Meditations and Comentary on John 7:11-13

I have sought, in previous blog articles regarding my study, over the years, on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as written about by His Spirit through the apostle John, to share parts of that study which would be beneficial and therefore “able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32b). That this is according to “God, and the word of His grace” (Acts 20:32a) is my greatest prayer, hope, and desire. With this end in view, I will continue to share tidbits of that study that I have been engaged in for the benefit of the local portion of the catholic body of Christ, of which I am a part, as well as the greater visible church.

I am definitively of the persuasion that the great doctrines in this gospel, and indeed, throughout the Word of our Holy God, who is beyond our reach, yet has deigned to make Himself accessible to those who are His in Christ Jesus, are put forth in this gospel perhaps more than any other. The majesty of our King, Lord, Redeemer and Mediator is so plainly set forth in John’s gospel as to be without dispute, which is in agreement and augmentation of the history of redemption our great God has set forth for the benefit of His people in all the gospel accounts. I pray that these crumbs of knowledge and wisdom He has seen fit to give one who eclipses that claim of the apostle of being “the chief of sinners” are of blessing to my brethren.

John 7:11-13: So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?” There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.” Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

By “the Jews were seeking Him” we understand, first of all, that this is the religious authorities, the very same ones spoken of in v. 1, where it is said “they were seeking to kill Him,” which is confirmed, as to the general mood of the crowds, in v. 13, where they would not speak openly for fear of these religious leaders. We have discussed our Lord’s wisdom in not placing Himself in harm’s way before the proper time, and how this relates to our own walking in He who loved us and gave Himself for us, as well as how, when it was in the timetable His Father set for Him, He did not hesitate to present Himself among His enemies at the preordained times, and how this should embolden us in our sharing and preaching (for those who preach; all share) of the gospel. We may take it that the Jewish authorities were not inquiring after His presence for purposes of simply knowing His whereabouts, for they were hostile to Him, and this hostility of those recognized as the foremost religious persons in the nation had a strong effect upon the crowds of their fellow countrymen, for they were speaking of Him among one another, but not so that these leaders could overhear them.

Secondly, however, this expression refers to the crowds of His countrymen who were looking for His appearance at this important feast. Of this passage, Calvin remarks, “The Jews therefore sought him. Here we ought to consider what was the condition of the Church. For the Jews, at that time, gaped for the promised redemption like hungry men; yet, when Christ appears to them, they remain in suspense. Hence arose that murmuring and that variety of opinions. That they whisper secretly is an indication of the tyranny which the priests and scribes exercised over them. It is a shocking exhibition, indeed, that this Church, which was at that time the only Church on earth, is here represented to us as a confused and shapeless chaos. They who rule, instead of pastors, hold the people oppressed by fear and terror, and throughout the whole body there is shameful desolation and lamentable disorder. By the Jews he means the common people, who, having been accustomed for two years to hear Christ, inquire about him, because he does not appear according to his custom. For when they say, Where is he? they describe a man whom they knew, and yet that word shows that they had not yet been earnestly moved, and that they always remained in doubt and suspense.”[1]

Mark what is recorded, however, of what the people in the crowds were saying of our Lord, how some said that He was a good man, while others said He was a deceitful man.

Upon what basis did they arrive at such conclusions? All our Lord had ever done was good; indeed, all that He ever did was to preach the truth to those around Him, and work miracles of mercy and provision which pointed to the fact that He was the chosen one, the anointed one of God (Luke 4:18-21; cf. Isaiah 42:1; 61:1-2; Acts 4:26-27; 10:38; Hebrews 6:8-9; cf. Psalm 45:6-7; Isaiah 61:1, 3), sent to the nation that had so rejected Him throughout their history, to heal them and those others decreed of Him to be saved (Isaiah 2:2-3; 42:6-7; 49:5-6). Indeed, in another place, our Lord quotes Isaiah in response to John the Baptist’s inquiry: “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:15b-16; cf. Isaiah 35:5-6; 8:14-15).

This reasoning of the people in the crowds about who our Lord was, whether a good man or a deceiver, showed that they did not yet see with those eyes given of the Spirit of God, and this is to be a lesson to us as well, for random disputing about the King of glory among His people has never been a good thing, and is a form of breaking the third commandment, for it is a vain thing to discuss who our Lord was, and what He was doing, rather than to recognize Him for who He is, and has always been, as well as His place as the firstborn from all creation, which is to say, the firstfruits of the New Creation (Romans 8:28; Colossians 1:15-19).

The reason many today wish to discuss who our Lord was and what He was doing, in the context of breaking the third commandment, is because of the movement away from the historical doctrines of orthodoxy to a “what does this mean to you” type of individualistic, humanistic, relativistic mindset. This permeates even portions of the church, sadly, but we have the Holy Scriptures as a safeguard against this type of relativistic discussion of that which is plainly set forth of our Lord in Scripture, and we have the historic creeds and confessions which, while not being Scripture, faithfully expound upon the meaning of the great doctrines of the church catholic. Discussion of our Lord should be guided by proper understanding of the passages which speak of Him, according to the tradition of the church, not individual interpretation, for the latter leads to division and heresy, while the former insures that the Word of God is being faithfully understood and represented (2 Thessalonians 2:15; cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Peter 1:20). In order to rightly understand the great doctrines of the faith God has given to us, we have the expositions of faithful, gifted men God has given to the church, down through the ages, who follow in the orthodox tradition of the apostles and other New Testament writers; in discussing our Lord, this necessarily limits such discussion to those texts of Scripture wherein He is described and defined to the extent that we can comprehend these things of our finite minds, by the grace and Spirit of our God, and in this manner, we get the most important doctrine of Christology right, rather than empty discussions of who our Lord was and what He was doing (as these men in this passage are involved in doing). In saying this, we must notice that these men had the Holy Scriptures before them, but without the Spirit of God regenerating them, could not understand who it was that actually stood before them on so many occasions, despite the multiple and manifold evidences He gave of Himself and His Father. Let us not fall into similar vain discussions of our blessed Lord, for He has given us to have “the mind of Christ,” which is His Spirit.

[1] Calvin, Commentary on St John (1563)

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Elders Represent the Knowlege of Christ in the Church – Conclusion

This brings us, finally, back to our beginning text, wherein is shown the manner in which those who preach and teach the church must regard those whom they teach; in other words, their example of living by the Spirit imparting the grace of God in Christ Jesus to their own lives, in various circumstances, demands that they see the results of that great sacrificial death in those they are preaching and teaching the doctrine of Christ too.

The proposition put forth is that of not seeing those who are bought by the death of Christ as if they were in their carnal estate, but as if they are already in their eternal estate. The second proposition put forth is that the first is done because they no longer look to Christ as He was before His glorification, but indeed, as having died and risen in glory. We might well reverse these propositions thusly: Since Christ has suffered death for those He purchased for God, and has risen in glory as the first to be resurrected, preceding all those encompassed in that propitiatory death, we do not look at Him as He was before that death, but as He is, sitting on the right hand of majesty; since all He died for are, indeed, encompassed in His death and resurrection, we view them according to the work of our Lord which was completed upon their behalf. These propositions necessarily entail our looking at one another according to the new creation God began in the resurrection of His Son, so that we all consider ourselves according to that new creation, and not in light of the old creation, which has commenced passing away, and which new creation will be fully realized at the eschaton, where we are given, of God, those new, glorified bodies which will be like our Lord’s glorified human body, to dwell in the perfection of God’s completed new creation eternally, per His glory in Christ Jesus.

Noticed, by saying “we” here, Paul is now not only showing how those who lead and feed the church of Christ must view those under their charge, but invites those so being nourished by the preaching, teaching, prayers and manner of life of the elders to partake of this same referent. This is the ultimate covenant of God in Christ Jesus realized, and the eschatological reality that will be (to which we look forward) is to be perceived in the interadvental relations of not only the elders to the flock they shepherd, but indeed, is to be that view of the sheep of Christ for one another. It is looking with eyes of hope which see the eternal state as already being present, in part, in joining to worship their God together; it is a piece of the eschatological culmination of God’s new creation that is to be both the perspective and experience of His children now, especially in corporate worship, but extending to all relations in and among those of the church of Christ.

As the office of those who teach and preach the Word of God is to be exemplary, according to the value of He whom they represent (that is, the value derived from beingin Christ,” for no matter the reputation they hold, it cannot be of equal value, but draws from the excellency of God’s grace in Christ by the power of His Spirit acting upon their regenerate nature), such received example of His virtue which inhabits their teaching and conduct towards those entrusted to their care also instructs them, by the same teaching and example, through the same power of God by His Spirit, how they ought to act towards one another, which is “to regard no one according to the flesh.” Since the apostle has shared this truth with the Corinthians, they are now both obligated and privileged to follow his example and see themselves, separately and corporately, as those who are not walking in the manner which they formerly did. Because it is the love of Christ controlling them, just as with those who teach them, the principles of a covenant community of believers must be followed, and chief among these principles, as with those who lead and teach, is seeing all who are a part of that covenant community with the eyes that look towards the culmination of all things, to God’s glory, as being presently applied to each and every member of said covenant community. This is what it means to be “a new creation;” it is not enough to regard one’s self, as an individual, as created anew in Christ, but to regard each and every man his neighbor, in the covenant community, as part and parcel with that new creation which is hidden in Christ in God, the former principle and manner of living having been put to death by His crucifixion (Colossians 3:1-4). This is the whole of the appeal of the apostle when he shares not only the doctrine of Christ, but the sufferings he and his companions have endured, just as Christ, for the sake of all His elect, endured hostility and suffering, and ultimately death.

We count ourselves as crucified with Him as to our old life, and raised in power with Him in His glorious estate, as to our new life (Romans 6:4-5). This we have from the Scripture, and this we have as the example and teaching of our elders by example and God’s prescription in Scripture; in fact, it is right to say this we have by God’s decree from Scripture, because it is not just prescribed commandment, but assured promise, which again, the apostles, in instructing those who are elders, commends to them, as well as to those they teach (2 Timothy 3:10-12; cf. Acts 14:22; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:12-13).

Notice, again, it is according to that which has been accomplished that the elders give teaching and example, not by their own power; notice, again, also, the eschatological focus on the eternal state as if it were here and now.

The outcome of such instruction and example is laid out by the apostle Paul, for interaction in the covenant community, which focuses on the eschatological reality presented over and over, by the practical experience of that reality here and now in many places (See, for example, Ephesians 4:20-32; Colossians 3:12-17; Philippians 2:1-3, and the list may easily be greatly multiplied).

Finally, the entirety of the force is to make known what God has done in Christ, which is the provision of forgiveness of sins and the blessing of eternal life. This has been given to us now, to enjoy the fruits of as if we are already entered into the final state of dwelling in glorified bodies with our King, Redeemer and God forever, and it is the foundation of all of the means of grace which He has provided us with to partake of such eschatological blessedness at the present time.

Although the remaining vv. in chapter five were not intended at the beginning of this study, a fitting conclusion, regarding the heading and theme, can be found in the last part of Calvin’s comments of vv. 18-19:

2 Corinthians 5:18-19: All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

The ministry of reconciliation – “Here we have an illustrious designation of the gospel, as being an embassy for reconciling men to God. It is also a singular dignity of ministers — that they are sent to us by God with this commission, so as to be messengers, and in a manner sureties. This, however, is not said so much for the purpose of commending ministers, as with a view to the consolation of the pious, that as often as they hear the gospel, they may know that God treats with them, and, as it were, stipulates with them as to a return to his grace. Than this blessing what could be more desirable? Let us therefore bear in mind, that this is the main design of the gospel — that whereas we are by nature children of wrath, (Eph_2:3,) we may, by the breaking up of the quarrel between God and us, be received by him into favor. Ministers are furnished with this commission, that they may bring us intelligence of so great a benefit, nay more, may assure us of God’s fatherly love towards us. Any other person, it is true, might also be a witness to us of the grace of God, but Paul teaches, that this office is specially entrusted to ministers. When, therefore, a duly ordained minister proclaims in the gospel, that God has been made propitious to us, he is to be listened to just as an ambassador of God, and sustaining, as they speak, a public character, and furnished with rightful authority for assuring us of this…And hath committed to us. Again he repeats, that a commission has been given to the ministers of the gospel to communicate to us this grace. For it might be objected, “Where is Christ now, the peacemaker between God and us? At what a distance he resides from us!” He says, therefore, that as he has once suffered, (1Pet. 3:18) so he daily presents to us the fruit of his suffering through means of the Gospel, which he designed, should be in the world, as a sure and authentic register of the reconciliation, that has once been effected. It is the part of ministers, therefore, to apply to us, so to speak, the fruit of Christ’s death.” [1]

We only add this further observation: Not only do the ministers communicate the grace of God in Christ’s death, but that grace which is presently in His life, by those means we have designated throughout the body of this article. It is through preaching, teaching, life example in suffering and bearing all things for the sake of the gospel of Christ, of which the last is communicated in fellowship amongst the believers the elders shepherd (whether in worship, most especially, but by other forms also, such as teaching doctrine through writings), that the members of the covenant community are likewise to be empowered for living by and for He who died that they might live. This is the importance of not only proper gospel preaching and teaching, but that Spirit empowered life of Christ formed in us through these gifted channels who lead, feed, and protect the flock of which they have been given charge, according to the gifts given them for such. Thus, the elders exhibit that life of Christ through their dying to self in these employments of the various means of grace by which our Lord has willed to have His sheep in local covenant communities led, fed and protected, by both positive example and prohibitive modeling, so that the life that flows from Him may flow through that structure He instated in His church, whereby each member, when properly functioning, becomes a conduit of that grace to each other member (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 4:11-16; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

This, then, is the full-orbed revelation of the knowledge of Christ, which is not merely expounding of doctrine to be understood intellectually, but also works out in showing that faith which cannot fail to trust Christ during the best and under the worst of circumstances, and that He has willed for this to be modeled, by the power of the Spirit and the Word, to show those who lead, feed and protect His sheep that such grace is always available to them under similar conditions, that doctrine that is first learned by the mind infuses the entirety of the life of the elders, and so those they shepherd, even as Christ’s life infused the entirety of the life of God through the power of His Spirit and doctrine to these, whom we have called, truly, the first elders of the church, and that paradigm which can say “follow me as I follow Christ” and “fill up the sufferings of Christ in you as you see me do; let us both die to self together, that the life of Christ may be manifest to others through our death.”

This concludes this series of articles; I hope they have been beneficial to those who read them.

SDG – Bill

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Introduction

[1]Calvin, Commentary on all the Epistles of Paul (1548) – spelling and formatting changed to modern in part.

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Part 5

Now, we are up to chapter 5 of this second epistle to the Corinthians, and the theme of temporal loss, followed by the comfort God gives through His grace in Christ, as patterned by the elders for the sake of each member of the covenant community to emulate that pattern by the same grace, continues immediately.

The first four verses of this chapter reach all the way back to the apostle’s words in chapter one:

2 Cor. 5:1-4: For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life (cf. 2 Cor. 1:3ff.) Again, we see the thrust of the apostle in sharing his and his companions’ trials with the Corinthian believers, a further unfolding of the reason for these sufferings and the comfort that accompanies them in the lavishly bestowed grace of God our Lord Jesus Christ has earned for us; a grace that is bestowed so abundantly because it is of the eternal and infinite riches of God in Christ (Eph. 1:7-8). This is the grace that not only saved us, but is conforming us – even giving us the desire to be conformed – into that image of our Lord, and this transformation is proven not only by the shared sufferings of the shepherds of God’s churches, but among the saints, as they apprehend the meaning of the apostle’s words.

In v. 5, Paul gets back to the crux of the comfort that not only allows us to go through the trials and sufferings, but grants us the sufferings so that we may experience the grace of God in Christ Jesus. It is through that grace Jesus procured for His saints though His life, death and ascension to glory that such provision is made, and it was first displayed in His life, sufferings and glory, to be provisionally given to the church, both modeled and displayed in the first disciples (apostles and their companions) who planted the first churches through preaching, teaching and example, subsequently, in further displays of the same to those who teach and preach and display this active and endless supply of grace, which comes from our Lord on the throne of grace to the least saints in need of that grace, as they have need, at the time of that need (Ephesians 4:8-16; 1:22-23; 2:19-22; cf. Hebrews 4:14-16).[1]

In vv. 6-7, Paul gives the logical connection for (the reason, or rationale) that settled state of mind that results in good courage by referring back to God, whose grace in Christ Jesus has prepared (them) for this very thing, that thing being the undergoing of such trials and sufferings for the sake of knowing the sovereign God has willed such opportunities to trust in His provision in Christ Jesus, which preparation, with its attendant understanding, is not a result of the mutable circumstances of such trails or sufferings in and of themselves, but the certain perception of knowledge which comes about by faith, through the work of the Holy Spirit, giving to the eyes of belief that confident, experiential comprehension which is true of such gracious provisions of God. The sure knowledge and trust in God is brought about through that abundant and timely provision of grace in Christ Jesus being brought to believers by the Holy Spirit, given to believers as an assurance (guarantee) that these things are so. Note, this settled state of assurance is not the result of either the circumstances or the state of mind they undergo, for we have shown that despair, above, that thinks death is at the door, yet in the midst of such mutability of emotions and circumstances, the strong assurance of God’s sovereign purpose in these circumstances is known to the believer, who can therefore say, with Job, though He slay me, I will hope in Him (Job 13:15a). All these things are brought about by the implanted word of God operating in the believer’s regenerate nature via His Spirit (John 6:63; James 1:21).

The preference of the apostle and his companions is, in adverse and pleasant situations, to be out of that body of yet corrupt flesh, in a world that is yet under the curse, and rather to be present with the Lord, which is the believer’s goal both now, and at the eschaton (v. 8); this is that grace given, confident knowledge and trust that causes us to be seeking to please the Lord while yet undergoing various trials and afflictions in our present body (v. 9), knowing even believers will answer to God for what they have done while in these present bodies, not regarding salvation, but regarding use of the gifts they have been given (see The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:15ff., noting that this is speaking to use of the grace of God in Jesus Christ given to believers, except for the last servant, which is a warning to false professorsa similar understanding can be inferred by way of application from our current text, although not a similar exposition). The fear of the Lord should be an ever-present reality with all believers, not as facing certain judgment for their sins, for such judgment has been borne by our Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of His children, but of awe and reverence to the God who has condescended to claim them as His own through His Son’s suffering and mediatorial work, as well as certain knowledge that those things we do that are not pleasing to Him will certainly bring discipline in this life, and be shown to be worthless before our Lord’s judgment seat (vv. 10-11a).

The boasting is not for personal commendation, therefore, but an appeal to God’s sure knowledge of what the apostle and his companions are, in their work for the church by His grace, and so the example they set forth is for those they are writing and ministering that grace of God towards, to be able to see them as an example of God’s sovereign grace enabling them to not only pass through such difficulties, but for those who are witness to these facts (whether by word or letter) to have that same confident ability under like circumstances.

To put it as simply as possible, it can be said that because these ministers of God’s grace to the church have undergone such things and come through with a confidence, growth and desire to continue serving God in such a manner, so, too, are all believers, regardless of their circumstances or stations, able to persevere in like manner, for it is the same God who is over all. This is a negation of those who wish to boast in outward appearance in opposition to what is according to love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5; cf. v. 12 of our present text). A pretense of piousness can imitate that godliness which comes from truly trusting in God, but will be seen for what it is, ultimately, because such false holiness is for the purpose of being seen by men, rather than commended of God by means of the gift of faith He has graciously given to those who are His (Matthew 6:1-8).

The ministry of these first elders, in planting and feeding the church of Christ in its various local assemblies, was at times seen as being a sign or indication of mental instability (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. Acts 26:24), for the way of salvation God has provided to His children goes against every effort, thought, and desire of self-serving, man-made religion (“religionhere being used in its broadest sense, since man, being created in God’s image, always places worship, of a type, in something; if not the God of Scripture,

even – and especially, in many forms – in himself). It is only apprehended by that grace in Christ Jesus’ work, given by the Holy Spirit to those He raises from spiritual death, and can only be grasped by such a new nature imparted which is simultaneously indwelt by the mind of Christ (the Holy Spirit) to give the understanding of the things of God (things of the Spirit1 Corinthians 2:11-16). In direct opposition to the false religious worship placed in other things by those who have not received this new life in Christ, those who have received the Spirit of God see the true rationality of these truths He has given us, and both these are comprehended in v.13 (that is, the view of the unbeliever and the view of the believer alike). However, regardless of the perspective of the one hearing these truths, they remain objective and true of the reality of being saved by grace through faith, according to God’s sovereign gift of salvation, and the purpose of the exercising of the gifts of the elders remain for the service to and growth in holiness, knowledge of God, and ability to persevere in all circumstances. Such is imparted not only in doctrine, but by example, as we have shown in the above brief commentary of this epistle to the Corinthian church. It is in a character matching the doctrine that is taught that we see the true service of the undershepherds of God’s church on both the local and global levels; this was true for the first ministers of the gospel, such as the apostles and their companions, and remains true today, to which the record of Scripture testifies (Philippians 3:17; 4:9; 1 Corinthians 4:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-3). Such examples show the love of Christ being the controlling factor, knowing the extreme depth of such love which our Lord demonstrated in paying for the sins of, and vouchsafing peace and life eternal for his children in such sacrifice as the cross (vv. 14-15; cf. Ephesians 3:14-19 – notice again the priority of prayer in the Eph. reference, as joined with both the doctrine taught and the example of the life of the teacher).

Our next post for this series will be the conclusion.

SDG – Bill

Elders Represent the Knowlege of Christ in the Church – Conclusion

[1]Thanks to Richard Barcellos for a sermon preached on this text (Hebrews 4:14-16) on 3/2/2014 at Trinity Reformed Baptist Church of La Mirada, CA; my meditations in this section were helped greatly by this sermon.

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Part 4

Continuing our look at the pastoral perspective of these first five chapters of 2 Corinthians. as we go quickly through chapter 4, we see the apostle citing again the mercy of God as the reason for not losing hope, which would be a direct reference to what we were told in chapter 1 of this epistle, as well as similar statements in our current chapter.

Paul appeals to the conscience of the Corinthians by stating his doctrine is not by using the word of God in deception, trying to change that which God has revealed, and includes his companions’ pastoral endeavors in this appeal, again citing that such commendation is “in the sight of God.” (v. 2). Then, no doubt in consideration of those who denied that the apostle was, indeed, an apostle of Christ (and, by extension, the other apostles of Christ, as well as those who joined him in his ministerial endeavors were, indeed, God gifted evangelists and elders – 2 Corinthians 11:12-14), Paul speaks of those to whom his gospel is hidden, and how it is the god [1] of this world that has so hidden it from such false believers and false workers (vv. 3-4). This is followed again by the fact that they are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ as His servants, and that God has shone the light of this gospel into the formerly darkened hearts of Paul and his companions (and, by extension, to all who are saved by His grace, such as the Corinthians reading this epistle, and future generations of believers, such as ourselves) to give the darkness dispelling light of His glorious knowledge in the face (person) of Jesus Christ.

Going back to the reason that he and his companions in ministry can offer such consolation and support to those whom they minister unto, and whom he is writing too, Paul again refers to the weakness of the vessels in contradistinction to the surpassing power of God who works in and through them for the benefit of those they are ministering too (v. 7); then, the apostle recites a truly amazing litany of trials, harkening back to the first chapter (vv. 8-9; cf. chapter 1, vv. 1-10), and looking ahead to more experiences of such hardships he will share with them (11:23-29), ending with the fact that these trials and sufferings are endured to show the death of Christ working in Paul and his companions, for the sake of the life of Christ being subsequently seen in them, and consequently ministered to the Corinthian Christians reading this epistle (vv. 11-12).

Regarding the next v. (v. 13), the study notes from the Geneva Study Bible of 1599 are informative and enlightening: “He declares the former sentence, showing that he and his associates die in a way to purchase life for others, but yet nonetheless they are partakers of the same life with them: because they themselves do first believe that which they offer to others to believe, that is, that they also will be saved together with them in Christ,” after which he speaks of the surety of he and his companions being resurrected from their infirm bodies to that glorified state our Lord attained as the firstborn of the New Creation (Colossians 1:15, 18), and which our God has promised us all on that great Day of the Lord (v. 14). These statements are illustrative of the life a believer is to consider, in keeping with their great Redeemer’s example, and that of the faithful men who have followed Him throughout the history of the church (Acts 14:22; 20:22ff; 2 Peter 1:13-14; Philippians 1:29); it is even more incumbent that those who are the undershepherds of the flock follow this example, by the same power of God each believer has been given, and that is what we see, not only in the book of Acts, but in various of the epistles where the apostles recount that which they were told they would suffer by our Lord, and what trails and testings they go through in order to deliver that means of grace which is the doctrine and Spirit empowered example all members of the body need. Life that looks upward cannot hold this present life more dear than the call of the Lord (vv. 17-18; Colossians 3:1-4), and this is the manner in which we are taught by those gifted men God has graced His church with, as in these examples just cited, as well as the example we have seen continuing in our quick traversing the first four and two-thirds chapters of 2 Corinthians to get to the text we began at. The end result will be to be with the Lord, together with the faithful apostles, those who ministered with them, and all the faithful throughout redemptive history (v. 14); indeed, as Christ gave the example and gives the power through His Spirit to these faithful ministers, so we have a further, and continuing example of our great hope, and as they do not lose heart and persevere, so are we to do ( vv. 15-16), until we end at that glorious destination only the grace of God in Christ Jesus gains us, all the while keeping us in the journey.

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Part 5

[1]There is some discussion among orthodox theologians as to the phrase, “the god of this world.” Some take it to intend our great God (ὁ Θεος), in this passage, as it is said elsewhere that God has “given them over to uncleanness…vile affections…” and “sends them a strong delusion,” (Romans 1:24, 26; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Regardless of the view one takes here, God is proven sovereign over the designs of Satan, and the meaning of the passage remains intact.

Elders Represent the Knowlege of Christ in the Church – Part 3

Chapter 3 of this second epistle to the Corinthian church gives Paul’s defense of his authority in and of from God further weight, as he stresses that not only is he not seeking to appeal to or please men by his words, but that God has written that upon the hearts of those he is writing to, so much so, that they are “our letter of recommendation,” and the weight of this letter of recommendation is not even their own testimony (although such is implicit in a secondary sense), but the fact that the law of God has been written on their hearts as surely and more effectually than it was on the tablets of the decalogue (vv. 1-4), and that is the entirety of the foundation for Paul and his companions confidence, which confidence has, as its sufficiency, God, and which confidence is communicated in all that they suffered, will suffer, are consoled in, and share with the Corinthians for the sake of their being built up in the grace of God.

These things are all done for the sake of revealing that glory of God in Christ which is shown to be beyond comparison, by the use of such comparison, first, to that ministry of the law of God written on stone, which Paul calls both glorious, yet, in his comparison to the present ministry of life (“ministry of the Spirit,” v. 8) which has written the law of God upon the tablets of the Corinthians’ hearts, he also calls “the ministry of death” (v. 7). Another comparison is made with a view to the passing of the glory revealed in the Old Covenant as compared to the New; the former is said to have shown forth the glory of God, yet is said to be “the ministry of condemnation;” the latter is shown to be superior in that it is not only showing the glory of God as well, but further and more so, in displaying His righteousness, and therefore, what was seen as glory in the Old is shown, by such contrast with the New, as having “no glory at all.” Indeed, the first glory is shown to have resulted in death, in that the letter, apart from the Spirit, can only kill (vv. 7-10; cf. v. 6b). It is the surpassing superiority of the glory of the New that makes null and void, by the contrast the apostle draws, that glory which was revealed in the Old; it is not that there was no glory revealed in the Old, but that such glory was not intended, by God, to be of any permanence, whereas the glory given in the New is without end (v. 11).

Paul’s use of metaphor to teach the Corinthians (and us) of the reality of the glory of God’s grace in Christ Jesus is strong in this chapter; actually, it is stronger than metaphor, it is typological. The type of the veil over Moses’ face is actually a type, which has echoes in the New Testament (Matthew 27:50-51), so that those who read Paul’s words in this epistle would well know that a literal veil in a literal temple, both of temporal construction, represented the Old Covenant ending and the glory of the everlasting covenant – the New Covenant – having been brought in by the redemptive work of our Lord, inaugurated. This is further alluded to in the Old Testament (Isaiah 25:6-7). Of this passage, Calvin comments, on v. 7, “Here also commentators differ, for by the word covering is meant the disgrace with which believers are covered in this world, so that the glory of God is not seen in them; as if he had said, “Though many reproaches oppress the godly, yet God will take away those reproaches, and will make their condition glorious. I pass by other interpretations; but, in my opinion, the true meaning is, that the Lord promises that he will take away the veil by which they were kept in blindness and ignorance; and therefore it was by the light of the gospel that this darkness was dispelled.

In that mountain. He says that this will be in mount Zion, from which also the light of the word shone on the whole world, as we have already seen. (Isaiah 2:3) This passage, therefore, must unavoidably be referred to the kingdom of Christ; for the light did not shine on all men till Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, arose, (Malachi 4:2) who took away all the veils, wrappings, and coverings. And here we have another commendation of the gospel, that it dispels the darkness, and takes away from our eyes the covering of errors. Hence it follows, that we are wrapped up and blinded by the darkness of ignorance, before we are enlightened by the doctrine of the gospel, by which alone we can obtain light and life, and be fully restored. Here, too, we have a confirmation of the calling of the Gentiles, that is, of our calling; for not only the Jews, but all nations, which formerly were buried in every kind of errors and superstition, are invited to this banquet” (Calvin – Commentary on Isaiah – 1551), while Gill has it that the doctrines of man are intended, which result in darkened understanding and ignorance (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible – 1690-1771); both senses may be held together, although I favor Calvin’s more. Here again, we see the harmonious organic whole and richness of the Scriptures, and even with Gentile converts, since, the Scriptures of the New Testament being not yet complete, they would be conversant with the existing Scriptures which the apostles and appointed elders and teachers of the New Testament used to teach from, even using the Old Testament Scriptures in such Holy Spirit breathed New Testament Scripture as they wrote – this was a common manner of using Old Testament Scripture, which may be said to repute strongly those who deny that there was any such usage of metaphor, allegory and typology, since the New Testament is replete with such usage from our Lord, the apostles, and other writers of the New Testament.

The doctrine of maturing in the grace of the Lord (v. 18) is taught by the apostle strongly in the last vv. of this chapter. We see how the progression from suffering and despair, to trusting in the Lord, sharing the hope that is divinely given through such suffering to those who will suffer in like manner (and in any manner), to a joyous expounding of the radiant grace of God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ, as evidenced by the Spirit in Scripture through the agency of the apostles and prophets – this is that “freedom in the Lord” which is taught to us by our Lord and His apostles – the freedom to revel in and celebrate, worshipfully, thankfully, all that God has done for His glory, which self-glorification includes His love of His saints, in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul triumphantly declares that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who removes this veil from our understanding and shines that glory He alone procured, which gracious glory will transform us into His perfect likeness, as to His humanity, in eternal blessedness with our God; that is, the freedom which He so dearly purchased for us, and which His Spirit so graciously applies to us. Although Paul is presenting these truths to us as an apostle of Christ, it must be seen that he is doing so largely in his capacity not only as an apostle, but to show the ongoing reservoir of these great doctrines in the functioning of his role as an elder to the church, which function is continued (true apostolic succession is of the doctrine of the apostles as delivered to the church by those who are elders, both for the church catholic and for the local covenant communities, as we noted above) in the eldership of the church universal and in particular, each local body of that catholic church (1 Corinthians 3:1-11).

SDG –  Bill

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Part 4

Elders Represent the Knowlege of Christ in the Church – Part 2

Continuing our observations of the ministry of Paul and his companions to the Corinthians, in chapter two, we immediately see the pastoral prerogative Paul exercises in his apostolic office continued from chapter one. He has said that he did not come that he might spare the Corinthians, and it is right to ask: from what is he sparing them?

It may be supposed (and rightly, I think) that he is referring to his former epistle he wrote to them, especially since the tone of the current epistle is much more conciliatory, whereas the former was strongly corrective and admonitory; in both cases (the former and the current epistle), he exercises, clearly and firmly, the pastoral aspect of his ministry. However, Paul is speaking of coming to them again (1:15), so we may also suppose (more strongly, perhaps, than that occasion of his first epistle, although both are sufficient suppositions), that he is referring to his ministry among them when he brought to them the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and stayed there a year and six months (Acts 18:1-11); in either case, it is to work a second work of grace, or be twice blessed in that confirmation of the gospel by the building upon the foundation that was laid with them at the first, and through his first epistle (with the additional possibility of God graciously adding more souls to the church). By second work of grace, we intend the ongoing grace of our Lord being ministered through the elder’s ministry of the same, not an infusion of the Spirit subsequent to salvation further empowers the believer to do works of this same grace given at salvation, and continually given through the means of grace which our Lord established for His church. The means of grace used to deliver that once given, inexhaustible supply of sufficient grace which the apostle utilizes here is the preaching and teaching of the Word, and it is noteworthy to observe that all members of the body of Christ partake of His limitless, sufficient grace to grow therein, each time they hear the Word preached and taught by those appointed of our Lord to care for that portion of His flock.

Whether we suppose it is correction received from his first epistle to them, or during his long stay with them at the first wherein he would have done some gentle admonition, at this point, he has established that he would spare them of further correction, rather wishing to build them up in grace in the most positive manner, while at the same time mildly rebuking them for any doubts they yet hold against him by reason of the false accusers and their own reticence in validating his ministry among them (ref. 2 Corinthians 10 regarding those accusers and false apostles who accused Paul and caused mayhem among the Corinthian church – there is no need to disregard that these same were operating at the time of the occasion of his first epistle, especially in view of the many errors of theology and morality he addressed therein). Various commentators have said that Paul throws back the blame upon the Corinthians that they supposed his failure of coming to them this second time evidenced, therefore they were accusing him of not acting in accordance with integrity; that they supposed this as a fault of the apostle, that is, but the Scriptures under consideration show us that such was not a fault of the apostle, but of their lack of confidence in him due to the aforementioned reasons; in any case, he certainly vindicated himself of their doubts by referral to his initial work among them, as well as his previous epistle. His appeal for his integrity is to God, as we have shown above, not in the confidence of either his flesh or that of the Corinthians (v 17).

Therefore, he is sparing them the rod of further correction, which again is reminiscent of his first, strongly corrective and disciplinary epistle, for he wishes to increase their abundance in the fruit of the Spirit, not their sorrow, which would also make him sorrowful. He is stating that he would have them rejoice with him (2:3), not share in additional grief, regardless of the supposed or real warrant for such. He is giving them instructions that they may not only partake of his instructions in the Lord in the present letter, but fully benefit from what he had occasion to write in his previous letter – the heart of a pastor runs strongly through this epistle!

SDG – Bill

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Part 3