Limits and Labours
2 Corinthians 10:12-18
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves…

Was the apostle a great letter writer only? So his enemies had declared; but he would not put himself among those who had no higher standard of what they ought to be than what they were, nor would he compare himself with such men. Instead of measuring themselves by a Divine rule, these persons thought it enough to measure themselves by themselves or by others; and this mode of judgment, originating in self and ending with self, was without understanding. Yet there was a measure, and he acknowledged it whenever ha thought or spoke of himself. If he referred to his labours, if he enumerated his sacrifices, if he cited his sufferings, it was not with any human standard in view, but in the sight of God and with respect solely to the sphere of activity to which God had appointed him as an apostle. Had he come to Corinth? Corinth had been given him of God as a field of apostolic effort. "The surveyor's chain" had laid off the territory, and he had traversed Macedonia and Achaia only because Providence had assigned the ground to him, and the Holy Spirit had inspired him to undertake the task. "As far as to you;" so far in the warfare of the West the campaign had extended, so far had he gone in the great fight of pulling down strongholds, and in demonstrating that the weapons were not carnal, but mighty through God. If he had reached Corinth as a place within the boundaries of his province, would he pause there? Was this the outer line of the vast battlefield? He hoped not. There he was only waiting till another territory had been marked out, and he should hear the signal to arise and possess the land. Was he looking across the sea of Adria and wondering when he should visit Rome? And when would that glad opportunity come? But one thing was clear to him just then, and this was that, if the faith of the Corinthians were increased, he would have his own heart enlarged, and be further endowed and qualified for apostolic labour. One moment, a glance at the Judaizers and their presumptuous occupancy of fields delegated of God to him (ver. 15), "not boasting of things without measure, that is, of other men's labours;" the next moment, a thought of new work so soon as the Church at Corinth should recover from its troubles and he should find it safe to leave them. Already his heart was burning to preach the gospel in the regions beyond Corinth, and "not to glory in another's province in regard to things ready to our hand." Observe how often this last idea recurs: ver. 13, "We will not boast of things without our measure;" ver. 14, "We stretch not ourselves beyond our measure;" ver. 15, "Not boasting of things without our measure;" ver. 16, "Not to boast in another man's line of things [see Revised Version, above] made ready to our hand." Two things here are noteworthy.

1. The apostle is willing and ready to wage the holy war in new territories. He is not tired of fighting the Lord's battles. Nor is he afraid of greater and more numerous enemies. Probably his eye was on Rome. If God will, he shall go further West. His weapons have been tried and proved. He himself has been tested. Grace has been sufficient. Cast down, he has not been destroyed. Dying, he has lived. The promises of God have been Yea and Amen to his soul, nor could any experience happen that would not bring the strength and consolation of Christ to his heart. How much he had lived and how rapidly! What years had been compressed into each year! Before the dilating eye of intellect, what vistas had spread afar in the light that brightened towards the perfect day! And then the blessed realizations, ability increasing perpetually, and capacity growing even faster so as to supply fully the expanding spheres of ability, consciousness of self enlarging as self in Christ, deep opening into deep, wonder springing afresh from wonder, and, with every victory gained by the weapons of his warfare, a larger assurance that, if he had been "mighty through God" at Ephesus and Corinth, he should be mightier still "in the regions beyond." Here is a most useful lesson to teach us what we are slow to learn, namely, that no natural endowments, no amount of culture, no inspiration of knowledge, no miracles wrought in his behalf, can set aside the necessity of Christian experience, a personal work of grace in the soul, a profound sense of that work as from the Holy Spirit, in the ease of one called to the highest office of ministration.

2. We see how we are, am Christians, "members one of another." Although St. Paul was so highly endowed and so remarkably successful in the apostleship, yet he depends on the Church at Corinth for his enlargement to the work opening before him in Europe. "We shall be enlarged by you." This was conditioned on their conduct. If their divisions were healed, their false teachers silenced, their energies set free from exhausting strife and concentrated on building up Christ's kingdom, would Corinth and Achaia be the only gainers? Nay; he himself would be liberated from restraints that clogged his feet. A fresh impulse would be given his apostleship. A new current of life would flow from their hearts into his heart, for it was not his working nor any other apostle's working, but the coworking, the hearty union of Church and apostles, the cooperation of the "diversities of gifts," the oneness of the mystical body of Christ, by which the world was to be evangelized. The schism that had been threatened between the Asiatic and European Churches was in a fair way to be arrested. Jewish and Gentile believers were getting reconciled to the peculiarities of each other; the collection for the mother Church at Jerusalem was doing much to effect this most important unity. Yet this is not before him now. Nor does he allude to the singular advantages of Corinth as to geographical location and commercial opportunities. Situated on a narrow strip of land between northern and southern Greece, and connected with two seas by its harbours of Lechaeum and Cenchreae, it was a great emporium of trade for the East and West, and hence offered extraordinary facilities for the diffusion of Christianity. No doubt St. Paul felt that it was a centre of commanding influence. But he was extremely cautious as to using local motives, and in the present case he made no allusion to them. What occupied his whole thought was the increase of grace among them as a Christian community, and to this he looked for a happy furtherance in his contemplated missionary, tour. If they were revived and consecrated anew to Christ, he knew well that, when obstacles were thrown in his future pathway, when persecutions even fiercer than those already undergone came upon him, they would afford him sympathy and assistance while getting foothold in "the regions beyond." Obviously a prevailing idea in his mind was that Christianity must have a central home in every great section of country, and thence draw its human supplies during its conquests of outlying territory. And he longed for the Corinthian brethren to attain a richer experience of grace, so that they might magnify his office. Instead of being independent of their fraternal support, the stronger he felt himself the more he leaned on their sympathies. Heaven never gets so close to a man that earth does not get closer also. How the blessed Jesus leaned on his friends in the Passion week! How he needed the chosen among them to watch with him in the garden for one hour! The weary days of the apostle had not yet come, and his soul was having glorious visions of apostolic work, but amid it all, the pressure of uncertainty was upon his hope, and he would gladly hasten away from the present scene of anxiety just as soon as Providence permitted. We can enter into his solicitudes. We can imagine how Kirke White felt when he wrote the closing lines of the 'Christiad': -

"O thou who visitest the sons of men,
Thou who dost listen when the humble pray,
One little space prolong my mournful day
One little lapse suspend thy last decree!" And we can realize Dr. Arnold's emotions when he made the last entry in his diary: "Still there are works which, with God's permission, I would do before the night cometh; especially that great work, if I might be permitted to take part in it." So too we can form some conception of St. Paul's anxiety to widen the field of his ministrations, But he could not go alone; the heart of the Corinthian Church must go with him; and he must wait till they were sufficiently "increased" in "faith" to enter on the future enterprises of his universal apostleship. How humble in his greatness! Not what St. Paul accomplished, but what God accomplished in him, was his boast and commendation. This was his strength and glory, and therefore, "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." - L.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

WEB: For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding.

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