Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.Crucified Through Weakness
2 Corinthians 13:4
Though He was crucified, yet He liveth, that is the whole sum and substance of the Bible. But this verse tells us much more; that He was crucified through weakness, that He liveth through power.
I. But how, crucified through weakness? Firstly, I know very well, it means that He submitted to become weak by taking our mortal nature, that He might be able to die for our sakes; that no man could have taken away His life, had He not laid it down of Himself; that He who said, 'The earth is weak, and all the inhabiters thereof; I bear up the pillars of it,' condescended to faint under the weight of the cross and to be helped by Simon of Cyrene. But it means a great deal more than this; else it could not join on to the latter part of the verse. 'Crucified through weakness' means, after a course, after a life, of weakness; and so indeed it was. And I know not but that these confessions of human weakness, so patiently borne, so openly confessed, do not above everything else show us the meaning of that saying of St. Paul, 'He emptied Himself. Think—when His disciples went away into the city to buy food, He remained by the well; acknowledging thereby that He was not able, to speak after the manner of men, to do that which they could do. Think again—when they took Him, even as He was, in the ship, they were toiling in rowing, but He, as man, was so exhausted that He slept.
II. Never be ashamed to confess weakness either of body or mind. If you are told at any time to do anything which you feel to be above your strength, you will be much more like our Lord by saying so, than by making an effort which you ought not to make. For notice in these two remarkable proofs of our Lord's weakness how His perfect wisdom turned them both to be means of blessing. He sat on the well because He was weary, and thus the woman of Samaria and her fellow-townsmen were brought to His knowledge. He slept in the vessel because He was weary, and thus He proved Himself, sleeping as well as waking, to be Almighty.
III. 'For we also are weak in Him.' Hear what St. Bernard says: 'But as for me, Lord Jesus, my wonder is beyond all wonder that Thou shouldst call us weak in Thee, that Thou shouldst suffer us to lay all our weakness thus to Thy charge; that Thou shouldst give us Thy strength and take our infirmity. And is this, O Lord, the return that those Thy children ought to make? Is this all that Thou requirest of them, to be weak in Thee? Instead of urging them to give proofs of their strength, Thou only commandest them to lean their weakness on Thee; so that, saith the Bride, Thy left arm is under their head, drooping and bowed down by infirmity, and Thy right hand shall embrace them. Oh, wonderful superabundance of love. To love not strength only, but weakness; to accept, not only affection, but coldness! Who among the sons of men would thus act, save He only who is the Bridegroom of the Virgins, the true Lover of Souls?'
IV. 'We shall live with Him.' We could not live without Him. All the doctors of the Church agree in this, that if it were possible for His presence to be in hell, hell itself would become heaven. We shall live with Him where He is, if only we invite Him now to live with us where we are.
—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, vol. I. p. 328.
References.—XIII. 4.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 328; ibid. Readings for the Aged (4th Series), p. 102. XIII. 5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 218. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 156. T. F. Crosse, Sermons, p. 133. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 125. D. C. A. Agnew, The Soul's Business and Prospects, p. 88. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 151. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 207. W. J. Brock, Sermons, p. 161. W. J. E. Bennett, Sermons Preached at the London Mission, 1869, p. 73. XIII. 8.—W. R. Harwood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 294. XIII. 8, 9.—J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. ii. p. 245.
2 Corinthians 13:9
There is probably no subject Christian teachers touch so reluctantly as that of Christian Perfection. This is due partly to the difficulties of definition, and partly to the fact that it lays one open to misunderstanding. The Scriptures command perfection, promise perfection, and give examples of perfection. God does not mock us with impossible commands. There is an imperfect perfection. All perfection is relative except the perfection of God. Christian perfection does not indicate finality but fitness.
I. The meaning of perfection. To make perfect means to make fit, to put in order, adjust, adapt, arrange, and equip, so as to secure effectiveness and efficiency for the result to be achieved. The meaning is the same when applied to Christian life and experience. It is the adjustment, cleansing, and equipment of man's nature for all the purposes of the life in Christ. It is nothing more than making man fit in every part to do the will of God.
II. All the elements of Christian character are set forth in the Scriptures as capable of perfection. The elements that make up Christian character are Faith, Hope, Love; and each of these may be perfect. (1) Faith. 'Night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith' (1 Thessalonians 3:10). (2) Hope. 'Be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:13). (3) Love. 'Above all things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness' (Colossians 3:14).
III. Christian perfection experienced in the heart is manifest in the life. 'By their fruits ye shall know them.' (1) The first-fruit of the threefold perfection of faith, hope, and love, is patience. (a) The Christian made perfect in faith, hope, and love will be perfect in his patience with God. (6) To many, patience with people is more difficult than patience with God. There is nothing can make us patient with trying people except faith in them, hope for them, and love of them. (2) Perfect obedience to the will of God. (3) A perfect tongue. (4) Perfect peace.
IV. 'If thou wouldst be perfect?' For such a life who among the redeemed has not sighed and prayed? How then may we attain unto a life so glorious? It is the work and gift of God, and can only become ours by consecration, cleansing, and indwelling.
—S. Chadwick, Humanity and God, p. 249.
References.—XIII. 11.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 38; ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 379.
Valediction and Benediction
2 Corinthians 13:14
The repetition of the text is the best sermon. 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all' What then? Then there will be no real separation. The true union is mystical, spiritual, Divine. We come to learn this by attending a costly and distressing school; we come to know this by experience. Disappearance does not violate union; not being able to see does not utterly impoverish the soul; there is an inward sight, there is a spiritual vision, there is a wondrous power of sympathy which can realise or put into body-forms all that is most sacred and healthful in human evolution.
I. What a wondrous argument is this benediction! It is a large theology; there is in this benediction a Trinity, a relation of persons, distinct and operative personalities, each member of the Trinity having something to do with the human soul. You cannot build your rhetoric without the Trinity; the poor sweltering rhetorician must have his three members in order to complete what he calls a climax—which nobody wants to hear. You cannot anywhere fail to see the threefold action, the threefold mystery of being, cooperation, and of development. Whatever may be the metaphysics of the Trinity, I know not, I cannot enter into that ineffable mystery; but I see a ladder rising from earth to heaven, and I see the angels of God descending and ascending, ascending and descending, holding continual and vital commerce with the uttermost parts of the great heaven. So it is with this Trinity; I meet it everywhere.
With what a wondrous instinct is the right word chosen by this speaker of the benediction! No poet can amend the phrase. 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ'—the favour, the pity, the daily care, the incessant solicitousness and love. 'The grace,' a word fit for the Cross, a word that is as the jewel syllable in the great literature crowded into the one pregnant word Atonement.
II. How, then, does the benediction proceed? 'And the communion of the Holy Ghost.' What fit words; what expert writing! If it were only a matter of the choice of words here is an instance of the finest bringing-together of the most exquisite terms; in a sense, the only terms that could fit the occasion. The Holy Spirit communes with the heart, speaks to it without words, hovers over it, breathes upon it, turns over the leaves when we read the words of Christ and annotates them with light. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of companionship, filling all space, yet occupying no room; a contradiction in words, a verity and a music in experience. You cannot bless unless you have been blessed. Hypocrisy cannot pronounce a benediction; the words can be pronounced, but not the benediction itself in its innermost music and holy meaning. Only sincerity can produce the true music of the true heart.
III. 'I will not leave you comfortless.' 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.' I will change the text in one word. I have never throughout my long ministry been able to pronounce this benediction exactly as it is written. The change which I make is, I think, an amendment. 'Be with us all.' The minister has no right to stand apart as if he were dropping something upon others in an official and authoritative manner. I sit or stand with the smallest little child that God ever sent into the world; and I do not in pronouncing a benediction say, 'The benediction of God be with you,' I say, 'Be with us'—the little child, the poor cripple, the desolate soul—brother of the heart. We want a common blessing as we want a common atmosphere.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. IV.
The Mystery of the Godhead
2 Corinthians 13:14
What do men know of God? The Christian teaching about God is all that we, with our present very small powers, can know about that infinite and unseen Being, whose existence we infer, and Whom we call God, comes to us in one of three ways.
I. Nature, the existing world of things and men that we see. Every year teaches us more about Nature, and, therefore, more about God. If there is a veil that hides God in Nature from us, it is in our eyes, over our minds, and not in Nature.
II. But we learn about God in a second way. There is that marvellous figure in world-history, Jesus Christ. Christ reveals God to us. Just as Nature compels the recognition of a Cause behind it, and we name the Cause God, so Christ compels us to think how He came to be.
III. And there is the third revelation, nearer still to each of us, appealing not to our reason, not to our knowledge of Christ, which is limited to those who have learned about Him, but a voice speaking in the heart to every child of man. There is the survival of the brute in us all. It is awful. But there is also the light that shines amid it all—the light of God Himself in the human conscience.
—J. M. Wilson, Church Family Newspaper, vol. XIV. p. 428.
References.—XIII. 4.—A. Whyte, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 844. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 147. C. D. Bell, The Power of God, p. 263. J. T. Stannard, The Divine Humanity, p. 165. S. P. Carey, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 262. J. Stuart Holden, The Pre-eminent Lord, p. 233; ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 372. XIII. 14, 15.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 223. XIII. 15.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 289. XIV. 2.—Ibid. vol. vii. p. 149. XV. 6.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 243. XV. 27.—Ibid. vol. x. p. 192. XVI. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 75. XVI. 1-16.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1113.
I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare:
Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.
For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.
Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.
For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.
Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
Greet one another with an holy kiss.
All the saints salute you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.