Chrysostom on 2Cor 2800

Homily XXVIII. 2 COR. XII. 16–18. But be it so, I myself did not burden you:

2800 but being crafty, I caught you with guile. Did I take advantage of you by any one of them whom I have sent unto you? I exhorted Titus, and with him I sent the brother. Did Titus take any advantage of you? Walked we not by the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps? (2Co 12,16-21)

2801 Paul has spoken these words very obscurely, but not without a meaning or purpose. For seeing he was speaking about money, and his defence on that score, it is reasonable that what he says must be wrapt in obscureness. What then is the meaning of what he says? He had said, ’I received not, nay I am ready even to give besides, and to spend;’ and much discourse is made on this subject both in the former Epistle and in this. Now he says something else, introducing the subject in the form of an objection and meeting it by anticipation. What he says is something like this; ‘I indeed have not made a gain of you: but perhaps some one has it to say that I did not receive [of you] indeed myself, but, being crafty, I procured those who were sent by me to ask for something of you as for themselves, and through them Imyself received, yet keeping myself clear of seeming to receive, by receiving through others. But none can have this to say either; and you are witnesses.’ Wherefore also he proceeds by question, saying, “I exhorted Titus, and with him I sent the brother. Did Titus make a gain of you?” ‘walked he not just as I walked.’ That is to say, neither did he receive. Seest thou how intense a strictness [is here], in that he not only keeps himself clear of that receiving, but so modulates those also who are sent by him that he may not give so much as a slight pretence to those who were desirous of attacking him. For this is far greater than that which the Patriarch did. (Gn 14,24) For he indeed, when he had returned from his victory, and the king would have given him the ‘spoil, refused to accept aught save what the men had eaten; but this man neither himself enjoyed [from them] his necessary food, nor allowed his partners to partake of such: thus abundantly stopping the mouths of the shameless. Wherefore he makes no assertion, nor does he say that they did not receive either; but what was far more than this, he cites the Corinthians themselves as witnesses that they had received nothing, that he may not seem to be witnessing in his own person, but by their verdict; which course we are accustomed to take in matters fully admitted and about which we are confident. ‘For tell me,’ he says, ‘Did any one of those who were sent by us make unfair gain of you?’ He did not say, ‘Did any one receive aught from you?’ but he calls the things ‘unfair gain;’ attacking them and shaming them exceedingly, and showing that to receive of an unwilling [giver] is ‘unfair gain.’ And he said not ‘did Titus?’ but, “did any?” ‘For ye cannot say this either,’ he says, ‘that such an one certainly did not receive, but another did. No single one of those who came did so.’ “I exhorted Titus.” This too is severely said. For he did not say, ‘I sent Titus,’ but, ‘I exhorted’ him; showing that if he had received even, he would have done so justly; but, nevertheless, even so he remained pure. Wherefore he asks them again, saying, “Did Titus take any advantage of you? Walked we not by the same spirit?” What means, “by the same spirit?” He ascribes the whole to grace and shows that the whole of this praise is the good result not of our labors, but of the gift of the Spirit and of Grace. For it was a very great instance of grace that although both in want and hunger they would receive nothing for the edification of the disciples. “Walked we not in the same steps?” That is to say, they did not depart the least from this strictness, but preserved the same rule entire.

[2.] 2Co 12,19. “Again, think ye that we are excusing ourselves unto you? “

Seest thou how he is continually in fear, lest he should incur the suspicion of flattery? Seest thou an Apostle’s prudence, how constantly he mentions this? For he said before, “We commend not ourselves again, but give you occasion to glory;” (2Co 5,12) and in the commencement of the Epistle, “Do we need letters of commendation?” (ib. iii. 1).

“But all things are for your edifying.” Again he is soothing them. And he does not here either say clearly, ‘on this account we receive not, because of your weakness;’ but, ‘in order that we may edify you;’ speaking out indeed more clearly than he did before, and revealing that wherewith he travailed; but yet without severity. For he did not say, ‘because of your weakness;’ but, ‘that ye may be edified.’

2Co 12,20. “For I fear, lest by any means when I come, I should not find you such as I would, and should myself be found of you such as ye would not.”

(He is going to say something great and offensive. And therefore he also inserts this excuse [for it], both by saying, “All things are for your edifying,” and by adding, “I fear,” softening the harshness of what was presently going to be said. For it was not here out of arrogance nor the authority of a teacher, but out of a father’s tender concern, when he is more fearful and trembling than the sinners themselves at that which is likely to reform them. And not even so does he run them down or make an absolute assertion; but says doubtingly, “lest by any means when I come, I should not find you such as I would.” He did not say, ‘not virtuous,’ but “not such as I would,” everywhere employing the terms of affection. And the words, “I should find,” are of one who would express what is out of natural expectation, as are also those, “I shall be found by you.” For the thing is not of deliberate choice, but of a necessity originating with you. Wherefore he says, “I should be found such as ye would not.” He said not here, “such as I would not,” but, with more severity, “such as ye wish not.” For it would in that case become his own will, not indeed what he would first have willed, but his will nevertheless. For he might indeed have said again, ‘such as I would not,’ and so have showed his love: but he wishes not to relax his hearer. Yea rather, his words would in that case have been even harsher; but now he has at once dealt them a smarter blow and showed himself more gentle. For this is thecharacteristic of his wisdom; cutting more deeply, to strike more gently. Then, because he had spoken obscurely, he unveils his meaning, saying,

“Lest there be strife, jealousy, wraths, backbitings, whisperings, swellings.”

And what he might well put first, that he puts last: for they were very proud against him. Therefore, that he may not seem principally to be seeking his own, he first mentions what was common. For all these things were gendered of envy, their slanderings, accusations, dissensions. For just like some evil root, envy produced wrath, accusation, pride, and all thee other evils, and by them was increased further,

2Co 12,21. And “lest when I come again, my God should humble me among you.”

And the word “again,” too, is as smiting them. For he means, ‘What happened before is enough;’ as he said also in the beginning [of the Epistle], “to spare you, I came not as yet to Corinth.” (Chap. 1,18, 23). Seest thou how he shows both indignation and tender affection? But what means, “will humble me?” And yet this is glorious rather, to accuse, to take vengeance, to call to account, to be seated in the place of judge; howbeit he calls it a humbling. So far was he from being ashamed of that [cause of] humbling, because, “his bodily presence was weak, and his speech of no account,” that he wished to be even for ever in that case, and deprecated the contrary. And he says this more clearly as he proceeds; and he counts this to be especially humbling, to be involved in such a necessity as the present, of punishing and taking vengeance. And wherefore did he not say, ‘lest when I come I shall be humbled,’ but, “lest when I come my God will humble me.” ‘Because had it not been for His sake, I should have paid no attention nor been anxious. For it is not as possessing authority and for my own pleasure, that I demand satisfaction, but because of His commandment.’ Now above, indeed, he expressed himself thus, “I shall be found;” here, however, he relaxes and adopts milder and gentler language, saying,

“I shall mourn for many of them who have sinned.” Not simply, “who have sinned,” but,

“Who have not repented.” And he said not, ‘all,’ but “many;” nor made it clear who these were either, thereby making the return unto repentance easy to them; and to make it plain that a repentance is able to right transgressions, he bewails those that repent not, those who are incurably diseased, those who continue in their wounds. Observe then Apostolic virtue, in that, conscious of no evil in himself, he laments over the evils of others and is humbled for other men’s transgressions. For this is the especial mark of a teacher, so to sympathize with the calamities of his disciples, and to mourn over the wounds of those who are under him. Then he mentions also the specific sin.

“Of the lasciviousness and uncleanness which they committed.” Now in these words he alludes indeed to fornication; but if one carefully examine the subject, every kind of sin can be called by this name. For although the fornicator and adulterer is preeminently styled unclean, yet still the other sins also produce uncleanness in the soul. And therefore it is that Christ also calls the Jews unclean, not charging them with fornication only, but with wickedness of other kinds as well. Wherefore also He says that they made the outside clean, and that “not the things which enter in defile the man, but those which come out from him;” (Mt 15,11) and it is said in another place, “Every one that is proud in heart is unclean before the Lord.” (Pr 16,5. LXX).

[3.] For nothing is purer than virtue, nothing uncleaner than vice; for the one is brighter than the sun, the other more stinking than mire. And to this they will themselves bear witness, who are wallowing in that mire and living in that darkness; at any rate, when one prepares them a little to see clearly. For as long as they are by themselves, and inebriate with the passion, just as if living in darkness they lie in unseemly wise to their much infamy, conscious even then where they are, although not fully; but after they have seen any of those who live in virtue reproving them or even showing himself, then they understand their own wretchedness more clearly; and as if a sunbeam had darted upon them, they cover up their own unseemliness and blush before those who know of their doings, yea, though the one be a slave and the other free, though the one be a king and the other a subject. Thus when Ahab saw Elijah, he was ashamed, even when he had as yet said nothing; standing convicted by the mere sight of him; and when his accuser was silent, he pronounced a judgment condemnatory of himself; uttering the language of such as are caught, and saying, “Thou hast found me, O mine enemy!” (1R 21,20). Thus Elijah himself conversed with that tyrant then with great boldness. Thus Herod, unable to bear the shame of those reproofs, (which [shame] the sound of the prophet’s tongue with mighty and transparent clearness exposed more evidently,) cast Jn into the prison: like one who was naked and attempting to put out the light, that he might be in the dark again; or rather he himself dared not put it out, but, as it were, placed it in the house under a bushel; and that wretched and miserable woman compelled it to be done. But not even so could they cover the reproof, nay, they lit it up the more. For both they that asked, Wherefore doth Jn dwell in prison? learnt the reason, and all they that since have dwelt on land or sea, who then lived, or now live, and who shall be hereafter, both have known and shall know clearly these wicked tragedies, both that of their lewdness and that of their bloodguiltiness, and no time shall be able to wipe out the remembrance of them.

(So great a thing is virtue: so immortal is its memory, so completely even by words only cloth it strike down its adversaries. For wherefore did he cast him into the prison? Wherefore did he not despise him? Was he going to drag him before the judgment-seat? Did he demand vengeance upon him for his adultery? Was not what he said then simply a reproof? Why then doth he fear and tremble? Was it not words and talk merely? But they stung him more than deeds. He led him not to any judgment-seat, but he dragged him before that other tribunal of conscience; and he sets as judges upon him all who freely gave their verdicts in their thought. Therefore the tyrant trembled, unable to endure the lustre of virtue. Seest thou how great a thing is philosophy? It made a prisoner more lustrous than a king, and the latter is afraid and trembles before him. He indeed only put him in bonds; but that polluted woman rushed on to his slaughter also, although the rebuke was leveled rather against him, [than herself.] For he did not then meet “her” and say, Why cohabitest thou with the king? not that she was guiltless, (how should she be so?) but he wished by that other means to put all to rights. Wherefore he blamed the king, and yet not him with violence of manner. For he did not say, O polluted and all-polluted and lawless and profane one, thou hast trodden under foot the law of God, thou hast despised the commandments, thou hast made thy might law. None of these things; but even in his rebukings great was the gentleness of the man, great his meekness. For, “It is not lawful for! thee,” lie says, “to have thy brother Philip’s wife.” The words are those of one who teacheth rather than reproveth, instructeth rather than chasteneth, who composeth to order rather than exposeth, who amendeth rather than trampleth on him. But, as I said, the light is hateful to the thief, and the mere sight of the just man is odious to sinners; “for he is grievous unto us even to behold.” (Sg 2,15) For they cannot bear his radiance, even as diseased eyes cannot bear the sun’s. But to many of the wicked he is grievous not to behold only, but even to hear of. And therefore that polluted and all-polluted woman, the procuress of her girl, yea rather her murderess, although she had never seen him nor heard his voice, rushed on to his slaughter; and prepareth her whom she brought up in lasciviousnss to proceed also to murder, so extravagantly did she fear him.

[4.] And what says she? “Give me here in a charger the head of John the Baptist.” (Mt 14,8) Whither rushest thou over precipices, wretched and miserable one? What? is the accuser before thee? is he in sight and troubleth thee? Others said, “He is grievous unto us even to behold;” but to her, as I said, he was grievous to even hear of. Wherefore she saith, “Give me here in a charger the head of John.” And yet because of thee he inhabits a prison, and is laden with chains, and thou art free to wanton over thy love and to say, ‘So completely have I subdued the king, that though publicly reproached he yielded not, nor desisted from his passion, nor tore asunder his adulterous connection with me, but even put him that reproached him in bonds.’ Why art thou mad and rabid, when even after that reproof of his sin thou retainest thy paramour? Why seekest thou a table of furies, and preparest a banquet of avenging demons? Seest thou how nothing-worth, how cowardly, how unmanly, is vice; how when it shall most succeed, it then becomes more feeble? For this woman was not so much disturbed before she had cast Jn into prison, as she is troubled after he is bound, and she is urgent, saying, “Give me here in a charger the head of John.” And wherefore so? ‘I fear,’ she says, ‘lest there be any hushing up of his murder, lest any should rescue him from his peril.’ And wherefore requirest thou not the whole corpse, but the head? ‘The tongue,’ she says, ‘that pained me, that I long to see silent.’ But the contrary will happen, as indeed it also hath done, thou wretched and miserable one! it will cry louder afterwards, when it is cut out. For then indeed it cried in Judaea only, but now it will reach to the ends of the world; and wheresoever thou enterest into a church, whether it be among the Moors, or among the Persians, or even unto the British isles themselves, thou hearest Jn crying, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother Phillip’s wife.” But she, unknowing to reason in any such way, urges and presses, and thrusts on the senseless tyrant to the murder, fearing lest he change his mind. But from this too learn thou again the power of virtue. Not even when he was shut up and bound and silent, does she bear the righteous man. Seest thou how weak a thing vice is? how unclean? For in the place of meats it bringeth in a human head upon a charger. What is more polluted, what more accursed, what more immodest, than that damsel? what a voice she uttered in that theatre of the devil, in that banquet of demons! Seest thou this tongue and that; the one bringing healthful medicines, the other one with poison on it, and made the purveyor to a devilish banquet. But wherefore did she not command him to be murdered within there, at the feast, when her pleasure would have been greater? She feared lest if he should come thither and be seen, he should change them all by his look, by his boldness. Therefore surely it is that she demandeth his head, wishing to set up a bright trophy of fornication; and give it to her mother. Seest thou the wages of dancing, seest thou the spoils of that devilish plot? I mean not the head of John, but her paramour himself. For if one examine it carefully, against the king that trophy was set up, and the victress was vanquished, and the beheaded was crowned, and proclaimed victor, even after his death shaking more vehemently the hearts of the offenders. And that what I have said is no [mere] boast, ask of Herod himself; who, when he heard of the miracles of Christ, said, “This is John, he is risen from the dead: and therefore do these powers work in him.” (Mt 14,2) So lively was the fear, so abiding the agony he retained; and none had power to cast down the terror of his conscience, but that incorruptible Judge continued to take him by the throat, and day by day to demand of him satisfaction for the murder. Knowing, then, these things, let us not fear to suffer evil, but to do evil; for that indeed is victory, but this defeat.

Wherefore also Paul said, “Why not rather take wrong, why not rather be defrauded. Nay, ye yourselves do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.” For by the suffering evil [come] those crowns, those prizes, that proclamation [of victory]. And this may be seen in all the saints. Since then they all were thus crowned, thus proclaimed, let us too travel this road, and let us pray indeed that we enter not into temptation; but if it should come, let us make stand with much manliness and display the proper readiness of mind, that we may obtain the good things to come, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.

Homily XXIX. 2 COR. XIII. 1. This is the third time I am coming to you.

2900 At the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every word be established. (2Co 13,1-9)

The wisdom of Paul and his much tender affection, one may observe in many other circumstances, but especially in this, his being so abundant and vehement in his admonitions, but so tardy and procrastinating in his punishments. For he did not chastise them immediately on their sinning, but warned them once and again; and not even so, upon their paying no attention, does he exact punishment, but warns again, saying, “This is the third time I am coming to you; “and ‘before I come I write again.’ Then, that his procrastinating may not produce indifference, see how he corrects this result also, by threatening continually and holding the blow suspended over them, and saying, “If I come again I will not spare;” and “lest when I come again I should mourn for many.” These things, then, he doeth and speaketh, in this too imitating the Lord of all: because that God also threateneth indeed continually and warneth often, but not often chastiseth and punisheth. And so in truth also doth Paul, and therefore he said also before, “To spare you I came net as yet to Corinth.” What is, “to spare you?” Lest finding you to have sinned and to continue unamended, I should visit with chastisement and punishment. And here, “This is the third time I am coming to you. At the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every word be established.” He joins the unwritten to the written, as he has done also in another place, saying, “He that is joined to an harlot is one body; for the twain,” saith He, “shall become one flesh.” (1Co 6,16) Howbeit, this was spoken of lawful marriage; but he diverted its application unto this thing conveniently, so as to terrify them the more. And so he doth here also, setting his comings and his warnings in the place of witnesses. And what he says is this: ’I spoke once and again when I was with you; I speak also now by letter. And if indeed ye attend to me, what I desired is accomplished; but if ye pay no attention, it is necessary henceforth to stop speaking, and to inflict the punishment.’ Wherefore he says,

2Co 13,2. “I have said beforehand, and I do say beforehand when I was present the second time; so now being absent I write to them that sinned heretofore and to all the rest, that if I come again, I will not spare.”

 ‘For if at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word shall be established, and I have come twice and spoken, and speak now also by this Epistle; it follows, I must after this keep my word. For think not, I pray you, that my writing is of less account than my coming; for as I spoke when present, so now I write also when absent.’ Seest thou his fraternal solicitude? Seest thou forethought becoming a teacher? He neither kept silence nor punished, but he both foretells often, and continues ever threatening, and puts off the punishment, and if they should continue unamended, then he threatens to bring it to the proof.’ But what didst thou tell them before when present, and when absent writest?’ “That if I come again, I will not spare.” Having showed before that he is unable to do this unless he is compelled, and having called the thing a mourning, and a humbling; (for he saith, “lest my God should humble me before you, and I should mourn for them that have sinned heretofore, and not repented;—Chap. 12,21). and having made his excuse unto them, namely, that he had told them before, once and twice and thrice, and that he does and contrives all he can so as to hold back the punishment, and by the fear of his words to make them better, he then used this unpleasing and terrifying expression, “If I come again, I will not spare.” He did not say, ’I will avenge and punish and exact satisfaction:’ but again expresses even punishment itself in paternal language; showing his tender affection, and his heart to be grieved along with them; be, cause that he always to “spare” them put off. Then that they may not think now also that there will be again a putting off, and merely a threat in words, therefore he both said before, “At the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every word be established; “and [now], “If I come again, I will not spare.” Now what he means is this: ’I will no longer put off, if (which God forbid) I find you unamended; but will certainly Visit it, and make good what I have said.’

[2.] Then with much anger and vehement indignation against those who make a mock of him as weak, and ridicule his presence, and say,” his presence is weak, and his speech of no account;” (Chap. 10,10). aiming his efforts at these men, he says,

2Co 13,3. “Seeing that ye seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me.”

For he said this, dealing at once a blow at these, and at the same time lashing those also. Now what he means is this; ‘Since ye are desirous of proving whether Christ dwelleth in me, and call me to an account, and on this score make a mock of me as mean and despicable, as I ‘were destitute of that Power; ye shall know that we are not destitute, if ye give us occasion, which God forbid.’ What then? tell me. Dost thou therefore punish, because they seek a proof? ‘No,’ he says; for had he sought this, he would have punished them at the first on their sinning, and would not have put off. But that he does not seek this, he has shown more clearly as he proceeds, saying, “Now I pray that ye do no evil, not that we may appear approved, but that ye may be approved, though we be as reprobates.” (2Co 13,7).

(He doth not employ those words then as assigning a reason, but rather in indignation, rather as attacking those that despise him. ‘For,’ he says, ‘I have no desire indeed to give you such a proof, but if you yourselves should furnish cause and should choose to challenge me, ye shall know by very deeds.’ And observe how grievous he makes what he says. For he said not, ‘Since ye seek a proof of me,’ but “of Christ that speakest in me, showing that it was against Him they sinned.” And he did not say merely, ‘dwelling in me,’ but “speaking in me,” showing that his words are spiritual. But if he doth not display His power nor punish, (for thenceforward the Apostle transferred what he said from himself to Christ, thus making his threat more fearful,) it is not from weakness; for He can do it: but from long suffering. Let none then think His forbearance to be weakness. For why marvellest thou that He doth not now proceed against sinners, nor in his forbearance and long suffering exacts satisfaction, seeing that He endured even to be crucified, and though suffering such things punished not? Wherefore also he added,

2Co 13,3-4. “Who to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth through the Power of God.”

These words have much obscurity and give disturbance to the weaker sort. Wherefore it is necessary to unfold them more clearly, and to explain the signification of the expression as to which the obscurity exists, that no one may be offended, even of the simpler sort. What then, at all, is that which is here said, and what the term “weakness” designates, and in what signification it is used, it is necessary to learn. For the term is indeed one, but it has many meanings. For bodily sickness is termed ‘weakness:’ whence it is even said in the Gospel, “Behold, he whom Thou lovest is weak, “ (Jn 11,3-4) concerning Lazarus; and He Himself said, “This weakness is not unto death;” and Paul, speaking of Epaphras, “For indeed he was weak nigh unto death, but God had mercy on him;” (Ph 2,57) and of Timothy, “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often weaknesses.” (1Tm 5,23) For all these denote bodily sickness. Again, the not being established firmly in the faith is called ‘weakness;’ the not being perfect and complete. And denoting this Paul said, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye but not to doubtful disputations:” (Rm 14,1-2) and again, “One believeth that he may eat all things; another, who is weak, eateth herbs,” denoting him who is weak in the faith. Here then are two significations of the term ‘weakness;’ there is yet a third thing which is called ‘weakness.’ What then is this? Persecutions, plottings, insults, trials, assaults. And denoting this Paul said, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Co 12,8-9). What is “in weakness?” In persecutions, in dangers, in trials, in plottings, in deaths. And denoting this he said, Wherefore, I take pleasure in weakness. Then showing what kind of weakness he means, he spake not of fever, nor of doubt about the faith; but what? “in injuries, in necessities, in distressses, in stripes, in imprisonments, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am weak, then am I strong.” (Chap. 12,10). That is to say ‘when I am persecuted, when I am driven up and down, when I am plotted against, then am I strong, then the rather I prevail over, and get the better of them that plot against me. because that grace resteth upon me, more largely, It is then in this third sense that Paul useth “weakness;” and this is what he means by it; aiming again, as I said also before, at that point, his seeming to them to be mean and contemptible. For indeed he had no desire to boast, nor to seem to be what he really was, nor yet to display the power which he possessed of punishing and revenging;whence also he was accounted to be mean. When then as so accounting they were going on in great indifference and insensibility, and repented not of their sins, he seizes a favorable opportunity, discourses with much vigor upon these points also, and shows that it was not from weakness he did nothing, but from long-suffering.

[3.] Then, as I said, by transferring the argument from himself to Christ, he enhances their fear, he increases his threat. And what he says is this; ‘for even supposing I should do something and chastise and take vengeance on the guilty ones, is it I that chastise and take vengeance? it is He that dwelleth in me, Christ Himself. But if ye do not believe this, but are desirous of receiving a proof by deeds of Him that dwelleth in me, ye shall know presently; “For he is not weak to you-ward, but is even powerful.”’ And wherefore added he “to you-ward,” seeing He is mighty everywhere? for should He be minded to punish unbelievers, He is able; or demons, or anything whatsoever. What then is the import of the addition? The expression is either as shaming them exceedingly by remembrance of the proofs they have already received; or else as declaring this, that meanwhile He shows His power in you who ought to be corrected. As he said also in another place, “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without?” (1Co 5,12) ‘For those that are without,’ he says, ‘He will then call to account in the day of judgment, but you even now, so as to rescue you from that punishment.’ But nevertheless even this instance of his solicitude, although arising from tender affection, observe how he combines with fear and much anger, saying, “Who to you-ward is not weak, but is powerful in you.”

2Co 13,4. “For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth through the Power of God.”

What is, “though He was crucified through weakness?” ‘For though He chose,’ he says, ‘to endure a thing which seems to carry a notion of weakness, still this in no way breaks in upon His Power. That still remains invincible, and that thing which seemeth to be of weakness, hath nothing harmed it, nay this very thing itself shows His Power most of all, in that He endured even such a thing, and yet His Power was not mutilated.’ Let not then the expression “weakness” disturb thee; for elsewhere also he says, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men;” (1Co 1,55) although in God is nothing either foolish or weak: but he called the Cross so, as setting forth the conception of the unbelieving regarding it. Hear him, at least, interpreting himself. “For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1Co 1,18). And again; “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1Co 23,24). And again; “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness unto him.” (1Co 2,14) Observe, how in every place he expresseth the conception of the unbelieving, who look upon the Cross as foolishness and weakness. And so, in truth, here also he means not “weakness” really such, but what was suspected to be such with the unbelieving. He doth not then say this, that because He was weak He was crucified. Away with the thought! For that He had it in His power not to have been crucified He showed throughout; when He now cast men down prostrate, now turned back the beams of the sun, and withered a fig-tree, and blinded their eyes that came against Him, and wrought ten thousand other things. What then is this which he says, “through weakness!” That even although He was crucified after enduring peril and treachery, (for we have showed that peril and treachery are called weakness,) yet still He was nothing harmed thereby. And he said this to draw the example unto his own case. For since the Corinthians beheld them persecuted, driven about, despised, and not avenging nor visiting it, in order to teach them that neither do they so suffer from want of power, nor from being unable to visit it, he leads on the argument up to The Master, because ‘He too,’ saith he, ‘was crucified, was bound, suffered ten thousand things, and He visited them not, but continued to endure things which appeared to argue weakness, and in this way displaying His Power, in that although He punishes not nor requites, He is not injured any thing at all. For instance, the Cross did not cut asunder His life, nor yet impeded His resurrection, but He both rose again and liveth.’ And when thou hearest of the Cross and of life, expect to find the doctrine concerning the Incarnationfor all that is said here hath reference to that. And if he says “though the Power of God,” it is not as though He were Himself void of strength to quicken His flesh; but it was indifferent with him to mention either Father or Son. For when he said, “the Power of God, he said by His own Power. For that both He Himself raised it up and sustains it, hear Him saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn 2,19) But if that which is His, this he saith to be the Father’s, be not disturbed; “For,” He saith, “all My Father’s things are Mine.” (Jn 16,15) And again, “All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine.” (Jn 17,10). ‘As then He that was crucified was nothing harmed,’ he says, ‘so neither are we when persecuted and warred against;’ wherefore also he adds,

“For even we also if we are weak in Him, yet we shall live with Him through the Power of God.”

What is the meaning of “we are weak in Him?” We are persecuted, are driven here and there, suffer extremity. But what is “with Him?” ‘Because of the preaching,’ he says, ‘and our faith in Him. But if for His sake we undergo what is sad and disagreeable, it is quite plain that we shall what is pleasant also:’ andso he added, “but we are saved with Him by the Power of God.”

[4.] 2Co 13,5-6. “Try your own selves, whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves. Know ye not as to your own selves, that Christ is in you, unless indeed ye be reprobate? But I hope that ye shall know that we are net reprobate.”

For since by what he has said he hath shown that even if he does not punish, it is not because he hath not Christ in himself, but because he intimates His long-suffering, Who was crucified and yet avenged not Himself; he again, in another manner, produces the same effect, and still more irrefragably, establishing his argument by the disciples. ‘For why speak I of myself,’ he says ‘the teacher, who have so much care upon me and am entrusted with the whole world and have done such great miracles. For if ye will but examine yourselves who are in the rank of disciples, ye will see that Christ is in you also. But if in you, then much more in your teacher. For if ye have faith, Christ is in you also.’ For they who then believed wrought miracles. Wherefore also he added, “Try your own selves, prove your own selves, whether ye be in the faith. Know ye not as to your own selves, unless indeed that Christ is in you, ye be reprobate?” ‘But if in you, much more in your teacher?’ He seems to me here to speak of the “faith” which relates to miracles. ‘For if ye have faith,’ he says, “Christ is in you, except ye have become reprobates.” Seest thou how again he terrifies them, and shows even to superfluity that Christ is with Him. For he seems to me to be here alluding to them, even as to their lives. For since faith is not enough [by itself] to draw down the energy of the Spirit, and he had said that ’“if ye are in the faith” ye have Christ in you,’ and it happened that man y who had faith were destitute of that energy; in order to solve the difficulty, he says, “except ye be reprobate,” except [that is] ye are corrupt in life. “But I hope that ye shall know that we are not reprobate.” What followed naturally was to have said, “but if ye have become reprobate, yet we have not.” He doth not, however, say so, for fear of wounding them, but he hints it in an obscure manner, without either making the assertion thus, ‘ye are reprobate,’ or proceeding by question and saying, ‘But if ye are reprobate,’ but leaving out even this way of putting it by question, he indicates it obscurely by adding, “But I hope that ye shall know that we are not reprobate.” Here also again, great is the threat, great the alarm. ‘For since ye desire,’ he says, ‘in this way, by your own punishment to receive the proof, we shall have no difficulty in giving you that demonstration.’ But he does not indeed so express himself, but with more weight and threatening. “But I hope that ye shall know that we are not reprobate.” ‘For ye ought indeed,’ he saith, ‘to have known even without this what we are, and that we have Christ speaking and working in us; but since ye desire to receive the proof of it by deeds also, ye shall know that we are not reprobate.’ Then when he has held the threat suspended over their heads, and brought the punishment now up to their doors, and has set them a trembling, and made them look for vengeance; see how again he sweetens down his words and soothes their fear, and shows his unambitious temper, his tender solicitude towards his disciples, his high-principledness of purpose, his loftiness and freedom from vain-glory. For he exhibits all these qualities in what he adds, saying,

2Co 13,7-9. “Now I pray to God that ye do no evil, not that we may appear approved, but that ye may do that which is honorable, though we be as reprobate. For we can do nothing against the truth but for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak, and ye are strong. For this also we pray for even your perfecting.

[5.] What can be equal to this soul? He was despised, he was spit upon, he was ridiculed, he was mocked, as mean, as contemptible, as a braggart, as boastful in his words but in his deeds unable to make even a little show; and although seeing so great a necessity for showing his own power, he not only puts off, not only shrinks back, but even prays that he may not fall into such a position. For he says, “I pray that ye do no evil, not that we may appear approved, but that ye may do that which is honorable, though we be as reprobate.” What is it he says? ‘I entreat God. I beseech Him,’ he says, ‘that I may find no one unreformed, may find no one’ that has not repented? yea, rather, not this alone, but that none may have sinned at all. For,’ he says, ‘that ye have done no [evil], but if ye have perchance sinned, then that ye may have changed your conduct, and been beforehand with me in reforming, and arresting all wrath. For this is not what I am eager about, that we should be approved in this way, but clean the contrary, that we should not appear approved. For if ye should continue,’ he says, ‘sinning and not repenting, it will be necessary for us to chastise, to punish, to maim your bodies; (as happened in the case of Sapphira and of Magus;) and we have given proof of our power. But we pray not for this, but the contrary, that we may not be shown to be approved in this way, that we may not in this way exhibit the proof of the power which is in us, by chastising you and punishing you as sinning and as incurably diseased, but what? “That ye should do that which is honorable,” we pray for this, that ye should ever live in virtue, ever in amendment; “and we should be as reprobate,” not displaying our power of punishing.’ And he said not, “reprobate” for he would not “be” reprobate, even though he did not punish, nay rather for this very reason he would be “approved;” ‘but even if some suspect us,’ he says, ‘on account of our not displaying our power, to be contemptible and cast away, we care nothing for this. Better we should be so deemed of by those, than display the power which God hath given to us in those stripes, and in that unreformedness of heart.’

“For we can do nothing against the truth,but for the truth.” For that he may not seem [merely] to be gratifying them, (for this is what one who was void of vain-glory might do,) but to be doing what the nature of the thing demanded, he added this, “for we can do nothing against the truth.” ‘For if we find you,’ he says, ‘in good repute, having driven away your sins by repentance and having boldness towards God; we shall not be able thereafter, were we never so willing, to punish you, but should we attempt it even, God will not work with us. For to this end gave He us our power that the judgment we give should be true and righteous, not contrary to the truth.’ Seest thou how in every way he can, he makes what he says void of offensiveness, and softens the harshness of his menace? Moreover as he has eagerly endeavored this, so is he desirous also to show that his mind was quite joined to them; wherefore also he added, “For we rejoice when we are weak and ye are strong, and this also we pray for even your perfecting.” ‘For most certainly,’ he says, ‘we cannot do any thing against the truth, that is, punish you if you are well pleasing [to God]; besides, because we cannot, we therefore do not wish it, and even desire the contrary. Nay, we are particularly glad of this very thing, when we find you giving us no occasion to show that power of ours for punishment. For even if the doing of such things shows men glorious and approved and strong; still we desire the contrary, that ye should be approved and unblamable, and that we should never at any time reap the glory thence arising.‘ Wherefore he says, “For we are glad when we are weak.” What is, “are weak?” ‘When we may be thought weak.’ Not when we are weak, but when we are thought weak; for they were thought so by their enemies, because they displayed not their power of punishing. ‘But still we are glad, when your behavior is of such a sort as to give us no pretence for punishing you. And it is a pleasure to us to be in this way considered weak, so that only ye be blameless;’ wherefore he adds, “and ye are strong,” that is, ‘are approved, are virtuous. And we do not only wish for this, but we pray for this, that ye may be blameless, perfect, and afford us no handle.’

[6.] This is paternal affection, to prefer the salvation of the disciples before his own good name. This is the part of a soul free from vainglory; this best releaseth from the bonds of the body and makes one to rise aloft from earth to heaven, the being pure from vain-glory; just as therefore the contrary leadeth unto many sins. For it is impossible that one who is not from vain-glory, should be lofty and great and noble; but he must needs grovel on the ground, and do much damage, whilst the slave of a polluted mistress, more cruel than any barbarian. For what can be fiercer than she who, when most courted, is then most savage? Even wild beasts are not this, but are tamed by much attention. But vain-glory is quite the contrary, by being contemned she is made tame, by being honored she is made savage and is armed against her honorer. The Jews honored her and were punished with exceeding severity; the disciples slighted her and were crowned. And why speak I of punishment and crowns? for to this very point of being seen to be glorious, it contributes more than any thing, to spit upon vainglory. And thou shalt see even in this world that they who honor it are damaged, whilst those who slight it are benefited. For the disciples who slighted it, (for there is no obstacle to our using the same example again,) and preferred the things of God, outshine the sun, having gained themselves an immortal memory even after their death; whilst the Jews who crouched to it are become cityless, heartless, degraded, fugitives, exiles, mean, contemptible. Do thou, therefore, if thou desirest to receive glory, repel glory; but if thou pursuest glory, thou shalt miss glory. And, if ye will, let us also try this doctrine in worldly matters. For whom do we make sport of in our jests? Is it not of those whose minds are set upon it? Certainly then, these men are the most entirely destitute of it, having countless accusers and being slighted by all. And whom do we admire, tell me; is it not those who despise it? Certainly then, these are they that are glorified. For as he is rich, not who is in need of many things, but who is in need of nothing; so he is glorious, not who loveth glory, but who despiseth it; for this glory is but a shadow of glory. No one having seen a loaf painted, though he should be pressed with hunger ever so much, will attack the picture. Neither then do thou pursue these shadows, for this is a shadow of glory, not glory. And that thou mayest know that this is the manner of it and that it is a shadow, consider this that it must be so, when the thing hath a bad name amongst men, when all consider it a thing to be avoided, they even who desire it; and when he who hath it and he covets it are ashamed to be called after it. ’ Whence then is this desire,’ saith one, ’ and how is the passion engendered? ’ By littleness of soul, (for one ought not only to accuse it, but also to correct it,) by an imperfect mind, by a childish judgment. Let us then cease to be children, and let us become men: and let us every where pursue the reality, not the shadows, both in wealth, and in pleasure, and in luxury, and in glory, and in power; and this disease will cease, and many others also. For to pursue shadows is a madman’s part. Wherefore also Paul said, “Awake up righteously and sin not.” (1Co 15,34) For there is yet another madness, sorer than that caused by devils, than that from frenzy. For that admits of forgiveness, but this is destitute of excuse, seeing the soul itself is corrupted and its right judgment lost; and that of frenzy indeed is an affection of the body, but this madness hath its seat in the artificer mind. As then of fevers those are sorer, yea incurable, which seize upon firm bodies and lurk in the recesses of the nerves and are hidden away in the veins, so truly is this madness also, seeing it lurks in the recesses of the mind itself, perverting and destroying it. For how is it not clear and evident madness, yea, a distemper sorer than any madness, to despise the things which abide forever, and to cling with great eagerness to those which perish? For, tell me, if one were to chase the wind or try to hold it, should we not say that he was mad? And what? if one should grasp a shadow and neglect the reality; if one should hate his own wife and embrace her shadow; or loathe his son and again love his shadow, wouldest thou seek any other clearer sign in proof of madness? Such are they also who greedily follow the present things. For they are all shadow, yea, whether thou mention glory, or power, or good report, or wealth, or luxury, or any other thing of this life. And therefore truly it is that the prophet said, “Surely man walketh in a shadow, yea, he disquieth himself in vain;” (Ps 39,6) and again, “Our days decline like a shadow.” (Ps 102,11) And in another place, he calls human things smoke and the flower of grass. But it is not only his good things which are shadow, but his evils also, whether it be death thou mention, or poverty, or disease, or any other thing. What then are those things which abide, both good and evil? The eternal kingdom and the everlasting hell. For “neither shall the worm die, nor shall the fire be quenched:” (Mc 9,44) and “these shall rise again to everlasting life: and these to everlasting punishment.” (Mc 25,46) That then we may escape the one and enjoy the other, letting go the shadow, let us cling to the real things with all earnestness, for so shall we obtain the kingdom of heaven, which may we all obtain though the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory and might for ever and ever Amen.

Chrysostom on 2Cor 2800