2 Corinthians 1:23
I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.
Sermons
Seal and EarnestAlexander Maclaren2 Corinthians 1:23
Defence of Himself; Character of His PreachingC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 1:12-24
A Threefold ThemeD. Thomas, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:23-24
Christian Ministers Helpers of Their People's JoyD. Bagot, B. D.2 Corinthians 1:23-24
Helpers of Others' JoyJ. Stratten.2 Corinthians 1:23-24
Helpers of Your JoyR. Sibbes, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:23-24
Ministerial HelpfulnessA. Raleigh, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:23-24
The Victory of FaithR. South, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:23-24
Why Paul Did not Visit CorinthF. W. Robertson, M. A.2 Corinthians 1:23-24
The signs of an apostle were abundantly manifested in the case of St. Paul. Some of these signs were outward and visible; the wonders which he wrought and the labours which he fulfilled were evidences to many of his high calling. There were other signs which were rather internal, revealed in his own spiritual nature and life. These were precious to himself, whether they were recognized or not by others.

I. THE ANOINTING OF THE SPIRIT.

1. This rite received a significance from its employment under the old covenant in the designation of the prophet, the priest, and the king.

2. This significance is enhanced by the application to the Son of God of the official appellation, the Christ, i.e. the anointed One, the Being consecrated and commissioned by the Eternal.

3. The anointing claimed by the apostle is the qualification, by a supernatural and spiritual power, for holy and responsible office.

II. THE SEALING OF THE SPIRIT.

1. By this sealing the apostle was stamped with the mark which was the sign of Divine property in him.

2. And he was thus inwardly and graciously authenticated as the Lord's messenger to men. By the seal we understand the mark set upon the moral nature, the character, indicating Divine possession and Divine authority.

III. THE EARNEST OF THE SPIRIT. The other operations of the Holy Ghost relate to this present state; this refers to the future.

1. The Spirit within the heart is the earnest of a fuller indwelling; they who receive the Spirit are assured that they shall he "filled with the Spirit."

2. The earnest of a clearer revelation. The light shall brighten until the dawn shall be succeeded by the splendour of noonday.

3. The earnest of a richer, purer joy. The measure in which gladness is experienced in the present is a foretaste of the joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.

4. The earnest of an eternal inheritance. They who are possessed by the Spirit and pervaded by his gracious influences have within them both an anticipation of heaven and a preparation for heaven. To whom the Lord gives the pledge, he will give the redemption; to whom he gives the promise, he will give the glorious fulfilment and the eternal possession. - T.







I call God for a record... that to spare you I came not as yet to Corinth.
His reasons were —

I. ONE OF MERCY: to spare them pain (ver. 23) — to save them from the sharp censure their lax morality would have necessitated. It was no caprice, no fickleness, respecting St. Paul's character that —

1. He was not one of those who love to be censors of the faults of others. There are social faultfinders, who are ever on the watch for error and who yet provide no remedy. Now all this was contrary to the spirit of St. Paul; he had that love "which thinketh no evil," etc. It pained him to inflict the censure which would give pain to others.

2. He was not one of those who love to rule.

II. APPARENTLY A SELFISH ONE: to spare himself pain (2 Corinthians 2:1 5). But if we look closely into it, it only sheds fresh light upon the unselfishness and delicacy of St. Paul's character. He desired to save himself pain, because it gave them pain. He desired joy for himself, because his joy was theirs. He will not separate himself from them for a moment.

1. It was not to pain them merely that he wrote, but because joy, deep and permanent, was impossible without pain; as the extraction of a thorn by a tender father gives a deeper joy in love to the child.

2. It was not to save himself pain merely that he did not come, but to save them that pain which would have given him pain. Here there is a canon for the difficult duty of blame. To blame is easy enough — with some it is all of a piece with the hardness of their temperament; but to do this delicately — how shall we learn that? I answer, Love! and then say what you will; men will bear anything if love be there. If not, all blame, however just, will miss its mark; and St. Paul showed this in ver. 4.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

I. THE FULFILMENT OF A PROMISE ADJOURNED (ver. 24).

II. AUTHORITY OVER THE FAITH OF OTHERS DISCLAIMED. "Not for that we have dominion over your faith."

III. THE TRUE WORK OF A GOSPEL MINISTER. He is a helper, not a lord; a helper, not a substitute. A true minister is to help men —

1. To think aright — i.e., on the right subject, in the right way.

2. To feel aright — in relation to self, mankind, the universe, and God.

3. To believe aright.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Not for that we would have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy.
(Inaugural): —

I. NEGATIVELY. "Not," etc.

1. This disclaimer, to some of us, is perhaps unexpectedly strong. Paul might well have said the opposite, and for other purposes did so, as an inspired apostle. But he seems to have been always sensible of the individual responsibility of others, which no other should assail or could share. He is grandly intolerant of falsehood and evil living, but none so respectful of individual liberty.

2. After this, is it not passing strange that any should arrogate the very thing which Paul here so anxiously disclaims — authority over human consciences? Every real successor of the apostle will say, "My soul, come not thou into their secret." Your souls are your own to-day when I first speak to you; they will be your own when I speak my last.

II. POSITIVELY. "But," etc. Joy is to be taken here as the happy fruit of all Christian principles and affections, so that to be a "helper of joy" is to promote the whole moral perfection.

1. There is a great deal of intellectual hindrance to Christian decision and life.(1) A number of people "prove all things" without "holding fast to that which is good" — at least, they stir all things into doubt and difficulty, but cannot work their way to a solution. Here we may help. Great gospel facts are questioned, denied. What then? We who are set for "a defence of the gospel" go on asserting them as true, because, with unshaken faith, we believe them to be so. And the sight of our unmoved constancy has a reassuring effect. How can the battle be lost when we are seen advancing, well in rank, looking for victory?(2) The same kind of effect is produced on those who are prejudiced against doctrinal preaching. Hear doctrines explained by those who have really studied them, who put them in their proper relations and draw them out into practical duty, and the prejudice will melt away.

2. Life is to many a busy one, without leisure, ever on the move. From this we may see that God's day was never more needed or precious, and that the opportunity to both preacher and people is one of the great opportunities of life. Welcome to both should be the hour that brings them into the Divine presence and abates somewhat of the fever and stir of life. And if we can but be "helpers" during the week in preparing for this service, we shall reach our utmost ambition.

3. Then there is the continual shortcoming of the Christian life making the helpfulness of the ministry necessary and welcome. Go where we will, there is the same tale of infirmity, the failure to realise the ideal, which not seldom engenders despondency or despair. But we are helpers of your joy. We are sent to revive it, and to take means that it shall not die. Whatever dark tales we hear we are to meet and overmatch by the glad tidings. No rums of any life-plan but may yet be built up. "The weak may be as David, and David as an angel of the Lord."

4. Wherever we go we find troubles — if we seek for them; and it is worth while putting forth all our skill to find them. There is no scene, however distressful, in which we may not quietly yet confidently appear as "helpers of joy." Unlike the apostles of natural law, who command you to bow to the inevitable in the present and dismiss all hope for the future, we tell you that "all things work together for them that love God" and have fruitage in a blessed immortality.

5. The grave is not the end of all, but to each there is a grave. There can be no fellowship in the article of death, but on the brink we can tell some such things as will rob death of its terrors, and make it no more than a quiet passage into life.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

I. THE CHRISTIAN'S PRIVILEGE — joy.

1. Its origin and nature. It is not the offspring of a fervid imagination, but the effect of a well-grounded conviction of the love of God. It has its root in faith: "the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing." And why? Because faith connects the believer with Jesus, who is all his salvation and all his desire.

2. This is the legitimate state of the Christian. Joy diffuses a beautiful and attractive lustre around every grace which ornaments the believer's character; it is the very atmosphere through which he should continually walk, proving that the ways of religion are "ways of pleasantness," and that "all her paths are peace." I know of nothing that recommends the gospel more than this; I know of no moral proof of its divinity more powerfully convincing than this.

3. Joy fits the believer for comforting and encouraging others. It was a great sin in those who were sent to take a survey of the Promised Land to return with an evil report.

II. THE MINISTER'S OFFICE. "Helpers of joy," but not of salvation. Christ is the only Saviour; and He allows not of any helpers. But, though ministers are not helpers in the work of salvation, they are, as instruments, helpers in the application of it. Ministers act as helpers of joy —

1. By unfolding the Word of God. The Bible contains glad tidings, which are calculated to rejoice the heart.

2. By expatiating on the love of Christ. Nothing can fill the soul with so much gladness as this.

3. By giving a just interpretation of present trials.

4. By praying to the Author of every grace and Giver of every privilege (Romans 15:13).

(D. Bagot, B. D.)

I. AS RELIGIOUS PERSONS WE ARE HAPPY. There are various sources of this joy.

1. God Himself. "We joy in God."

2. God's works.

(1)Their variety, order, beauty, and splendour.

(2)Because they are His — a temple which He has made for Himself to be worshipped in.

(3)On account of the figurative instruction which they convey.

(4)As created and constituted for us to dwell in.

3. His providence. "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice."(1) It is exercised over nations. By God "kings reign and princes decree judgment." We have joy in a nation's joy. When pestilence disappears, when there is an ample harvest, when there is reviving commerce, it is by God's providence, and as religious men we rejoice therein.(2) It bears personally upon ourselves. We can lie down upon the everlasting arms, and say, "The eternal God is my refuge."

4. All things that are common to humanity.(1) The joy of honourable marriage.(2) When affliction disappears and God turns for us our mourning into dancing.(3) In the common conditions of human life. Whatever may be the amount of human suffering, the amount of human happiness immensely preponderates.

5. Christ Jesus and His gospel. He came into the world in joy. The angels sang for joy at His nativity; He opened His ministry in joy — "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me," etc.; and He spake very often of His joy. We may have joy —

(1)In the knowledge of Him.

(2)In reconciliation by Him.

(3)In justification through Him.

6. The Holy Ghost. "The kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost." There is joy in the gifts of the Spirit. Was not the day of Pentecost a day of joy?

7. The ordinances of the gospel. Happy on the Lord's day, in the reading of God's Word, in the preaching of the gospel, in Christian association and alliance.

8. The prospect of the life to come. "For the joy set before Christ He endured the Cross, despising the shame"; and you and I may have joy set before us in like manner.

II. IT IS OUR DUTY TO ENHANCE EACH OTHER'S JOY. It is clear enough that we can promote each other's sin. We may help forward afflictions; we may do a good deal to make one another miserable. How can we augment one another's joy?

1. By expounding the principles of joy, as our Saviour did. He began His ministry with the beatitudes. Wherever He went there was joy.

2. By removing the causes of infelicity. What makes you unhappy? Is it sin? Go to God in penitence and ask for remission, and you shall have it. Is it anxiety? "Be careful for nothing," etc. A sense of weakness and insufficiency? "My grace is sufficient for thee; My strength shall be perfected in weakness."

3. By reminding of the fact that our religion is a happy religion (Psalm 98.). "The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs."

4. By being examples of this joy. We are contagious, or communicative, beings. "He that sympathises with me in my sorrow divides the stream and takes half of it away; he that sympathises with me in my gladness and my joy, lights his lamp from my lamp, takes nothing from me, only kindles a brighter light, only diffuses a wider blaze."

5. By seizing on the occasions and opportunities of joy, such as the Sabbath and the means of grace.

6. By inciting and stirring one another up to it.

7. By adverting often, as Christ and believers do, to that which is to come.

(J. Stratten.)

The points considerable in this clause are these:

I. THAT JOY IS THE STATE PROPER TO CHRISTIANS. Either they do rejoice, or they should labour to come to it. God requires it at their hand as a duty (Philippians 4:4). Consider —

1. The ills they are freed from — sin, the wrath of God, the sting of death, etc.

2. The state that God brings them to by believing (Romans 14:17).

3. Why should they labour to be in that state?(1) That God, who gives them such matter of joy, may have glory from them. Their life should be a perpetual thanksgiving to God; and how can man be thankful that is not joyful?(2) It makes him active in good when he is anointed with the oil of gladness (Romans 9:23).(3) And then for suffering; we have many things to go through in this world. How shall a man suffer those things that are between him and heaven unless he labour to bring himself to this temper of joy?(4) And then for others — every man should labour to encourage them. We are all fellow-passengers in the way to heaven. Therefore, even to bring on others more cheerfully, we ought to labour to be in a state of joy. And if a Christian do not joy, it is not because he is a Christian, but because he is not a Christian enough.

II. MINISTERS ARE HELPERS OF THIS BLESSED CONDITION.

1. By acquainting people with the ill estate they are in; for all sound comfort comes from the knowledge of our grief, and freedom from it. For they must plough before they sow, and the law must go before the gospel. The law shows the wound, but the gospel heals the wound.

2. By showing the remedy which is in Christ; then they open the riches of God's love in Christ, the sweet "box of ointment." Thus did St. Peter, after he had brought them to, "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" point them to Jesus Christ.

3. By advice in cases of conscience what people should do. So their office is to remove all hindrances of spiritual joy. We know that light is a state of joy. The ministry of the gospel is light. Spiritual freedom makes people joyful. But the end of the ministry is to set people more and more at liberty. Victory is a state of joy. Now the ministers of God teach God's people how to fight God's battles, how to answer temptations, and at length how to triumph.

4. By forcing it as a duty upon them (Philippians 4:4). They are as guides among the rest of the travellers, that encourage them in the way to heaven, "Come on, let us go cheerfully."

5. In death itself. The end of the ministry is to help joy, to help them to heaven by a joyful departure, drawing comfort out of the Word for this purpose. But you will say true Christians are ofttimes cast down by the ministry. If so, yet it is that they might joy (2 Corinthians 7:8). We say of April that the showers of that month dispose the earth to flowers in the next; so tears and grief wrought in the heart by the ministry frame the soul to a joyful temper after. A physician comes, and he gives sharp and bitter purges; saith the patient, "I had thought you had come to make me better, and I am sicker now than I was before." But he bids him be content; all this is for your joyfulness of spirit after; you will be the better for it.

III. MINISTERS ARE HELPERS OF JOY, AND BUT HELPERS. They do but propound matter of joy, grounds of joy from the Word of God; but it is the Spirit of God that doth rejoice the heart (John 16:5).

(R. Sibbes, D. D.)

By faith ye stand
The Scriptures mention three sorts of faith —

1. Simple credence, or bare assent. This is not the faith of the text, for the devils have it (James 2:19).

2. Temporary conviction, which carries the soul to some short sallies in the course of godliness, but, having no firm fixation in the heart, comes to nothing.

3. A saving, effectual faith, which takes in both the former kinds and adds its own peculiar perfection. It is a durable, fixed disposition of holiness, immediately infused by God into the soul, whereby the soul is renewed and powerfully inclined to exert itself in the actions of a pious life. This is the faith by which "we stand."

I. THE THING SUPPOSED — a person assaulted by an enemy (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 12:4).Now in every such combat there are to be considered —

1. The persons engaged. Their enmity is almost as old as the world itself (Genesis 3:15). The devil's hatred of us bears date with our very being, and is directed against us as men, but much more as believers. As soon as we enlist under the Captain of our salvation, He proclaims perpetual war. So a Christian's life is not a state of ease, but of incessant conflict with the devil.

2. The thing contended for: to cast them down —(1) From that sanctity of life which the regenerating Spirit has wrought them up to; for, having lost all holiness himself, the devil abhors it in others. He is "a murderer from the beginning," and he chiefly attempts the murder of souls by making them like himself.(2) From their interest in the Divine favour; and no wonder, since he finds it denied to himself. So he tries to sow enmity between God and the soul, and to embroil the whole creation in a war against heaven.

3. The ways and means by which it is carried on.(1) The devil's own immediate suggestions (John 13:27; Acts 5:3).(2) The infidelity of the human heart — a quality which does the devil's work most compendiously and effectually.(3) The alluring vanities of the world (James 4:4).(4) Man's own lusts and corruptions.

II. THE THING EXPRESSED — Viz., that faith alone can give the victory in this contest. Consider —

1. Man's natural estate void of the grace of faith. That this is deplorable enough is proved by the fact that, were not bare nature insufficient to work out its own recovery, the Divine grace would never have put itself to such an expense for its recovery. What forces can man rally against the workings of his own corruptions? — his imperfect good desires, resolutions, duties? Alas! nature will quickly break through such puny resistances.

2. The advantages and helps of faith.(1) Union with Christ. Christ, being to the soul like armour, only defends when He is close to it.(2) The assistance of the Spirit, without whom it is impossible for the soul to do anything in the way of duty, or to oppose sin with success (Romans 8:13; Philippians 2:13).

3. The title to and power to effectually apply God's promises. The promises are weapons which the Spirit places in our hands, and faith is the spiritual hand into which they are put.

(R. South, D. D.).

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