For even if I boast somewhat excessively about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed.
- edification, building up, and that power should be used for this object. To terrify them by letters was not his aim; edification, not destruction, led him to write. By the admission of his enemies, the letters from him were "weighty and powerful." On the other hand, his "bodily presence" was "weak," and his "speech contemptible." This is the only notice we have in the New Testament of an apostle's personal appearance. Had it occurred in the case of St. Peter or St. John, we should have been surprised, but it falls in naturally with the order of events and the play of circumstances connected with St. Paul's apostleship. His call, position, and career were singular; the individuality gives a colouring to the minutest details of his life; and accordingly, as he was subjected to an exceptional kind and degree of criticism, even his bodily infirmities came under inspection and were made matters of public notoriety. By itself, this reference to his appearance would not attract more than a passing notice. Yet it has a broader meaning, since it serves to illustrate the fact that nothing about him escaped the closest scrutiny. Enemies in the Church, enemies out of the Church, officials, centurions, proconsuls, procurators, find something in the man to study, and their opinions of him come into the public thought of the day. The plan of Providence, we may infer, was that St. Paul should be well known, thoroughly well known, and that we should hear from both sides - friends and foes - all that could be known of him, even to his "presence" and "speech." He thought the matter of sufficient importance to recognize it so far as to say that, what he was in his letters, he would be in his deeds. Beyond this he has no concern about it. - L.
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority.Acts 13:8-11; Acts 14:8-10; Acts 15:9-12). Having this power, he was superior even to the ablest of his censors, and he felt that should he "boast somewhat" of this there was no reason for him to be ashamed. Note that such special gift —
I. IS UNDER MAN'S CONTROL. Paul's language seems to imply that he might or might not use his "authority"; it did not infringe in any way his freedom of action. God has given exceptional power to some men, to Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Peter, etc.; but in all cases it seemed to leave them free to use it or not, to use it in this direction or in that. The Maker and Manager of the universe respects evermore the free agency of His rational and moral offspring. We may enslave ourselves, but He will not, and will always treat us as responsible for all we do.
II. ITS DESIGN IS USEFULNESS. "The Lord has given us for edification," etc. — not to pull down, but to build up. Usefulness is the grand end of our existence! We are formed not to injure, but to bless. Alas, how extensively men pervert these high gifts of heaven!
II. IT IS NO PROTECTION FROM MALICE. Though Paul was so distinguished by signal endowments, he was nevertheless the subject of envy and slander (ver. 10). So with Moses and the prophets. The more distinguished a man is for gifts and graces, the more he is exposed to the detraction and hatred of others. It was so with Christ Himself.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Fore.g., could have seemed more formless to a Greek than vers. 12-18?). Nevertheless, it is nothing like this which is in view here. It is simply this — as a man bodily present he could get nothing done; he talked, and nobody listened. It is implied that this criticism is false, and Paul bids any one who makes it consider that what he is in word by letters when be is absent, that he will also be in deed when he is present. The double role of potent pamphleteer and ineffective pastor is not for him. To this kind of criticism every preacher is obnoxious. An epistle is, so to speak, the man's words without the man, and such is human weakness that they are often stronger than the man speaking in bodily presence. The character of the speaker, as it were, discounts all he says, and when he is there and delivers his message in person, the message itself suffers an immense depreciation. This ought not to be, and with a man who cultivates sincerity will not be. He will be as good as his words; his effectiveness will be the same whether he writes or speaks. Nothing ultimately counts in the work of a Christian minister but what he can say and do and get done when in direct contact with living men. In many cases the modern sermon really answers to the epistle as it is referred to in this sarcastic comment; in the pulpit, people say, the minister is impressive and memorable; but in the ordinary intercourse of life, and even in the pastoral relation, where he has to meet people on an equal footing, his power quite disappears. He is an ineffective person, and his words have no weight. When this is true, there is something very far wrong; and though it was not true in the case of Paul, there are cases in which it is. To bring the pastoral up to the level of pulpit work — the care of individual souls and characters to the intensity and earnestness of study and preaching — would be the saving of many a minister and many a congregation.
(J. Denney, B. D.)
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