open their mouths and say a word to a soul about Him whom they say they serve, and to whom they say they belong.
Brethren, this direct service cannot be escaped from, or commuted by a money payment. In the old days a man used to escape serving in the militia if he found a substitute, and paid for him. There are a great many good Christian people who seem to think that Christ’s army is recruited on that principle. But it is a mistake. ‘I seek you, not yours.’
III. Lastly, and only a word. Christ seeks us, _and_ ours.
Not you _without_ yours, still less yours without you. This is no place, nor is the fag end of a sermon the time, to talk about so wide a subject as the ethics of Christian dealing with money. But two things I will say--consecration of self is extremely imperfect which does not include the consecration of possessions, and, conversely, consecration of possessions which does not flow from, and is not accompanied by, the consecration of self, is nought.
If, then, the great law of self-surrender is to run through the whole Christian life, that law, as applied to our dealing with what we own, prescribes three things. The first is _stewardship_, not ownership; and that all round the circumference of our possessions. Depend upon it, the angry things that we hear to-day about the unequal distribution of wealth will get angrier and angrier, and will be largely justified in becoming so by the fact that so many of us, _Christians included_, have firmly grasped the notion of possession, and utterly forgotten the obligation of stewardship.
Again, the law of self-surrender, in its application to all that we have, involves our continual reference to Jesus Christ in our disposition of these our possessions. I draw no line of distinction, in this respect, between what a man spends upon himself, and what he spends upon ‘charity,’ and what he spends upon religious objects. _One_ principle is to govern, getting, hoarding, giving, enjoying, and that is, that in it all Christ shall be Master.
Again, the law of self-surrender, in its application to our possessions, implies that there shall be an element of sacrifice in our use of these; whether they be possessions of intellect, of acquirement, of influence, of position, or of material wealth. The law of help is sacrifice, and the law for a Christian man is that he shall not offer unto the Lord his God that which costs him nothing.
So, dear friends, let us all get near to that great central fire till it melts our hearts. Let the love which is our hope be our pattern. Remember that though only faintly, and from afar, can the issues of Christ’s great sacrifice be reproduced in any actions of ours, the spirit which brought Him to die is the spirit which must instruct and inspire us to live. Unless we can say, ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me; I yield myself to Him’; and unless our lives confirm the utterance, we have little right to call ourselves His disciples. 2 Corinthians 12:14-15. Behold, the third time I am ready — That is, resolved; to come to you — Having purposed it twice before, and been disappointed, 1 Corinthians 16:5; 2 Corinthians 1:15-16. And I will not be burdensome to you — More than formerly; for I seek not yours, but you — Not your money or goods, but the salvation of your souls. For children ought not — That is, it is not according to the course of nature for children to lay up temporal things for the parents, who commonly die before them; but the parents for the children — I therefore, your spiritual father, do not desire to partake of your temporal things, but to bestow my spiritual treasures upon you. And I will very gladly spend — My time, strength, and all I have; and be spent for you — Hazard, nay, and lose my life for your salvation, John 10:11; Php 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:8. Though the more abundantly I love you, &c. — How unkind soever your returns may be, and though my love should be requited with neglect, or even with contempt.1 Corinthians 16:5; 2 Corinthians 1:15-16. His purpose had been to visit them on his way to Macedonia and again on his return from Macedonia. He 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 the notes on 2 Corinthians 11:9-10.
For I seek not yours, 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 notes on Acts 20:33.
For the children ... - 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 needs; I labor 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 labor as he does, content with doing my duty, and promoting the welfare of those under me." The words rendered "ought out" (οὐ ὀφείλει ou opheilei) 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 labor for them without compensation.
not yours, but you—(Php 4:17).
children … parents—Paul was their spiritual father (1Co 4:14, 15). He does not, therefore, seek earthly treasure from them, but lays up the best treasure (namely, spiritual) "for their souls" (2Co 12:15).Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you: we read in holy writ but of two journeys which the apostle made to Corinth, Acts 18:1 20:2, and the latter is believed to have been after the writing of this Epistle. We must not think that all these motions are set down in Scripture. It is manifest that Paul had thoughts of going oftener, Acts 19:21 1 Corinthians 16:5 2 Corinthians 1:15. Man purposeth, but God disposeth. For which reason, James adviseth us to add:
If the Lord will, to our expressions testifying our resolutions.
And I will not be burdensome to you; he lets them know, that he was coming to them with the same resolutions he had before taken up, not to put them to any charge.
For I seek not yours, but you; for that, which should be the design of every faithful minister, was his design; viz. the gaining of their souls to Christ, and protecting of them, that in the day of judgment he might present them as a pure and chaste virgin unto Christ. His business was not to enrich himself by them; he sought the good of their souls, not their estates.
For the children ought not to lay up for the parents: he looked upon them as his children, upon himself as their parent. And though indeed children ought to relieve their parents, if in want, yet it is not the course of the world for children to lay up for their parents.
But the parents for the children; but, on the contrary, it is the course of parents to maintain their children, and to lay up for them. 1 Corinthians 16:5, and now a third time he had purposed it in his mind, and had prepared for it, and was just ready to come unto them; when he assures them he had not altered his mind, nor should he change his conduct, but steer the same course he had:
and I will not be burdensome to you; he signifies he would preach the Gospel freely to them, and take nothing of them; and this he says lest they should think with themselves, that though he took no stipend of them before, yet when he came again he would:
for I seek not yours; their money and substance, as did the false apostles:
but you; they themselves, their spiritual good and welfare, the comfort, edification, instruction, and salvation of their immortal souls; like a good and faithful shepherd, who sought not the fleece, but the good of the flock; or rather like a loving tender father, that was affectionately concerned for the good of his children:
for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children; not but that children ought to take care of, and provide for their aged and indigent parents, and churches ought to maintain their faithful ministers; but the apostle argues from a common fact which nature and affection direct unto, and have formed into a sort of a law, that parents not only care for their children, bring them up, and provide for them food and raiment; but as they are blessed by Providence, lay up treasures for them for tithe to come, and not children for their parents; this is neither usual nor necessary, for however, as the case may be, children may be obliged to maintain their parents when grown old and in want, yet not to lay up substance for them for futurity; and by it the apostle suggests, that he was a spiritual father to these Corinthians, and they were his children; for whose spiritual welfare he had the highest concern, and whatever he did was out of no disrespect to them, but from the strongest affection for them.Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not your's but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2 Corinthians 12:14. After that cutting irony comes the language of paternal earnestness, inasmuch as Paul once more (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:9-12) assures them that even on his impending third arrival among them he will remain true to his principle of not burdening them, and explains why he will do s.
ἰδού] vivid realizing of the position in the changing play of emotio.
τρότον] emphatically prefixed, belongs to ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς (comp. 2 Corinthians 13:1), not to ἑτοίμως ἔχω, as Beza, Grotius, Estius, Emmerling, Flatt, and others, also Baur (in the Theol. Jahrb. 1850, 2, p. 139 ff.), Lange, Apost. Zeitalt. I. p. 200 f., would have it, since, according to the context, it was not on his third readiness to come that anything depended, but on the third arrival, for only as having arrived, could he be burdensome to the readers. Comp. the Introd., and see Bleek in the Stud. u. Krit. 1830, p. 614 ff.; Neander, I. p. 414; Anger, Rat. temp. p. 71; Wieseler, Chronol. d. ap.Zeitalt. p. 233. Chrysostom aptly says: καὶ δεύτερον παρεγενόμην καὶ τρίτον τοῦτο παρεσκεύασμαι ἐλθεῖν, καὶ οὐ καταναρκήσω ὑμῶν.
οὐ γὰρ ζητῶ κ.τ.λ.] for my endeavour is not directed to yours, but to you; you yourselves (your ψυχαί, 2 Corinthians 12:15)—namely, that I may win you for the salvation in Christ (Matthew 18:15; 1 Corinthians 9:19)—are the aim of my striving. “Dictum vere apostolicum,” Grotius. Comp. Cic. de Fin. ii 26: “Me igitur ipsum ames oportet, non mea, si veri amici futuri sumus.” Comp. also Php 4:17.
οὐ γὰρ ὀφείλει κ.τ.λ.] Confirmation of the principle previously expressed, from a rule of the natural rightful relations between parents and children; for Paul was indeed the spiritual father of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:15). The negative part of this confirmation corresponds to οὐ ζητῶ τὰ ἱ μῶν, and the positive to the ὑμᾶς; for, while Paul ζητεῖ αὐτούς (not τὰ αὐτῶν), he is the father, who gathers for his children treasures, namely, the blessings of the Messianic kingdo.
οἱ γονεῖς] sc. ὀφείλουσι θησαυρίζειν, not as Beza holds: θησαυρίζουσι; for ὀφείλει is not impersonal. That by the first half of the verse, moreover, the duty of children in love to support and provide for their parents is not excluded, is clear from the very θησαυρίζειν, and is just as obvious of itself as that in the second part the θησαυρίζειν is not to be urged as a duty of parents (1 Timothy 5:8), but always has merely its relative obligation, subordinate to the higher spiritual care (Matthew 6:33, 2 Corinthians 12:19-21; Ephesians 6:4; Mark 8:36).
 See also Märcker, Stellung d. Pastoralbr., Meiningen 1861, p. 13 f.2 Corinthians 12:14-18. THAT HE DID NOT CLAIM MAINTENANCE AT CORINTH WAS DISINTERESTED ON HIS PART.Behold, the third time] We can either interpret this (1) with most commentators, of some unrecorded visit to Corinth, or (2) with Paley, that St Paul is speaking here and in ch. 2 Corinthians 13:1 of the intention merely of visiting Corinth, such as we know (ch. 2 Corinthians 1:15-17) was frustrated once, and probably more than once. (1) is rendered improbable by the fact that St Paul had carefully avoided visiting Corinth for some time. The whole tenor of the Epistles, moreover, implies that he had not been to Corinth since his long stay there, since it would have been hardly possible, had such a visit been paid, that some more distinct notice of it should not appear in letters so overflowing with personal details as these. On the other hand, it must be admitted that our information (see notes on ch. 11) of St Paul’s movements is extremely incomplete.
I am ready] The phrase is almost the same as in ch. 2 Corinthians 10:6. St Paul does not say here that he has been to Corinth twice before, but simply that this is the third time in which he is holding himself in readiness to come. Whether he comes or not will depend upon their conduct. See ch. 2 Corinthians 13:10. Also ch. 2 Corinthians 13:1.
not yours, but you] Not their money, nor their praise, nor even their affections (see next verse), but simply to induce them to give themselves to Christ.
but the parents for the children] Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15. The treasures which were laid up by St Paul for his converts were the inexhaustible stores of Divine love and mercy given us in Jesus Christ. See Romans 9:33; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Colossians 2:9, &c.2 Corinthians 12:14. Τὰ ὑμῶν, yours) Php 4:17.—ὑμᾶς, you) that I may gain you. Matthew 18:15. He heaps up spiritual treasures for the souls of the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 12:15 [ὑπὲρ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν].Verse 14. - The third time I am ready to come to you. He had been ready twice before, though the second time his actual visit had been prevented by the scandals in their Church. That the visit which he now contemplates is a third visit, and that there was an unrecorded second visit, is a needless and improbable inference from this passage. Be burdensome (see ver. 13). Not yours, but you (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
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