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Strength and Weakness

Strength and Weakness

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY JAMES DENNEY, B.D.

2 Cor. xi. 30-xii. 10 (R.V.).
BY JAMES DENNEY, B.D.

2 Cor. xi. 30-xii. 10 (R.V.).

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Sep 06, 2013
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09/18/2014

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STREGTH AD WEAKESSBY JAMES DEEY, B.D.* If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concentmy weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who isblessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus thegovernor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes,in order to take me: and through a window was I let down in abasket by the wall, and escaped his hands." I must needs glory, though it is not expedient ; but I will cometo visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ,fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or whetherout of the body, I know not ; God knoweth), such a one caught upeven to the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether inthe body, or apart from the body, I know not ; God knoweth), howthat he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words,which it is not lawful for a man to utter. On behalf of such a onewill I glory : but on mine own behalf I will not glory, save in myweaknesses. For if I should desire to glory, I shall not be foolish ;for I shall speak the truth : but I forbear, lest any man shouldaccount of me above that which he seeth me to be, or heareth fromme. And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations — wherefore, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was givento me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, thatI should not be exalted overmuch. Concerning this thing I besoughtthe Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He hath saidunto me, My grace is sufficient for thee : for My power is madeperfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory inmy weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me.Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities,in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake : for when I am weak,then am I strong." — 2 Cor. xi. 30-xii. 10 (R.V.).THE difficulties of exposition in this passage arepartly connected with its form, partly with itssubstance : it will be convenient to dispose of the formal
 
342xi. 30-xii. 10.] STREGTH AD WEAKESS 343side first. The thirtieth verse of the eleventh chapter — " If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things thatconcern my weakness " — seems to serve two purposes.On the one hand, it is a natural and effective climax toall that precedes ; it defines the principle on which Paulhas acted in the " glorying " of vv. 23-29. It is not of exploits that he is proud, but of perils and sufferings ;not of what he has achieved, but of what he hasendured, for Christ's sake ; in a word, not of strength,but of weakness. On the other hand, this same thirtiethverse indubitably points forward ; it defines the principleon which Paul will always act where boasting is inview ; and it is expressly resumed in chap, xii., ver. 5and ver. 9. For this reason, it seems better to treatit as a text than as a peroration ; it is the key to theinterpretation of what follows, put into our hands bythe Apostle himself. In the full consciousness of itsdangers and inconveniences, he means to go a littlefurther in this foolish boasting ; but he takes security,as far as possible, against its moral perils, by choosingas the ground of boasting things which in the common judgment of men would only bring him shame.At this point we are startled by a sudden appeal toGod, the solemnity and fulness of which strike us, ona first reading, as almost painfully gratuitous. " TheGod and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessedfor ever, knoweth that I lie not." What is the explana-tion of this extraordinary earnestness ? There is asimilar passage in Gal. i. 19 — " ow touching the thingswhich I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not " —where Lightfoot says the strength of the Apostle'slanguage is to be explained by the unscrupulous
 
calumnies cast upon him by his enemies. This maybe the clue to his vehemence here ; and in point of 344 THE SECOD EPISTLE TO THE CORITHIASfact it falls in with by far the most ingenious explana-tion that has been given of the two subjects introducedin this paragraph. The explanation I refer to is thatof Heinrici. He supposes that Paul's escape fromDamascus, and his visions and revelations, had beenturned to account against him by his rivals. They hadused the escape to accuse him of ignominious cowardice :the indignity of it is obvious enough. His visions andrevelations were as capable of misconstruction : it waseasy to call them mere illusions, signs of a disorderedbrain ; it was not too much for malice to hint that hiscall to apostleship rested on nothing better than oneof these ecstatic hallucinations. It is because thingsso dear to him are attacked — his reputation for personalcourage, which is the mainstay of all the virtues; hisactual vision of Christ, and divinely authorised mission — that he makes the vehement appeal that startles usat first. He calls God to witness that in regard toboth these subjects he is going to tell the exact truth :the truth will be his sufficient defence. Ingenious asit is, I do not think this theory can be maintained.There is no hint in the passage that Paul is defendinghimself; he is glorying, and glorying in the things thatconcern his weakness. It seems more probable that,when he dictated the strong words of ver. 31, the out-line of all he was going to say was in his mind ; and asthe main part of it — all about the visions and revelations — was absolutely uncontrollable by any witness but hisown, he felt moved to attest it thus in advance. Thenames and attributes of God fall in well with this. Asthe visions and revelations were specially connectedwith Christ, and were counted by the Apostle among thethings for which he had the deepest reason to praise

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