Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians and Paul's Letter to the Ephesians


July 2, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians



               Lesson II.B.6.c: Paul’s Methods. (6:1-10)


2nd Corinthians 6:1-10 (NKJV)

1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

2 For He says: "In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed.

4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses,

5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings;

6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,

7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,

8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true;

9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed;

10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.








1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.


We then, as workers together with him

Christian ministers, and to a smaller degree Christians in general, are workers or laborers; their ministry is a work, and a very labor intensive one, but none of them, of themselves, have strength equal to the task. It is an honorable work that requires faithfulness and diligence, and those who perform it as it should be done deserve respect. These ministers do not work alone, but according to what is written here, they are “workers together with him”; meaning either God or Christ; not on a par with Him, but as subordinate to Him: he is the chief shepherd, they under-shepherds; He is the chief master builder, they are workers under Him. Their work is successful because He is with them, and they with him; he is over them, and stands by them, and encourages them in their work.


There is another explanation of this verse which follows this reasoning: The phrase, "with him", is not in the original text; and “workers together” may be rendered "fellow workers", or "fellow laborers", which means working with one another; and since reconciliation was made by Christ, and the ministry of reconciliation was committed to His ministers, and they were appointed ambassadors for Him, and were working in his place, therefore, theysay, “We then, as workers together also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” Compare:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:9: “For we are laborers together with God: you are God's husbandry, you are God's building.”Though compared with God we are nothing, yet our position is not unimportant; God works as the principal effectual Cause, we work with God as His instruments; God works in one way, by His secret influence upon the heart, we work in another way, by personally telling the Gospel to people, but the scope and end of the work is the same.
  • Acts 15.4: “And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.”The Apostles deemed themselves fellow-workers with God (see Mark 16:20), but we know from Acts 15:12 that they were only instruments whom God employed, for their labors are spoken of as “what God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20:  “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God.” “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ,” means that we are the ambassadors whom Christ has sent forth to negotiate with people in regard to their reconciliation to God.


“We then, as workers together with him:” ministers of the gospel are fellow workers together with Christ; though but as instruments, serving Him as the principal Agent, and effectual Cause: He trod the wine press of His Father’s wrath alone, and had no partner in the purchase of man’s salvation; but in the application of the purchased salvation, He has fellow workers. Though the internal work is done by Him alone—the effects of his Spirit upon the souls of those whose hearts are changed—yet there is a ministerial component, which consists of preaching and witnessing, whereby the gospel is conveyed by the ear to the soul; thus ministers work together with Christ. And without Him they can do nothing: they are workers, but they must have Christ work with them, or they will find that they labour in vain.


Most expositors have concurred in this interpretation: “we then as the joint-laborers of God.” The sense is that we work together; we work together under God’s direction in order to produce the desired result—the saving of a soul.


“Also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”

The "grace of God" is usedhere to mean the gracious offer of reconciliation and pardon. And the meaning conveyed here is, “We plead with you not to neglect or reject this offer of pardon, so that you lose the benefit of it, and remain lost. It is offered freely and fully. It may be partaken of by all, and all may be saved. But it may also be rejected or ignored, and all the benefits of it will then be lost.” The idea is, that it was possible that this offer might be made to them, they might hear of a Saviour, be told of the plan of reconciliation and have the offers of mercy presented to them for their acceptance, and yet all be in vain. They might in spite of all this be lost, for simply to hear of the plan of salvation or the offers of mercy, will no more save a sinner than to hear of medicine will save the sick. It must be embraced and applied to the soul, or it will be in vain. It is true that Paul probably addressed these remarks to religious people; and the implication is that they should use all possible care to insure that these offers had not been made in vain. They should examine their own hearts; they should inquire into their own condition; they should guard against self-deception. These are the same persons Paul had exhorted in 2 Corinthians 5:20 to be reconciled to God; and the idea is that he would earnestly implore even professors of religion to give all diligence to securing an interest in the saving mercy of the gospel, and to guard against the possibility of being self-deceived and miss the opportunity to be saved.


Announcing “the grace of God” is the chief aim of the gospel. Compare:

  • Acts 13:43: “Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”It would appear from this that they professed to have received the truth and embraced the Lord Jesus. This success was remarkable, and shows the power of the gospel when it is preached faithfully to people. The “gospel” is called the grace (favor) of God and they were exhorted to persevere in their attachment to it.
  • Acts 20:24: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”To bear witness to the good news of the favor of God is the great purpose of the ministry. It is to bear witness to a dying world of the good news that God is merciful, and that his goodwill may be made evident to sinners.


If you really are in Christ you must show that you have become “a new creation”—“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Creature is literally, “creation,” and so it is a phrase which speaks of the greatest change imaginable, and a change wrought in the soul by no other power than the power of God. And since we are "in Christ," and "God was in Christ"—“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2Co 5:19). The meaning is, that the office of making known the nature of this plan, and the conditions on which God was willing to be reconciled to man, had been committed to the ministers of the gospel. What the grace of God is meant to bring about is set down in Titus 2:11, 12: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”The education which the Christian receives from “the grace” of God is a discipline often demanding to flesh and blood: just as children need disciplining. The discipline which it exercises teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world where such self-discipline is needed, seeing that its spirit is opposed to God (Tit 1:12, 16; 1Co 1:20; 3:18, 19): in the coming world we may gratify every desire without need of self-discipline, because all desires there will be conformable to the will of God.



2 For He says: "In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.


For He says: "In an acceptable time I have heard you

These words are a quote from Isaiah 49:8—“Thus says the Lord: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages’”—and they are spoken by the Father to the Son, announcing that He had heard Him, as He always did. He heard Him when He spoke that prayer recorded in John 17:1—“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you”—and he heard him in the garden, and answered him; and He heard him as he hung on the cross. Here, this period of time in which he was heard on these several occasions, is called “an acceptable time”; a time when God expressed His goodwill to men by sending His own Son to work out salvation for them. In God’s dealings with His people through Christ the Apostle saw the true fulfilment of Isaiah’s words. Never, in spite of all outward tragedies, had there been a time so acceptable, a day so full of deliverance.


In Isaiah 49:8, the announcement refers to the Messiah, and the purpose is to show that God would be favorable to Him; that he would hear Him when He prayed, and would make Him the medium of establishing a covenant with His own people, and of spreading the true religion around the earth. Under the Messiah, it is said by Isaiah, God would be willing to show mercy. That would be an acceptable time. That time says Paul, has arrived. The Messiah has come, and now God is willing to pardon and save. And the doctrine in this verse is that under the Messiah, or in the time of Christ, God is willing to show mercy to people. In Him alone is the throne of grace accessible, and now that he has come, God is willing to pardon, and people should avail themselves of the offers of mercy.


The idea contained in the words “In an acceptable time” is that Christ had prayed in a time when God was willing to show mercy; the time when in His wise planning He had predetermined that His salvation would be extended to the world. It is a period which he had fixed in time as the appropriate period for extending the knowledge of His truth and His salvation; and it proves that there was to be a period which was the favorable period of salvation, that is, which God determined to be the proper period for making his salvation known to people. At such a period the Messiah would pray, and the prayer would be answered.


“I have heard you” (the Messiah). I have listened to thy prayer for the salvation of the pagan world. The promise to the Messiah was that the pagan world would be given to Him; but it was a promise that would be in answer to His prayers and intercessions. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the pagan for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2:8). The salvation of the pagan world, and of all who are saved, is to be in answer to the powerful intercession of the Lord Jesus.


And in the day of salvation I have helped you

“In the day of salvation” refers to that window in time during which God is willing to save the lost sinner. These words are still spoken to Christ, who while He was in a human body, working out the salvation of His people, by His obedience, suffering, and death, was aided, or helped by His Father. This help was promised to Him when He lived as a man, and he expected it, and exercised faith in God for it, and which was actually and punctually given him; and which doesn’t indicate any weakness in Christ, who is the mighty God, and was mighty to save; but is instead, an indication of the Father's regard for the human nature of Christ, and of His concern for the salvation of men; and also shows what power and strength were necessary to accomplish it. 


“I have helped you” (the Messiah). I have supported you in the effort to make salvation known. God speaks of there being an accepted time, a limited period, in which petitions made for the salvation of the world would be acceptable to him. That time Paul says had come; and he urges people to avail themselves of the opportunity, and embrace the offers of mercy that are now available.


Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation

“Behold” (observe; look at; see) is prefixed to each sentence, in order to raise attention to what follows.


“Now is the accepted time” does not mean that the Gospel dispensation is a milder dispensation in which God will accept an insincere obedience to his law in place of a perfect one; but it is called “the accepted time,” because God and Christ now show goodwill to men, and are ready to embrace poor sensible sinners who come to them in faith.


The word which has been translated “accepted” is much stronger than in the first clause. Entirely acceptable is, perhaps, its best equivalent. The seriousness of the word may have been intensified in Paul’s thoughts by what seemed to him to be the nearness of the impending judgment. Opportunities, in a manner of speaking, were offered which might never be offered again. The longsuffering of God has given to these words a more profound significance, for there is, so to speak, a “now” running through the ages. For each church and nation, for each individual soul, there is a golden present which may never again recur, and in which lie boundless possibilities for the future. The words of the Apostle are, as it were, the generalization of a common experience which tells us that—

“There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune:

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

—Shakespeare, Julius Cœsar, iv. 3.


The “accepted time” is the same as what the apostle calls, the fullness of time, Galatians 4:4: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” And it may be called accepted in the same sense that the apostle called the Gospel “a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptance” in 1 Timothy 1:15—“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”


Now is the day of salvation, because the Gospel publishes salvation by Christ: now is salvation preached as being done, already obtained by Christ for sinners. It is now brought home to their souls by the ministry of the Gospel under the influence of the Spirit of God. Now sinners are convinced that they need it, and that it cannot be obtained elsewhere, or by any other means than by submitting to Christ, to be saved by him, and him alone. Now men are encouraged to believe in Him, and are brought by Him to actually possess salvation. Observe. "Now" is, and not yesterday was, “the day of salvation;” and “now” is forever, that is, as long as the Gospel dispensation continues; for it will always be now until all the elect of God are gathered in. This day of grace and salvation will never be over till that time comes; it is still “now is the day of salvation,” though men may have withstood the ministry of the Gospel for many years, and may have been dyed-in-the-wool sinners the entire time. There is no withstanding the “now” of grace when it comes with the power of the Holy Ghost. No doubt, Paul meant that as long as life lasts, the door of repentance is never absolutely closed.


The message of this verse is that the “Messiah has come. The time referred to by Isaiah has arrived. It is now a time when God is ready to show compassion, to hear prayer, and to have mercy on mankind. Only through the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, does He show mercy, and people should therefore now embrace the offers of pardon.” The doctrine taught here, therefore, is that through the Lord Jesus, and where he is preached, God is willing to pardon and save people; and this is true wherever He is preached, and as long as people live under the sound of the gospel. The world is under a dispensation of mercy, and God is willing to show compassion, and while this exists, that is, while people live, the offers of salvation are freely made to them. The time will come when it will not be an acceptable time with God. The day of mercy will be closed; the period of trial will be ended; and people will be removed to a world where no mercy is shown, and where compassion is unknown. The general doctrine is, that people should seek reconciliation with God. To reinforce that, he says here that it was now the acceptable time, the time when God was willing to be reconciled to human beings.


If people grieve away the Holy Spirit; if they continue to reject the Gospel; if they go unprepared to eternity, no mercy can be found. God does not plan to pardon anybody beyond the grave. He has made no provision for forgiveness there; and those who are not pardoned in this life, must be unpardoned forever.



3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed.


We give no offense in anything

The word translated “offence” means “a stumbling block;” the offence, or cause of offence, resulting in a falling into sin. The meaning here is “allowing no opportunity for treating or regarding the Gospel with disdain, scorn, or contempt, or rejecting the gospel.” In Romans 14:13, Paul speaks of stumbling blocks in general, as any thing over which a man stumbles or falls—“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way—and here it means any transgression or scandal that might take place among Christ’s ministers, or Christians themselves, that would be offensive to either Jews or Gentiles and might result in them vilifying the Gospel of Christ. The point Paul is making is that he and his fellow-apostles conduct themselves in such a way that no one who saw or knew them, would have reason to criticize their ministry, or the religion which they preached; but so that people would see in their pure and self-denying lives, the strongest argument for embracing the Gospel and joining with a Christian congregation. Compare:

  • Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the middle of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”That is, I send you, inoffensive and harmless, into a cold, unfriendly, and cruel world.
  • 1 Corinthians 8:13: “Why, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend.”This is truly a sign of Christian charity, a proof of brotherly love, and it shows a concern for the peace and welfare of others, when a person foregoes his own rights, and gives-up his liberty, rather than grieve, wound, and offend a brother in Christ.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:32-33: “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” “Not seeking my own profit;” worldly profit and advantage, riches, wealth, the rewards of life, comfort, rest, and pleasure; and chiefly he means the use of liberty in things indifferent; he was willing to forego all for the good of others:
  • Philippians 2:15: “That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the middle of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. “Without rebuke” means without blame; without giving anyone a ground for complaining about you.
  • 1 Corinthians 8:9 “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”
  • 1 Corinthians 9:12 “If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.”


The apostle knew there were people who were waiting and watching for any opportunity to point out an error or fault of his that might become apparent; something they could use to vilify and criticize the ministry of the Gospel, and in that way hinder its progress and spread; and if they could bring the Gospel into contempt by the disagreeable conduct of its preachers, there would be little hope of it being successful.


“We give no offense in anything:” Paul was willing to do most anything to make sure he gave no offense in anything.  He was willing to forego his salary as a minister of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:3-15).  He was willing to allow others to be more prominent.  He was willing to work hard and endure hardship.  Paul was not afraid to offend anyone over the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-25), but he would not allow his style of ministry to offend anyone. It is as if the apostle had said, “I Paul, Timotheus, Silvanus, and other ministers of the word, take all possible care to lay no stumbling block in the way of the hearers of the Gospel; to give no offence to them that are without, or to them that are within, to Jew or Gentile, or to the church of God, neither by word nor writing, by doctrine or conversation, or in any way whatever: that the ministry be not blamed; the ministry of the word of reconciliation, which they had received of the Lord Jesus.


That our ministry may not be blamed

The phrase, "the ministry," refers here not merely to the ministry of Paul, that is, it does not mean merely that he would be subject to blame and reproach, but that the ministry itself which the Lord Jesus had established would be blamed, or would be criticized due to the improper conduct of anyone who was engaged in that work. The idea is that the misconduct of one minister of the Gospel would bring criticism and accusations against the profession itself, and would prevent the usefulness and success of others, just as the misconduct of a physician exposes the whole profession to reproach, or the bad conduct of a lawyer reflects itself in some degree on the entire profession. And it is the same everywhere. The errors, foolishness, misconduct, or bad example of one minister of the Gospel brings a reproach upon the sacred calling itself, and prevents the usefulness of many others. Ministers do not stand alone. And though no one can be responsible for the errors and failings of others, yet no one can avoid suffering in regard to his usefulness due to the sins of others. Not only, therefore, from a regard to his personal usefulness should every minister be circumspect in his walk, but from respect to the usefulness of all others who sustain the office of the ministry, and from respect for the success of religion all over the world. Paul made it one of the principles of his conduct to act so that no man would have reason to speak reproachfully of the ministry on his account. In order to do this, he felt it was necessary not only to claim and assert honor for the ministry, but to lead a life that would deserve the respect of people. If a man wishes to secure respect for his calling, it must be by living in the manner which that calling demands, and then respect and honor will follow as a matter of course. We know, however, that Paul’s ministry was blamed and discredited by the Corinthian Christians.  What Paul means here is that our ministry may not rightly be blamed.  Paul could not do anything about false accusations; except live in such a way that any fair-minded person would see such accusations as what they really were—false accusations, lies.


From here, Paul enters upon a long passage in which he shows how the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ is carried out. The demeanor of the Apostles towards those among whom they preached the Gospel is as forcible a mode of proclaiming the reconciliation as their words. Yet he has not lost sight of the vindication of himself, which runs through the whole Epistle.


4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses,


But in all things we commend ourselves, as ministers of God;

It is not sufficient for a minister of the Gospel to avoid everything that might bring a blot or scandal on his ministry; but he should show himself to be a true and faithful dispenser of the word. The idea in this clause is that Paul and his fellow laborers tried to live in a way that befitted the ministers of God, and so to commend the ministry to the confidence and affection of people. They strove to live in a way that was appropriate for those who were the ministers of God, and so that the world would be of a mind to do honor to the ministry. Compare:

  • 2 Corinthians 3:1: “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, letters of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?” The false teachers at Corinth had been originally introduced there by letters of commendation from abroad. These were letters of introduction, and were common among the Greeks, the Romans, and the Jews, as they are now. Paul’s life and ministry, and his many converts among the Corinthian believers were his commendation.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:12: “For we commend not ourselves again to you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that you may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.” I do not speak in order to commend myself to you; he had declared before that he trusted that he was made manifest to their consciences, and so he did not need to commend himself any more. But, the only reason I speak of myself is to give you an occasion to glory, to glory in me as the apostle of Christ unto you, or to defend me against the scandals and reproaches of those that reproach me, when themselves have no true inward cause of glorying, though they have in outward glorying in respect to their riches, wit, wisdom, and the like.


Yes, he does commend himself; but how? He looks back on his life of labor and suffering, and challenges others by comparison. Can others, with their letters of commendation, point to anything like this? What he means is that he as the minister of God should commend himself by acts and not by words. “But in all things we commend ourselves, as ministers of God”: ministers of the gospel are in the first place to be considered as the ministers of God; secondarily, as ministers and servants of the church; which they ought to serve so far, as in serving it they do obey Christ. None can approve or commend themselves for ministers of God that live a scandalous life; God hath not sent them to place stumbling blocks in the way, but to remove them out of the way of men. 


“But in all things” means in every respect: we commend ourselves in all that we do; in every way, both by words and deeds. The apostle probably has in mind the insinuation, which had evidently caused him deep pain, that he was not authorized to preach, as his Judaizing opponents were, who carried “letters of commendation” (see 2 Corinthians 3:1-3) from James or from the disciples at Jerusalem. His credentials came from God, who had enabled him to be so faithful as a minister of God: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1).


Paul now proceeds to state how he commends himself in the following verses.


In much patience

“In much patience” is more properly “in patient endurance,” and here Paul is reflecting on his staying power when going through afflictions of all kinds. He enumerates some of his trials in the verses which follow. The idea is that a minister of God, in order to do good work which would commend his ministry, should set an example of patient endurance. He speaks of it as if it was a duty he owed to others; and if, when he is poor, persecuted, oppressed, slandered, or imprisoned, he would complain, or be antagonistic, the consequence would be that he would do little good by all his preaching—for his conduct would not validate his words. And no one can doubt, that God often places his ministers in circumstances where they face tough trials, and He does it, among other reasons, so that they may illustrate their own teachings by their example, and to show to their people the attitude and spirit they should exhibit when they must go through periods of suffering. Ministers often do a great deal more good by their example in suffering than they do in their preaching. It is easy to preach to others; it is not so easy though, to display just the right spirit when experiencing persecution and trials. People can, and do resist preaching, but they cannot resist the effect and power of a good example in times of suffering. Have you ever heard the saying, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read?” If you are a Christian, people ought to know it by the example you set with your life. Your conduct is so important, because they judge Christianity by what they observe of your life. Compare:

  • Luke 8:15: “But the seed in the good ground—these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, bear fruit.” “But the seed in the good ground”—these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, bear fruit.
  • Luke 21:19: “In your patience possess you your souls.”Quiet, brave patience in all difficulty, perplexity, and danger, was the attitude urged upon the believers of the early church by the inspired teachers. Paul constantly mentions this.
  • Matthew 10:22: “Christ had forewarned his apostles that they would have much to endure, and had strengthened them by the promise that ‘he that endureth to the end shall be saved.’” Christ had forewarned his apostles that they would have much to endure, and had strengthened them by the promise that "he that endureth to the end shall be saved"


In regard to the manner in which Paul says that the ministry may commend itself, it may be observed, that he groups several things together; or mentions several classes of influences or means. In this and the next verse he refers to various kinds of afflictions. In the following verses he groups several things together, pertaining to a holy life, and a pure conversation.


In tribulations

 “Tribulations” is a general word or category which includes all sorts of afflictions and trials which they may be called on to patiently bear.  And the words that follow are specific types of afflictions—needs, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, and fastings. Compare:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:8: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.”How often does this occur in the lives of all Christians! And how certain is it, that in all such cases God will intervene by his grace, and aid his people, and save them from absolute despair.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:4-11: “who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.


In needs

Not our “wants,” but those things we deem the necessities of life—food, drink, and clothing, without which we would be hungry, thirsty, and naked, as the apostles sometimes were. Paul was poor, and was often in need: “You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me” (Acts 20:34). The apostle worked at tent making, along with Aquila and Priscilla, at Ephesus, and at Corinth, and supplied himself with the necessaries of food and clothing; for though he had the prerogative, as a minister of the Gospel, to abstain from working, and to insist upon support from the churches, yet in some cases, and in some places, he chose rather to forego their support, so that he would in no way hinder the progress of the Gospel, or be burdensome to the churches, or give the false teachers anything to use against him; and he not only supported himself in this way, but assisted others also.


In distresses

“In distresses” means being under “extreme pressure,” either imagined or actual; a feeling that you don’t know what to do, or which way to turn. Those who are impoverished, as Paul and the other apostles were at times, may have been “distressed.” Paul said, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Co. 4:8).The apostles were great sufferers, yet they met with wonderful support. Believers may be forsaken by their friends, as well as persecuted by enemies; but their God will never leave them nor forsake them.



5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings;


In stripes

In this verse, Paul provides a list of those specific trials and afflictions which he had been called to patiently endure. In the previous verse (v. 4), he had spoken of his afflictions in general terms. Here, he begins to share the particulars of his sufferings and those of his fellow-laborers. They were scourged in the synagogues and cities as if they were common criminals. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-25, Paul says that he had been scourged five times by the Jews, and had been beaten three times with rods. In Acts 16:23, we are told, “And when they had laid many stripes on them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely.”The Jews were by law prohibited from inflicting more than 40 stripes, and usually inflicted 39. But there was no such law among the Romans. They were unrestricted in regard to the number of lashes, and probably inflicted many more.


 The “stripes” were of two kinds—from Jewish whips and Roman rods. But of the five scourgings with Jewish whips not one is mentioned in the Acts, and only one of the three scourgings with Roman rods (Acts 16:23). Nothing, therefore, is more clear than that the Acts only furnishes us with a fragmentary and incomplete record, in which, as we gather from the Epistles, either the agonies of Paul's lifelong martyrdom are for some reason intentionally minimized, or else (which is, perhaps, more probable) Paul was so discreet about his own sufferings in the cause of Christ that Luke was only vaguely, if at all, aware of many scenes of trial through which he had passed. 


In imprisonments

It was no uncommon thing for the early preachers of Christianity to be imprisoned. Paul was frequently in prison, but Luke tells us of only one of those occasions, which occurred at Philippi—“Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks” (Acts 16:24). The inner prison was probably a dark place and without ventilation, and hence foul and repugnant; perhaps underground. Paul’s Roman imprisonment and that at Caesarea occurred after he was in prison at Philippi.


In tumults

One meaning of “in tumults” is “in tossing to and fro (finding no place of rest and quietness);being driven from place to place by the fury of their enemies.” The Greek word from which it is taken denotes “instability,” that is, disorder, tumult, commotion. Here it means that in the various tumults and commotions which were produced by the preaching of the gospel, Paul tried to act as became a minister of God. Such tumults were excited at Corinth, Act 18:6; at Philippi, Acts 16:19-20; at Lystra and Derbe, Acts 14:19; at Ephesus, Acts 19, and in various other places. The idea is that if the ministers of religion are attacked by a lawless mob, they are to attempt to show the spirit of Christ, and to display patience, and to do good even in such a circumstance. Patience and the Christian spirit may often do more good in such predicaments than a lot preaching would do elsewhere. During tumults and uproars of the people, the apostle’s lives were frequently in imminent danger. These were normal incidents in Paul's life, both up to this time and for years afterwards. For the tumults which the Apostle went through see Acts 13:50Acts 14:5Acts 14:19Acts 16:22Acts 17:5Acts 18:12Acts 19:23-41.


Tumult might also meaninward disorder, rather than external tumult; "insecurities," that is, homelessness, wanderings, uncertainties. Paul described such issues in 1 Corinthians 4:11: “Even to this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place.” The apostles were constantly in an unsettled state, always moving from one place to another, and had no place they could call their own; like their Lord and master, who had not where to lay his head; and like some of the Old Testament saints, who wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, in deserts, and in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.



In labors

“In labors” probably refers to the work involved in the Gospel ministry, and its never-ending duties, and also to the labor which they performed for their own support, since it is well known that Paul and probably the other apostles, as well, often labored to support themselves. Paul often worked as a tent maker; a trade he followed when he was with Aquila and Priscilla—“And because he was of the same craft, he stayed with them, and worked: for by their occupation they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:3).


In sleeplessness

In most translations “sleeplessness” is called “watchings,” as it is in 2 Corinthians 11:27—“In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” Watching was a voluntary act and refers to wakefulness, or lack of sleep due to his arduous duties, and his travels, and anxiety over the churches and for the advancement of religion, and this led to him being often deprived of his ordinary rest. He was compelled to work night and day to support himself by tent making, and in preaching, praying, and singing psalms; which often continued till after midnight. In his letter to the Thessalonians, he wrote, “Neither did we eat any man's bread for nothing; but worked with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you” (2 Thess. 3:8)."Spells of sleeplessness" were a necessary part of such a life; and an extremely nervous nature like that of St. Paul is rarely capable of the habitual relief of sound sleep.


In fastings

The context here refers to his trials, rather than the devotional exercise of voluntarily going without foodwhich would be out of place in a listing of hardships. He is probably speaking of the fact that in his travels, when abroad and among strangers, he often went without food. Those who traveled as Paul did, among strangers, and without money, would often be compelled miss a meal now and then; except, with Paul, such trials were almost without number. The religion which we now enjoy cost those who founded it a great deal. At first, it cost the painful life, the toils, the anxieties, and the sufferings of the Redeemer; and it has been propagated and perpetuated amidst the deep sorrows, the sacrifices, and the tears and blood of those who have contributed to perpetuate it on earth—and for its martyrs it cost the supreme price. For such a religion, originated, extended, and preserved in such a manner, we can never express suitable gratitude to God. Such a religion we cannot overestimate in value; and for the extension and perpetuity of such a religion, we also should be willing to practice uncomplaining self-denial.



6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,


By pureness

Beginning here the apostle relates the virtues and special gifts which are necessary and should be possessed by the Gospel minister: they are the armor in which his ministry moves and the element which enables him to overcome all pitfalls and hindrances.


The first virtue is “pureness.” In the widest sense the word may mean “purity of motive,” but in this instance, seeing that he is writing to those who are citizens of Corinth, a very wicked city, the meaning is probably “purity from sexual sin”—personal chastity. In the general state of morals throughout the empire, and especially in writing to such a city as Corinth, it was natural to dwell on this aspect of the Christian character. Compare:

  • 2 Corinthians 11:2: “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
  • 1 Timothy 5:22: “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep yourself pure.” “Keep yourself pure,” particularly, in regard to participation in the sins of others; generally, in all things –in heart, in word, in conduct.
  • 1 Peter 3:2: “While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” “Chaste”—pure, spotless, free from all impurity.


The apostle having shown how he and other ministers of God gained the approval of those they sought to see converted, by patiently bearing everything that afflicted and distressed the outward man, proceeds here to show how they were approved in other respects: this concerns the inner man, the exercise of grace, and spiritual behavior: "by pureness"; of doctrine and conversation, chastity of body and mind, a holy and pure life, sincerity of heart, and integrity of life. The substance of what he says is that it had not only been done by sufferings and trials, but by a holy life, and by entire consecration to the great cause to which he had devoted himself.All preaching, and all labors would have been in vain without this; and Paul well knew that if he succeeded in the ministry, he must be a good man. The same is true in all other professions. One of the essential requisites of an orator, according to Quintilian, is, that he must be a good man; and no man may expect ultimately to succeed in any calling of life unless he is pure. But however this may be in other callings, no one will doubt it in regard to the ministry of the Gospel. Compare:

  • 1 John 3:3: “And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” By applying to, and confiding in, the purifying blood of Christ, with a penitent, believing heart; by earnestly praying for and receiving the purifying Spirit of God; by obeying the purifying word, (1 Peter 1:22) and by exercising purifying faith in the truths and promises of the gospel, Acts 15:9.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:2: “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” Our business, in the course of our ministry, has been to commend ourselves to every man’s conscience, in the sight of God, by showing to them the truth of God.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:10: “You are witnesses, and God also, how piously and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you that believe” Every duty was faithfully performed. This is not a claim to absolute perfection, but it is a claim to consistency of character, and to faithfulness in duty, which every Christian should be able to make.


By knowledge

Interpreters have differed considerably in the interpretation of the gift (or virtue) of knowledge. Some of these opinions are:

  1. “Knowledge” means “prudence;” the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason, or shrewdness in the management of affairs, and skill and good judgment in the use of resources.
  2. Paul is referring specifically to knowledge of the Law.
  3. Paul is referring to his supreme desire to improve in the knowledge of those truths which they were called to communicate to others.


Probably the idea expressed by the word “knowledge” is a very simple one. Paul is showing how he went about to commend the gospel to others (v. 4). He says that one way was by communicating knowledge, true knowledge. He proclaimed that which was true, and which was real knowledge, in opposition to the false science of the Greeks, and in opposition to those who would substitute eloquence of oratory for argument, and the mere ornaments of rhetoric for truth. The idea is, that the minister should not be ignorant, but if they wished to commend their office, they should be well informed, and should be people of good sense. Paul did not believe that an ignorant minister was preferable to one that was characterized by true knowledge; and he felt that if he was to be useful it was to be by his imparting to others truth that would be useful. “The priest's lips should keep knowledge” (Malachi 2:7). The “knowledge” is obviously not that of earthly things, but of the mysteries of God: “Whereby, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). The "mystery" is Christ Himself, once hidden, but now revealed: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).


By longsuffering

“By longsuffering” is meant patience in our trials, in our insults, and in the aggravations which we meet with. We attempt to maintain control over our passions (desires, cravings, and urges), and to keep them in subjection. We are not easily provoked to wrath, but bearing with patience every indignity and affront. Compare:

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Charity [love] suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity brags not itself, is not puffed up” Here the apostle attributes to love the qualities and actions of a person. Our love for God, and of our neighbor for God’s sake, is patient toward all men.
  • 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” The success of the Gospel ministry should be patiently waited for as husbandmen do for the fruits of the earth.


By kindness

The word translated “kindness,” denotes any goodness by which a man may show himself either courteous and pleasant, or useful and profitable, to his neighbor. We are to attempt to show kindness to all men, regardless of how they treat us. Paul felt that if a minister would do good he must be kind, and gentle to all—“Charity [love] suffers long, and is kind. . . ” (1 Co. 13:4). The idea is that we are to remain gentle and mild even when we are provoked and treated badly by others.


By the Holy Spirit

“By the Holy Ghost” means “by the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit; by those graces and virtues which He produce in the heart. Paul lists them in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Paul is not referring here to the spiritual gifts of healing, tongues, and prophesy produced by the power of the Holy Spirit, but to the feelings, impulses and promptings which Holy Spirit produced in the hearts of him and his fellow-ministers, and in the hearts of all the children of God. The Holy Spirit influences and assists in the exercise of every grace, and the discharge of every duty, and inspires our whole mind and conduct. Compare:

  • 1 Thessalonians 1:5: “For our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as you know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”The peculiar “power” in which St Paul and his helpers spoke at Thessalonica was not their own: their message came from the Holy Spirit, accompanied by the supernatural energy of the Spirit of God and of Christ.
  • Romans 15:19: “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” The success of the preaching of the Gospel was not due to the skill and powerful oratory of the preacher; nor merely to the power of signs and wonders; but by the powerful and effectual grace of the Spirit of God, who took away the stony, stubborn, and disobedient heart, and gave them an heart of flesh, a tender, flexible, and obedient one that could be penetrated and converted.


By sincere love (most versions have, “love unfeigned”)

“By sincere love” is meant “sincere, true, ardent love for all men; unfeigned, pure, and genuine affection for the souls of people. What good can a minister do if he does not love his people, and the souls of people? The prominent characteristic in the life of the Redeemer was love—love for all. So if we are like him, and if we are going to do any good, we will have love for people. No man is effective without it; and ministers, in general, are effective in proportion to the love they have for their people. Love will motivate one to hard work, self-denial, and toil; it will make them patient, devoted, kind; it will give them zeal, and will give them access to the hearts of others; it will accomplish what no eloquence, hard work, or learning can without it. He who shows that he loves me has access at once to my heart; he who does not, cannot make headway there by any argument, eloquence, denunciation, or learning. No minister is successful without it; no one with it can help but be successful.


“Sincere love” is the surest fruit of the Spirit, and the best of all spiritual gifts; Paul could appeal to his own career to show that his love was as real as its expression was passionate—“O you Corinthians, our mouth is open to you, our heart is enlarged” (2 Corinthians 6:11). The main idea here is that he had a strong affection for them; a heart which embraced and loved them all, and which expressed itself in the language of deep emotion. He loved them so much that he was willing to be rebuked, and to be persecuted, and to be poor, and to have his name disrespected. A heart full of love will give vent to its feelings. There will be no play-acting and hypocrisy there. And if a minister loves the souls of his people he will pour out the affections of his heart in strong and glowing language.



7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,


By the word of truth

“By the word of truth,” that is, by making known the truths of the gospel. It was his intention to make known the simple truth. He did not corrupt it by mixing in with it philosophy and human wisdom, but communicated it as it had been revealed to him. The object of Christian ministry is to make the truth of God known, and when that is properly done, their office and work will receive the favorable regards of people. In James 1:18 it says, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” “The word of truth” is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which the Holy Spirit uses in the process of regeneration. The process proceeds in this manner: The man of God speaks the “word of truth” to a sinner; the Holy Spirit applies the Word to the sinner’s heart, and through a miracle wrought by the power of God, a child of God is produced. A process repeated thousands of times every year.


By the power of God

“By the power of God” means the divine power which accompanied the preaching of the gospel. Most of the ancient commentators explain this as the power of working miracles. But it probably includes all the demonstrations of divine power which accompanied the spread of the gospel, whether in the working of miracles, or in the conversion of people. If Paul was asked how he used  these miraculous powers of speaking in foreign languages etc., he would probably reply, “In the same way I use my natural faculties,” and he might point us to 1 Corinthians 14:32, where it says, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” The idea here is that they used the great powers entrusted to them by God, not as impostors would have done, for the purposes of monetary gain and ambition, or for useless spectacle, but solely for the furtherance of the true religion, and the salvation of people. They thus showed that they were sent from God, by the nature of the powers with which they were entrusted, and by the manner in which they used them.


Spiritual gifts, like all other gifts, are under the dominion of the mind, and may, like all other gifts, be easily misused. A holy self-restraint, even in the use of the highest gifts, must characterize the Christian. If a man comes into the assembly inspired to speak in an unknown tongue, the impulse is to be steadily repressed, unless there is a certainty that what is said can be interpreted, so that those present may understand it. If he comes into the assembly possessed with what he feels is a valued idea, he must keep it to himself until such time as he can give it out without causing disorder, without doing injury to that which must be absolutely the first consideration in all worship services—the edification of the flock. Someone has said, “Uncontrolled religious feeling” is apt to “overpower both reason and sense.”


The apostle calls the “power of God to salvation,” “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes” (Rom. 1:16). The Gospel is made so powerful by the inward, powerful, effective working of the Holy Spirit.


By the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,

Bible scholars give differing interpretations of “By the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left”:

  1. Some think it refers to the way in which the ancient soldiers were armed. They bore a spear in their right hand, and a shield in the left. With the former they attacked their foes, with the later they defended themselves. For the Christian soldier, the weapon in the right hand is “the sword of the Spirit,” which he wields in the conflict with evil (Ephesians 6:17). The shield for the left hand is defensive, the “shield of faith,” which is our defense against the fiery darts of the wicked (Ephesians 6:16).
  2. Some have supposed that it refers to the fact that they were taught to use the sword with the left hand as well as with the right. For the child of God, the “armor of righteousness” means a good conscience, (which cannot be without a universal righteousness, or uprightness of life), which is a defense against all temptations, either from prosperity or from adversity. In this sense, what Solomon said is true: “He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely” (Proverbs 10:9): and David prayed, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me” (Psalm 25:21).
  3. Still others have the simple idea that it refers to the Gospel ministers, who were completely armed. To be armed on the right hand and on the left means to be well armed, or entirely equipped. They went forth to battle. They met persecution, opposition, and slander. Just as the soldier went well armed to battle, so did they. But the armor with which they met their foes, and which constituted their full suit of armor, was a holy life. With that they met all the assaults of their enemies; all the slander and persecution. That was their defense, and by that they hoped and expected to be victorious. They had no swords, spears, helmets, or shields; none of the usual weapons of offence and defense; but they expected to overcome all their enemies, and to gain all their victories, by an upright and holy life.


The thought expressed here is found in a more expanded form in Ephesians 6:11-17 and Thessalonians 5:8: “But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.” Its recurrence in 2 Corinthians 10:4—“We use God's mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments”—shows how familiar it was to Paul’s mind. Here it is presented in a more condensed form, but its meaning is sufficiently obvious.



8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true;


By honour and dishonor

The apostle is still illustrating his admission that he and his fellow-laborers always attempted to avoid offending anyone (v. 3), and to commend themselves as the ministers of God (v.4). In verses 8-10 he introduces another group of instances in which it was done. The main idea is that they tried to act in a manner that would commend the ministry and the Gospel, whether they were in circumstances which were honorable or dishonorable, whether much-admired or despised by the world. The word rendered "by" does not denote here the means by which they commended the gospel, but the method. In the midst of honor and dishonor; whatever might be the regard in which they were held by the world, they attempted to reverence God and the Gospel. They were not honored everywhere, or treated with respect. Yet they were sometimes honored by people. The churches which they founded would honor them, and as the ministers of religion they would be treated by them with respect.


Occasionally, they may have been treated with great respect by the people of the world on account of their miraculous powers (compare Acts 28:7). Nowadays, ministers of the gospel are often treated with great respect and honor. They are loved and revered; stroked and flattered, by the people they serve. As ministers of God who carry out a holy function, their position is often treated with great respect by the world. If they are eloquent or learned, or if they are highly successful they are often greatly admired and loved. It is difficult under such circumstances not to commend themselves as the ministers of God. There are few people who are not injured by being honored; few who are not corrupted by flattery. Few ministers are able to resist being affected by this influence, and who in such circumstances can honor the ministry. Those who are not corrupted seem to consider personal honors and appreciation as matters of little consequence, for they are influenced by higher considerations than the love of praise. They do not permit those insignificant matters to interfere with their duties, or to make them less faithful and enthusiastic; but rather by making this the ground for increased faithfulness and increased zeal in their Master's cause.


Paul is proof that it is possible for a minister who is greatly honored to make it the motivation for commending himself more and more as a minister of God. And he should do it; as Paul said he did. The other situation was "in dishonor." As we study the early church it becomes obvious that the apostles were often in situations where they had the opportunity to commend themselves as the ministers of God. If sometimes they were honored, they were often dishonored. If the world sometimes flattered and stroked them, it often despised them, and cast insults at them—“Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things to this day” (1 Corinthians 4:13). And perhaps, it is the same today with those who are faithful. In such circumstances, Paul sought to commend himself as a minister of God. It was by receiving all expressions of contempt with meekness; by not allowing them to interfere with the faithful discharge of his duties; by rising above them, and showing the power of religion to sustain him; and by returning good for evil, prayers for torments, blessings for curses, and by seeking to save, not injure and destroy those who sought to overwhelm him with disgrace. It may be difficult to do this, but it can be done; and when done, a man always does good.


By evil report and good report

“By evil report,” as the phrase is used here, is meant threatening language, curses, accusations, humiliating insults. It refers to the fact that they were often slandered and insulted. Their motives were called in question, and their names attacked with false, malicious, and damaging charges or insinuations. They were represented as deceivers and impostors, etc. The statement here is that in such circumstances, and when they were assaulted and rebuked, they tried to commend themselves as the ministers of God. Evidently they attempted to do this by not slandering or reviling in return; by manifesting a Christian spirit; by living down the slanderous accusations, and by doing good if possible even to their accusers. It is more difficult to bear such disparagements than it is to stand bodily pain; and it is consequently more difficult to display a Christian spirit then. It is exasperating to human nature to have one’s name slandered and cast out as evil when we are conscious only of a desire to do good. But it is enough for the disciple that he is treated as was his master, and if they called the master of the house Beelzebub, we must expect they will also insult those of his household. It is a good idea for a Christian minister, or any other Christian, to do good when his name is unjustly slandered. It gives him an opportunity of showing the true excellence of the Christian spirit; and it gives him the indescribable privilege of being like Christ - like Him in His suffering and in the moral excellence of character. A man should be willing to be anything if it will make him like the Redeemer, whether it involves suffering or glory. Compare:

  • Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.” We identify with Him in His sufferings and death, by imputation; also, in actually bearing the cross whatever is laid on us, after His example, and so "filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ" (Col 1:24); and in our willingness to bear anything for His sake (Mt 10:38; 16:24; 2Ti 2:11). As He bore all our sufferings (Isa 53:4), so we participate in His.
  • 1 Peter 4:13: “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”


As deceivers

Paul and the other disciples were, at times, regarded and treated as if they were “deceivers,” and as if they would advance their cause by any trick or fraud that they could devise. Perhaps this refers to some charges which had been brought against them by the opposing faction at Corinth, or perhaps to the opinion which the Jewish priests and pagan philosophers had of them. The idea is that they were often regarded and treated as impostors, yet they strived to live as became the ministers of God. They bore the reproach with patience, and they applied themselves diligently to the work of saving souls. Paul seldom devoted his efforts to vindicating himself from such charges, but pursued his master's work, and evidently felt that if he had a reputation that was worth anything, or deserved any reputation, God would take care of it. David, like Paul, experienced false charges and harsh criticism, but he was always confident that God would vindicate him—“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:1-4). A man, especially a minister, who is constantly trying to vindicate his own reputation, usually has a reputation which is not worth vindicating. A man who deserves a reputation will ultimately obtain just as much as is good for him, and enough to advance the cause in which he is engaged.

And yet true

We are not deceivers and impostors. Though we are regarded as such, yet we show ourselves to be true and faithful ministers of Christ—upright and sincere, in the sight of God.



9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed;


As unknown, and yet well known

“As unknown”—the idea may be that the apostles went about as strangers, and as unknown persons. Yet, though unknown they tried to commend themselves as the ministers of God. Though among strangers and without an introduction from the great and the highborn, they tried to convince the world that they were the ministers of God. This could be done only by living a holy life, and by the evidence of the divine approval which would show up in the success of their work. It is in this way that the ministers of religion, if they are faithful, may make themselves known even among those who were strangers. Every minister and every Christian, even when they are "unknown" and when among strangers, should remember their high character as the servants of God, and should live to commend the religion which they profess to love, and which they are called on to preach. But all too often, ministers, when among strangers seem to feel that they are at liberty to lay aside their ministerial character, and to engage in conversation, and even take part in activities which they themselves would regard as wholly improper if it were known that they were the ambassadors of God! And how often is it the case that professing Christians when traveling, when among strangers, forget their high calling, and conduct themselves in a manner wholly different from what they did when surrounded by fellow-Christians!


“And yet well known”—meaning our opinions and our principles are well known. We don’t try to conceal or disguise them. Though little-known at the beginning, and without rank, or wealth, or power, or support, or anything to commend ourselves, we have succeeded in making ourselves known to the world. Though suspected of shady schemes, our principles are all well known to the world. No collection of people having the same obscurity of birth ever succeeded in making themselves more extensively known than did the apostles. The world at large became acquainted with them; and by their self-denial, zeal, and success, they extended their reputation around the globe.


They were “well known” to GOD THE FATHER, who loved them with an everlasting love, chose them in Christ, gave them to Him, made a covenant with Him on their account, and sent His Son to redeem them. And they were “well known” to JESUS CHRIST, who knows all that are His, specially, distinctly, perfectly, and He bears a strong affection for them, takes great care of them, indulges them with intimate communion with Him, and openly owns and acknowledges them as his own. And they are “well known” to the SPIRIT OF GOD, who enlightened and quickened them, regenerated and sanctified them, wrought faith and every other grace in them, witnessed their adoption to them, led them into all truth, filled and furnished them with His gifts, and dwelt in them, and dwelt with them, as the seal and earnest of their future glory. And they were well known to the SAINTS, and ONE ANOTHER: they loved each other, delighted in each other's company; they knew each other's experiences, joys, and sorrows, and, in some measure, their hearts, and even their spiritual and eternal estate.


As dying, and behold we live

 “As dying”—that is, regarded by others “as dying.” They were often condemned to death; exposed to death; in the midst of trials that exposed them to death, and that are normally followed by death—“I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our LORD, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). I endure so many sufferings and persecutions, that it may be said to be a daily dying. I am constantly in danger of losing my life; and my sufferings each day are equal to the pains of death. Probably Paul referred here particularly to the perils and trials which he endured at Ephesus; and his object was to impress upon their minds the firmness of his belief in the certainty of the resurrection, on account of which he suffered so much, and to show them that all their hopes rested on this doctrine. The apostles passed through so many trials that it might be said that they were constantly dying. Why did they do it? They did it for Jesus—“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11).  “For Jesus’ sake,” that is, for our preaching, and professing Christ, and the doctrine of the Gospel. We are not delivered to death for doing evil, but for doing good; and that in the noblest sense, for obeying the commands of God, and for publishing the Gospel of Christ.


“And behold we live”“behold” calls attention to what seemed like a daily miracle. Strange as it may seem, we still survive. Through all our trials we are preserved, and though often exposed to death, yet we still live. The idea here is that in all these trials, and in these exposures to death, they endeavored to commend themselves as the ministers of God. They bore their trials with patience; submitted to these exposures without a complaint; and ascribed their preservation to the grace, mercy, and providence of God.


As chastened, and yet not killed

“As chastened”—the word "chastened" means corrected, “chastised.” It is applied to the chastening which God causes by afflictions and tragedies. Compare:

  •  1 Corinthians 11:32: “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” We are chastened by the Lord; as children by a father, in love and kindness, in order to bring us a sense of our sin.
  • Revelation 3:19: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” The meaning is that it is a proof of love on His part that if his professed friends go astray, He recalls them by gentle and friendly trials, and harsher ones if necessary.


This doesn’t refer to the scourgings to which they were subjected in the synagogues and elsewhere, but to the chastisements which God inflicted; the trials to which he subjected them. And the idea is, that in the midst of these trials, they attempted to act as became the ministers of God. They bore the trials with patience. They submitted to them because they came from His hand. They felt that they were doing nothing wrong, but were doing right; and they submitted without a complaint.


“And yet not killed”—meaning that though our heavenly Father has chastened us (not in a way of vindictive wrath, but in a fatherly manner), He has not killed us: the apostle may have alluded to Psalm 118:18, where it is said, “The LORD has chastened me sore: but he has not given me over to death.” The Lord hath chastened me sore; but he hath not given me over to death.

10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.


As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing

“As sorrowful”—means grieving, afflicted, troubled, and sad. Under these sufferings we seem to be always discouraged and sad. We endure afflictions that usually lead to the deepest expressions of grief. If the world looks only upon our trials, we must appear to be always suffering, and always sad. The world will suppose that we have cause for continued expressions of grief, and they will regard us as among the unhappiest people. This may be the opinion which the world usually attaches to the Christian life. They regard it as a life of sadness and of gloom; of trial and unhappiness. They see little in it that is cheerful, and they suppose that a heavy burden presses constantly on the heart of the Christian. They think joy is found only in the merriments and pleasures of this life; and that religion is only sadness. It is true, they are not free from sorrow. They are tried and tested like others. They have special trials arising from persecution, opposition, contempt, and from the conscious and deep-felt depravity of their own hearts. They are serious; and their seriousness is often interpreted as gloom. But there is another side to this picture, and there is much in the Christian character and feelings which are not seen or appreciated by the world.


“Yet always rejoicing”— their outward appearance may be sorrowful, and oftentimes they really are sad on account of sin, their own and others, and due to their afflictions, physical and spiritual. Yet always rejoicing”; not in themselves, or in any creature, but in the Lord, in the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, and salvation by Him. So Paul was always rejoicing, although as a matter of fact, he always appeared to have reasons for grief. Religion had a power not only to sustain the soul during trials, but to fill it with positive joy. The sources of his joy were no doubt the assurances of the divine favor and the hopes of eternal glory. And the same is true of religion today. There is an internal peace and joy which the world may not see or appreciate, but which is far more than ample compensation for all the trials which the Christian endures.


The prophet Habakkuk wrote: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17-18). In spite of misfortunes and tragedies, the people will joy in God; though earthly blessings perish He remains their portion. The joy is partly a present one since we are in the possession of the Spirit of Christ and of a good conscious, and partly one of hope in His salvation in this life and in a future life in heaven.


As poor, yet making many rich.

“As poor”—the idea is, we are poor, yet in our poverty we attempt “to do nothing that would be viewed as wrongdoing, and to commend ourselves as the ministers of God.” This would be accomplished by their patience, and their determination not to do anything dishonest and dishonorable, and by their readiness, when necessary, to support themselves. There is no doubt that the apostles were poor. Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). He didn’t have any on him, and neither did he have much elsewhere; the apostles abounded, but in grace, not in riches. The little property which some of them had, had all been forsaken in order that they might follow the Saviour, and go and preach His Gospel. And there is little doubt that today the mass of ministers are still poor, and that is the way God wants it. It is in this way that He plans to illustrate the beauty and the sustaining power of religion, and that they should serve as examples to the world. As for why this should be, I would suggest there are good reasons for it:

  1. That they might be maintained by the people, which is the ordinance of God.
  2. That it might appear that Christ's kingdom is not of this world.
  3. That the faith of men might not stand in the riches of the world, but in the power of God
  4. That ministers might not be above their work, nor neglect it, nor drop it, and so that they might not be ensnared and encumbered with the things of life.


“Yet making many rich”—here the apostle means that he and his fellow-laborers, though they were poor, were the instruments of conferring durable and supremely valuable possessions on many persons. They had bestowed on them the true riches. They had been the means of investing them with treasures infinitely more valuable than any which kings and princes could bestow. Those to whom they ministered were made partakers of the treasure where the moth doth not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.Ministersare instruments in making many souls rich in spiritual things (blessings) by showing them their spiritual poverty, stripping them of what they trusted in, and valued; directing them to where true riches are found, and furnishing them with spiritual knowledge—with the knowledge of things which are worth more than thousands of gold and silver.


As having nothing, and yet possessing all things

“As having nothing”—the apostles gave up everything for Christ; they were sent out by him with nothing but the clothes on their back; what they had they gave away, and were very destitute of worldly delights—having no houses, no lands, no silver or gold (Acts 3:6).


"And yet possessing all things"—they had food and clothing, with which they were content; and then they enjoyed all spiritual good things; they not only had a right to them, but were in possession of them; they had all things pertaining to life and godliness; they had Christ, and all things with Him, and therefore could say as Jacob did, that they had enough, yes, that they had “all things.” They were as well satisfied with that little which they had, as the men of the world are with their abundance; possessing all things in Christ, though having little in the world. Believers are heirs of all things. We have a title to immortal life—a promised part in all that the universe can furnish that can make us happy.


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