2 Corinthians 5:11
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest to God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
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(11) Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord.—Better, the fear of the Lord. The English word “terror” is unduly strong, and hinders the reader from seeing that what St. Paul speaks of is identical with “the fear of the Lord”—the temper not of slavish dread, but reverential awe, which had been described in the Old Testament as “the beginning of wisdom” (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10). Tyndale’s and Cranmer’s versions give, “how the Lord is to be feared;” the Rhemish, “fear.” “Terror,” characteristically enough, makes its first appearance in the Geneva version.

We persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God.—The antithesis is singularly indicative of the rapid turn of thought in the Apostle’s mind. “We go on our way of winning men to Christ.” (Comp. the use of the same Greek word in Acts 12:20, “having made Blastus . . . their friend.”) It is singular to note that, in an Epistle probably nearly contemporary with this, St. Paul uses the phrase almost in a bad sense: “Do we now persuade men, or God?” i.e., “Are we seeking to please our friends or God?” (Galatians 1:10.) And here, apparently, the imperfection of the phrase and its liability to misconstruction occurs to him, and he therefore immediately adds, “Yes, we do our work of persuading men” (the case of Felix, in Acts 24:25, may be noted as showing the prominence of “the judgment to come” in St. Paul’s method), “but it is all along with the thought that our own lives also have been laid open in their inmost recesses to the sight of God.” The word “made manifest” is clearly used in reference to the same word (in the Greek) as is translated “appear” in 2Corinthians 5:10.

And I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.—The words are an echo of what had already been said in 2Corinthians 4:2. He trusts that in their inmost consciences, in the effect of his preaching there, in the new standard of right and wrong which they now acknowledge—perhaps, also, in the estimate which their illumined judgment passes on his own conduct—he has been made manifest as indeed he is, as he is sure that he will be before the judgment-seat of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:11-12. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord — The strict judgment which must then pass on all impenitent sinners; we the more earnestly persuade men — To repent and believe the gospel, that, instead of being objects of the divine wrath, they may live and die happy in his favour. But, as we are made manifest to God — And he knows our integrity; I trust also it is evident to you. For we commend not ourselves — We do not say this as if we thought there was any need of again recommending ourselves to you, but give you occasion to glory — To rejoice and praise God, and furnish you with an answer to those false apostles; who glory in appearance, but not in heart — We may infer from this, and from the beginning of chap. 3., that some of the Corinthians were disposed to represent the care which Paul took to vindicate himself, as pride and vainglory. On the other hand, it seems they would have interpreted his silence as the effect of guilt and confusion. He therefore plainly and very properly tells them, that he said this only in his own necessary defence; and to furnish his friends with an answer to those whose consciences condemned them, while they endeavoured to asperse him.5:9-15 The apostle quickens himself and others to acts of duty. Well-grounded hopes of heaven will not encourage sloth and sinful security. Let all consider the judgment to come, which is called, The terror of the Lord. Knowing what terrible vengeance the Lord would execute upon the workers of iniquity, the apostle and his brethren used every argument and persuasion, to lead men to believe in the Lord Jesus, and to act as his disciples. Their zeal and diligence were for the glory of God and the good of the church. Christ's love to us will have a like effect upon us, if duly considered and rightly judged. All were lost and undone, dead and ruined, slaves to sin, having no power to deliver themselves, and must have remained thus miserable for ever, if Christ had not died. We should not make ourselves, but Christ, the end of our living and actions. A Christian's life should be devoted to Christ. Alas, how many show the worthlessness of their professed faith and love, by living to themselves and to the world!Knowing therefore - We who are apostles, and who are appointed to preach the gospel, having the fullest assurance of the terrors of the day of judgment, and of the wrath of God, endeavor to persuade people to be prepared to meet Him, and to give up their account.

The terror of the Lord - This is, of the Lord Jesus, who will be seated on the throne of judgment, and who will decide the destiny of all people, 2 Corinthians 5:10; compare Matthew 25. The sense is, knowing how much the Lord is to be feared; what an object of terror and alarm it will be to stand at the judgment-seat; how fearful and awful will be the consequences of the trial of that day. The Lord Jesus will be an object of terror and alarm, or it will be a subject inspiring terror and alarm to stand there on that day, because:

(1) He has all power, and is appointed to execute judgment;

(2) Because all must there give a strict and impartial account of all that they have done;

(3) Because the wrath of God will be shown in the condemnation of the guilty.

It will be a day of awful wailing and alarm when all the living and the dead shall be arraigned on trial with reference to their eternal destiny; and when countless hosts of the guilty and impenitent shall be thrust down to an eternal hell. Who can describe the amazing terror of the scene? Who can fancy the horrors of the hosts of the guilty and the wretched who shall then hear that their doom is to be fixed forever in a world of unspeakable woe? The influence of the knowledge of the terror of the Lord on the mind of the apostle seems to have been two-fold; first, an apprehension of it as a personal concern, and a desire to escape it, which led him to constant self-denial and toil; and secondly, a desire to save others from being overwhelmed in the wrath of that dreadful day.

We persuade men - We endeavor to persuade them to flee from the wrath to come; to be prepared to stand before the judgment-seat, and to be suited to enter into heaven. Observe here the uniqueness of the statement. It is not, we drive people; or we endeavor to alarm people; or we frighten people; or we appeal merely to their fears, but it is, we persuade people, we endeavor to induce them by all the arts of persuasion and argument to flee from the wrath to come. The future judgment, and the scenes of future woe, are not proper topics for mere declamation. To declaim constantly on hell-fire and perdition; to appeal merely to the fears of people, is not the way in which Paul and the Saviour preached the gospel. The knowledge that there would be a judgment, and that the wicked would be sent to hell, was a powerful motive for Paul to endeavor to "persuade" people to escape from wrath, and was a motive for the Saviour to weep over Jerusalem, and to lament its folly, and its doom; Luke 19:41. But they who fill their sermons with the denunciations of wrath; who dwell on the words "hell" and "damnation," for the purpose of rhetoric or declamation, to round a period, or merely to excite alarm; and who "deal damnation around the land" as if they rejoiced that people were to be condemned, and in a tone and manner as if they would be pleased to execute it, have yet to learn the true nature of the way to win people to God, and the proper effect of those awful truths on the mind. The true effect is, to produce tenderness, deep feeling, and love; to prompt to the language of persuasion and of tender entreaty; to lead people to weep over dying sinners rather than to denounce them; to pray to God to have mercy on them rather than to use the language of severity, or to assume tones as if they would be pleased to execute the awful wrath of God.

But we are made manifest unto God - The meaning of this is, probably, that God sees that we are sincere and upright in our aims and purposes. He is acquainted with our hearts. All our motives are known to him, and he sees that it is our aim to promote his glory, and to save the souls of people. This is probably said to counteract the charge which might have been brought against him by some of the disaffected in Corinth, that he was influenced by improper motives and aims. To meet this, Paul says, that God knew that he was endeavoring to save souls, and that he was actuated by a sincere desire to rescue them from the impending terrors of the day of judgment.

And I trust also ... - And I trust also you are convinced of our integrity and uprightness of aim. The same sentiment is expressed in other words in 2 Corinthians 4:2. It is an appeal which he makes to them, and the expression of an earnest and confident assurance that they knew and felt that his aim was upright, and his purpose sincere.

11. terror of the Lord—the coming judgment, so full of terrors to unbelievers [Estius]. Ellicott and Alford, after Grotius and Bengel, translate, "The fear of the Lord" (2Co 7:1; Ec 12:13; Ac 9:31; Ro 3:18; Eph 5:21).

persuade—Ministers should use the terrors of the Lord to persuade men, not to rouse their enmity (Jude 23). Bengel, Estius, and Alford explain: "Persuade men" (by our whole lives, 2Co 5:13), namely, of our integrity as ministers. But this would have been expressed after "persuade," had it been the sense. The connection seems as follows: He had been accused of seeking to please and win men, he therefore says (compare Ga 1:10), "It is as knowing the terror (or fear) of the Lord that we persuade men; but (whether men who hear our preaching recognize our sincerity or not) we are made manifest unto God as acting on such motives (2Co 4:2); and I trust also in your consciences." Those so "manifested" need have no "terror" as to their being "manifested (English Version, 'appear') before the judgment-seat" (2Co 5:10).

We believing and being fully persuaded, that there shall be such a great and terrible day of the Lord, when there shall be such a narrow inquiry and search into whatsoever men have thought, spoke, or done in the flesh;

we persuade men to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to walk according to the rule of the gospel, to be charitable towards us, and not to censure or judge us, or use against us hard speeches. If any will not be persuaded to think well of us, yet the sincerity of our hearts and ways is

made manifest unto God; he knoweth what we are, and how we have behaved ourselves: and

I trust we have so behaved ourselves, that we are not only made manifest unto God, but we

are made manifest in your consciences; so as your consciences will bear us a testimony, how we have behaved ourselves amongst you. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord,.... Or the fear of the Lord; by which is meant either the grace of the fear of the Lord, implanted in the hearts of the apostles, and in which they acted in their ministry, faithfully dispensing to men the mysteries of grace; from which they could by no means be moved, because the fear of God was before their eyes, and upon their hearts; or rather the terror of the Lord in the last judgment, which will be very great, considering the awfulness of the summons, arise ye dead, and come to judgment; the appearance of the Judge, which will be sudden, surprising, and glorious; the placing of the thrones, the opening of the books, the position of the wicked, the dreadful sentence pronounced on them, and the immediate execution of it; all which the ministers of the word know from the Scriptures of truth; they know the Judge, that there will be a general judgment, and that the day is fixed for it, though they know not the exact time: and therefore

persuade men; not that their state is good because of a little outside morality, nor to make their peace with God, or get an interest in Christ, or to convert themselves, neither of which are in the power of men to do; but they endeavour to persuade them by the best arguments they are masters of, taken from the word of God, and their own experience, that they are in a dangerous state and condition, walking in a way that leads to destruction; that they are liable to the curses of the law, the wrath of God, and everlasting ruin; that present duties of religion will not make amends for past sins, nor can their tears atone for their crimes, or any works of righteousness done by them justify them before God; and that salvation is only by Christ, who is both able and willing to save the chief of sinners: and they endeavour to persuade and encourage poor sensible sinners to venture on Christ, and believe in him to the saving of their souls. So the Arabic version reads it, "we persuade men to believe"; though when they have done all they can, these persuasions of theirs are ineffectual, without the powerful and efficacious grace of the Spirit of God; however, in so doing they discharge a good conscience, and act the faithful part to God and men:

but we are made manifest unto God; who searches the heart, and tries the reins, who knows all actions, and the secret springs of them; to him the sincerity of our hearts, and the integrity of our conduct, are fully manifest; we can appeal to him that it is his glory, and the good of souls, we have in view in all our ministrations:

and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences; that you also can bear witness to our faithfulness and honesty, to the unwearied pains we have taken, and the hearty concern we have shown for the welfare of the souls of men. One of Stephens's copies reads, "and we trust"; which agrees with the apostle's speaking in the first person plural in this, and the preceding verses.

{5} Knowing therefore the {i} terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

(5) Now he moves on, and taking occasion of the former sentence returns to 2Co 4:16, confirming his own and his associates sincerity.

(i) That terrible judgment.

2 Corinthians 5:11. Οὖν] in pursuance of what has just been said, that we all before the judgment-seat of Christ, etc., 2 Corinthians 5:10.

τ. φόβον τ. κυρίου] The genitive is not genitivus subjecti (equivalent to τὸ φοβερὸν τ. κυρ.), as Emmerling, Flatt, Billroth, Osiander, and others hold, following Chrysostom and most of the older commentators (comp. Lobeck, Paralip. p. 513; Klausen, ad Aesch. Choeph. 31); for the use of the expression with the genitive taken objectively is the standing and habitual one in the LXX., the Apocrypha, and the N. T., according to the analogy of יְהֹוָה יִרְאַת (2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21; comp. Acts 9:31; Romans 3:18); and the context does not warrant us in departing from this. Hence: since we know accordingly the fear of Christ (as judge); since holy awe before Him is by no means to us a strange and unknown feeling, but, on the contrary, we know how much and in what way He is to be feared. The Vulgate renders rightly: timorem Domini; Beza wrongly: “terrorem illum Domini, i.e. formidabile illud judicium.”

ἀνθρώπους πείθομεν] we persuade men, but God we do not need to persuade, like men; to Him we are manifest. The ἀνθρ. πειθ. has been interpreted of the gaining over to Christianity (Beza, Grotius, Er. Schmid, Calovius, Emmerling, and others); or of the apostolic working in general (Ewald); or of the correction of erroneous and offensive opinions regarding Paul (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact); or of the striving to make themselves pleasing to men (Erasmus, Luther, Elsner, Wolf, Hammond, Flatt, and others);[221] or of the persuadere hominibus nostram integritatem (Estius, Bengel, Semler, Olshausen, de Wette, Osiander, Neander). Billroth also, with quite arbitrary importation of the idea, thinks that πείθομεν is meant of illegitimate, deceitful persuasion: “I can indeed deceive men, but to God withal I am manifest.” Raphel takes it similarly, but with an interrogative turn. But this assumed meaning of πείθω must of necessity have been given by the context (which is not the case even in Galatians 4:10); and the idea of being able would in this view of the meaning be so essential, that it could not be conveyed in the mere indicative, which, on the contrary, expresses the actually existing state of things, as well as the following πεφανερ. Olshausen erroneously attempts to correct this explanation to the effect of our understanding the expression in reference to the accusations of the opponents: “As our opponents say, we deceitfully persuade men, but before God we are manifest in our purity.” The “as our opponents say” is as arbitrarily invented,[222] as is the conception of deceit in πείθομεν. In defining the object of πείθομεν, the only course warranted by the context is to go back to the immediately preceding self-witness in 2 Corinthians 5:9, φιλοτιμ. εὐάρεστοι αὐτῷ εἶναι. Of this we bring men to the conviction through our teaching and working, not: of the fact, that we fear the Lord (Zachariae, Rückert), since εἰδότες τ. φόβ. τ. κυρ. is only of the nature of a motive and a subsidiary thought; hence also not: “eundem hunc timorem hominibus suademus” (Cornelius a Lapide, Clericus, and others). Comp. Pelagius: “ut caveant;” and again Hofmann: we convince others of the duty and the right mode of fearing the Lord. After ἀνθρώπους there is no omission of μέν (Rückert); but the putting of the clause ἀνθρ. πείθ. without indicating its relation makes the following contrast appear surprising and thereby rhetorically more emphati.

ἐν ταῖς συνειδ. ὑμῶν] Calvin aptly says: “Conscientia enim longius penetrat, quam carnis judicium.” In the syllogism of the conscience (law of God—act of man—moral judgment on the same) the action of a third party is here the minor premiss. The individualizing plural of συνείδ. is not elsewhere found; yet comp. 2 Corinthians 4:2.

πεφανερῶσθαι] The perfect infinitive after ἐλπίζω, which elsewhere in the N. T. has only the aorist infinitive coupled with it, is here logically necessary in the connection. For Paul hopes, i.e. holds the opinion under the hope of its being confirmed, that he has become and is manifest in the conscience of the readers (present of the completed action). Comp. Hom. Il. xv. 110: ἢδη γὰρ νῦν ἔλπομʼ Ἄρηΐ γε πῆμα τετύχθαι, Od. vi. 297; Eurip. Suppl. 790.

[221] Luther: “We deal softly with the people, i.e. we do not tyrannize over nor drive the people with excommunications and other wanton injunctions, for we fear God; but we teach them gently, so that we disgust no one.”

[222] It is different with ἐξέστημεν, ver. 13, where the literal sense in itself points to an accusation of the opponents; but this is not the case with πείθομεν.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21. Since we thus fear Christ, we persuade men, but we are manifest to God, and, it is to be hoped, also to you (2 Corinthians 5:11), by which we nevertheless do not wish to praise ourselves, but to give you occasion to boast of us against our opponents (2 Corinthians 5:12). For for this you have cause, whether we may be now mad (as our opponents say) or in possession of reason (2 Corinthians 5:13). Proof of the latter (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), from which Paul then infers that he no longer knows any one after the flesh, as formerly, when he had so known Christ, and that hence the Christian is a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). And this new creation is the work of God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19), whence results the exalted standpoint of the apostolic preaching, which proclaims reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).2 Corinthians 5:11-13. REITERATION OF HIS SINCERITY OF PURPOSE.11–21. The Christian Ministry one of Reconciliation

11. the terror of the Lord] i.e. “His to-be-dreaded judgment.” Beza. This translation is due to the Geneva Version, following Beza and Calvin (Wiclif, drede). Tyndale (whom Cranmer follows) renders more correctly ‘how the Lorde is to be feared’ (literally ‘the fear of the Lord,’ timorem Domini, Vulg.). It is not the terror which God inspires, but the fear which man has of Him that is meant, ‘knowing what it is to fear God.’

we persuade men] Rather, perhaps, we win over men. Compare the use of the Greek word here used in Acts 12:20. The Apostle is still keeping in mind his object of clearing himself from the unjust accusations brought against him (cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 2:17). That the digressions in ch. 3, 4, 5 have not caused him to lose sight of his main object, the vindication of the purity of his motives from the aspersions cast upon them, may be seen by comparing 2 Corinthians 5:12 with ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1. Having the fear of God’s judgment continually before his eyes, he persuades men to obey the Gospel of Christ.

but we are made manifest unto God] Literally, we have been made manifest, i.e. we are and have been all along. He knows the purity of our motives, and will one day bear witness to them before all men. See note on last verse.

and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences] Literally, have been made manifest, with the same meaning as above, either (1) ‘by the change (see 2 Corinthians 5:17) which our ministry of Christ has produced in your hearts and lives,’ or (2) ‘in your conscientious conviction of our integrity.’ Ch. 2 Corinthians 4:2 makes the former the more probable interpretation. See also chap. 2 Corinthians 11:6.2 Corinthians 5:11. [28]Πείθομεν, we persuade) We bear ourselves so, by acting as well with vehemence, as also with sobriety [“Whether we be beside ourselves,—or whether we be sober”] 2 Corinthians 5:13, that men, unless they be unwilling, may be able to give us their approbation. Comp. what he says on conscience presently after, and at 2 Corinthians 4:2.—Πείθειν, ἀναγκάζειν are opposed; see at Chrysost. de Sacer, p. 396, 392, 393.—πεφανερώμεθα, we are made manifest) we show and bear ourselves as persons manifest [to God and in your consciences]. Those, who have this character, may be made manifest without terror in the judgment, [φανερωθῆναι], 2 Corinthians 5:10.—ἐλπίζω, I hope) To have been made manifest is past, whereas hope refers to a thing future. Paul either hopes for the fruit of the manifestation, which has been already made; or else hopes, that the manifestation itself will still take place.—συνειδήσεσιν, in your consciences) The plural gives greater weight. [It sometimes happens, that a man may be made manifest to the conscience even of such, as attempt to conceal the fact.—V. g.]

[28] Τὸν φόβον, the terror) Ecclesiastes 12:13.—V. g.—ἀνθρώπους, men). By many the things which God Himself does are not approved; and how can His servants be approved by any with regard to those things which they do? What is the counsel which His servants give [πείθομεν]? Thou hearest, reader, in this very passage.—V. g.Verses 11-19. - Self-devotion of the ministry of reconciliation. Verse 11. - Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. Multitudes of texts have been torn from their context and grossly abused and misinterpreted, but few more so than this. It is the text usually chosen by those who wish to excuse a setting forth of God under the attributes of Moloch. With any such views it has not the remotest connection. It simply means, "Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men," either "to keep in view the same fear of the Lord as ourselves," or (reverting to his last assertion of his own sincerity and integrity in ver. 9), "that our sole ambition is to please God." The rendering, "the terror of the Lord," for the every day expression, "the fear of the Lord," was wantonly intruded into modern versions by Beza, and has not a single word to be said in its favour. The phrase means (as always) not the dread which God inspires, but the holy fear which mingles with our love of him. To teach men to regard God with terror is to undo the best teaching of all Scripture, which indeed has too often been the main end of human systems of theology. We persuade men. Not in a bad sense (Galatians 1:10). The attacks and calumnies of enemies make it necessary to vindicate our integrity is men; but we have no need to do so to God, because he already knows us (comp. "persuading Blastus," Acts 12:20). We are made manifest unto God; rather, but to God we have been (and are) manifested. He needs no self defence from us. Are made manifest in your consciences; but I hope that I have been, and am now, made manifest in your consciences. In other words, I trust that this apology into which you have driven me has achieved its ends; and that, whatever may be your prejudices and innuendoes, before the bar of the individual conscience of each of you we now stand clear (comp. 2 Corinthians 4:2). Terror of the Lord (φόβον τοῦ Κυρίου)

Rev., better, the fear of the Lord. Not that which is terrible in the Lord, but being conscious of fearing the Lord.

We persuade (πείθομεν)

Convince of our integrity.

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