Chrysostom on 2Cor 2200
2200 If any man trusteth in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again with himself that even as he is Christ’s, so also are we. (2Co 10,7-18)
What one may especially admire in Paul amongst other things is this, that when he has fallen upon an urgent necessity for exalting himself, he manages both to accomplish this point, and also not to appear offensive to the many on account of this egotism; a thing we may see particularly in his Epistle to the Galatians. For having there fallen upon such an argument, he provides for both these points; a matter of the very utmost difficulty and demanding much prudence; he is at once modest and says somewhat great of himself. And observe how in this place also he makes it of great account, “Ye look at the things that are before your face.” Behold here also prudence. For having rebuked those that deceived them, he confined not his remarks to them, but he leaps away from them to these too; and he does so constantly. For, in truth, he scourgeth not those only that lead astray, but the deceived also. For had he let even them go without calling them to an account, they would not so easily have been reformed by what was said to the others; but would have been greatly elated even, as not being amenable to accusations. Therefore he scourgeth them also. And this is not all that is to be admired in him, but this farther, that he rebukes either party in a manner suitable to each. Hear at least what he says to these, “Ye look at the things that are before your face.” The accusation is no light one; but a mark of men exceedingly easy to be deceived. Now what he says is this, ‘ye test by what appear, by things carnal, by things bodily.’ What is meant by ‘what appear?’ If one is rich, if one is puffed up, if one is surrounded by many flatterers, if one says great things of himself, if one is vain-glorious, if one makes a pretence of virtue without having virtue, for this is the meaning of, “ye look at the things that are before your face.”
“If any man trust in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again with himself, that even as he is Christ’s, even so also are we.” For he does not wish to be vehement at the beginning, but he increases and draws to a head by little and little. But observe here how much harshness and covert meaning there is. He shows this by using the words “with himself.” For he saith, ’ Let him not wait to learn this from us; that is, by our rebuke of himself,’ but “let him consider this with himself, that even as he is Christ’s, so also are we;” not that he was Christ’s in such manner as theother was, but, “that even as he is Christ’s, so l also am I Christ’s. Thus far the community holds good: for it is not surely the case that he indeed is Christ’s, but I some other’s. Then having laid down this equality between them, he goes on to add wherein he exceeded, saying,
2Co 10,8. “For though I should glory somewhat abundantly concerning our authority which the Lord gave for building you up, and not for casting you down, I shall not be put to shame.
For since he was going to say somewhat great, observe how he softens it. For nothing doth so offend the majority of hearers as for any one to praise himself. Wherefore to cut at the root of this offensiveness, he says, “For though I should glory somewhat abundantly.” And he did not say, ‘if any man trust that he is Christ’s let him think that he is far short of us. For I possess much authority from Him, so as to punish and to kill whomsoever I choose;’ but what? “For though I should glory even somewhat abundantly.” And yet he possessed more than can be told, but nevertheless he lowers it in his way of speaking. And he said not, ‘I glory,’ but, “if I should glory,” if I should choose to do so: at once both showing modesty, and declaring his superiority. If therefore he says, “I should glory concerning the authority which the Lord gave me.” Again, he ascribes the whole to Him, and makes the gift common. “For building up, and not for casting down.” Seest thou how again he allays the envy his praises might give rise to, and draws the hearer over to himself by mentioning the use for which he received it? Then why doth he say, “Casting down imaginations?” Because this is itself an especial form of building up, the removing of hindrances, and detecting the unsound, and laying the true together in the building. For this end therefore we received it, that we might build up. But if any should spar and battle with us, and be incurable, we will use that other power also, destroying and overthrowing him. Wherefore also he says, “I shall not be put to shame,” that is, I shall not be proved a liar or a boaster.
[2.] 2Co 10,9-11. “But that l may not seem as if I would terrify you: for his letters, say they, are weighty and strong: but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account. Let such a one reckon this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such are we also in deed when we are present.”
What he says is this: ’I could boast indeed, but that they may not say the same things again, to wit, that I boast in my letters, and am contemptible when present, I will say nothing great.’ And yet afterwards he did say something great, but not about this power by which he was formidable, but about revelations and at greater lengths about trials. ‘Therefore, that I may not seem to be terrifying you, “let such an one reckon this, that what we are by letters when we are absent, such are we also in deed when we are present.’“For since they said, ‘he writes great things of himself, but when he is present he is worthy of no consideration,’ therefore he says these things, and those again in a moderated form. For he did not say, ‘as we write great things, so when we are present we also do great things,’ but in more subdued phrase. For when he addressed himself to the others indeed, he stated it with vehemency, saying, “I beseech you that I may not when present show courage with the confidence wherewith I think to be bold against some:” but when to these, he is more subdued. And therefore he says, ‘what we are when present, such too when absent, that is, lowly, modest, no where boasting. And it is plain from what follows,
2Co 10,12. “For we are not bold to number, or compare in ourselves with some that commend themselves.”
Here he both shows that those false Apostles are boasters and say great things of themselves: and ridicules them as commending themselves. ‘But we do no such thing: but even if we shall do any thing great, we refer all unto God, and compare ourselves with one another.’ Wherefore also he added,
“But they themselves measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves are without understanding.” Now what he says is this: ‘we do not compare ourselves with them, but with one another.’ For further on he says, “in nothing am I behind the very chiefest Apostles;” (1Co 12,10-11). and in the former Epistle, “I labored more abundantly than they all;” (1Co 15,10) and again, “Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience.” (1Co 12,12). ‘So that we compare ourselves with ourselves, not with those that have nothing: for such arrogance cometh of folly.’ Either then he says this with reference to himself, or with reference to them, that ‘we dare not compare ourselves with those who contend with one another and boast great things and do not understand:’ that is, do not perceive how ridiculous they are in being thus arrogant, and in exalting themselves amongst one another.
2Co 10,13. “But we will not glory beyond our measure:” as they do.
For it is probable that in their boasting they said, ‘we have converted the world, we have reached unto the ends of the earth,’ and vented many other such like big words. ‘But not so we,’ he says,
“But according to the measure of the province which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even unto you.” So that his humility is evident on either hand, both in that he boasted nothing more than he had wrought, and that he refers even this itself to God. For, “according to the measure of the province,” saith he, “which God apportioned to us, a measure to reach even unto you.” Just as if portioning out a vine to husbandmen, even so He meted out unto us. As far then as we have been counted worthy to attain to, so far we boast.
2Co 10,14. “For we stretch not ourselves overmuch, as though we reached not unto you: for we came even as far as unto you in preaching the Gospel of Christ.”
Not simply ‘we came,’ but, ‘we announced, we preached, we persuaded, we succeeded.’ For it is probable that they having merely come to the disciples of the Apostles, ascribed the whole to themselves, from their bare presence among them. ‘But not so we: nor can any one say that we were not able to come as far as to you, and that we stretched our boasting as far as to you in words only; for we also preached the word to you.’
[3.] 2Co 10,15-16. “Not glorying beyond” our “measure,” that is, “in other men’s labors, but having hope that as your faith groweth, we shall be magnified in you according to our province unto further abundance, so as to preach. the Gospel even unto the parts beyond you, and not to glory in another’s province in regard of things ready to our hand.”
(He sets forth a large accusation of them on these grounds, both that they boasted of things without their measure, and of other men’s labors; and that whilst the whole of the toil was the Apostles’, they plumed themselves upon their labors. ‘But we,’ says he, ‘showed these things in our deeds. We will not imitate those men therefore, but will say such things where our deeds bear us witness. And why,’ saith he, ‘do I say, you?’ “for I have hope that as your faith groweth;” for he doth not assert absolutely, preserving his own character, but, ‘I hope,’ he says, ‘if you make progress, that our province will be extended even farther, “to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond.” For we shall advance farther yet,’ he says, ‘so as to preach and labor, not so as to boast in words of what other men have labored.’ And well did he call it “province and measure,” as though he had come into possession of the world, and a rich inheritance; and showing that the whole was wholly God’s. ‘Having then such works,’ he says, ‘and expecting greater, we do not boast as they do who have nothing, nor do we ascribe any part to ourselves, but the whole to God. Wherefore also he adds,
2Co 10,17. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” This also, he saith, accrueth to us from God. 2Co 10,18. “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”
(He did not say, we are so, “but whom the Lord commendeth. Seest thou how modestly he speaks? But if as he proceeds he stirreth up loftier words, wonder not, for this also cometh of Paul’s prudence. For if he had gone on in every part to speak lowly words, he would not have hit these men so effectually, nor have extricated the disciples from their error. For it is possible both by modesty ill-timed to do harm, and by saying something admirable of one’s self at a proper time to do good. As therefore he also did. For there was no little danger in the disciples being persuaded into any mean opinion of Paul. Not that Paul sought the glory that cometh of men. For had he sought this, he would not have kept silence so long on those great and marvellous matters of “fourteen years ago;” (Chap. 12,20) nor would he, when necessity was laid upon him, have so shrunk back and hesitated to speak of them; very evidently he would not even then have spoken, had he not been compelled. Certainly then it was not from a desire after the glory which cometh from men that he said these things, but out of tender care for the disciples. For since they cast reproaches at him as a braggart, and as boastful in words but able to show nothing in deeds, he is compelled subsequently to come to those revelations. Although he had it in his power to convince them by his deeds, at the time when he said these things: yet he still persists, nevertheless, in using menaces in words. For he was most especially free from vain-glory; and this his whole life proves, both before and after this. For instance, it was because of this that he changed all at once; and having changed, confounded the Jews and cast away all that honor he had from them, although he was himself their head and their champion. But he considered none of those things when he had found the truth; but took instead their insults and contumely; for he looked to the salvation of the many, thinking this everything. For he that thinketh nothing of hell nor of heaven nor of ten thousand worlds in regard of his longing after Christ, how should he hunt after the glory which cometh from the many? By no means; but he is even very lowly when he may be so, and brands his former life with infamy when he calls himself, “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.” (1Tm 1,13) And his disciple Lc too says many things of him, evidently having learnt them from himself, himself displaying fully his former life no less than that after his conversion.
[4.] Now I say these things, not that we may hear merely, but that we may learn also. For if he remembered those transgressions before the Laver, although they were all effaced, what forgiveness can we have who are unmindful of those after the Laver ourselves? What sayest thou, O man? Thou hast offended God, and dost thou forget? This is a second offence, a a second enmity. Of what sins then dost thou ask forgiveness? Of those which thou even knowest not thyself? Surely, (for is it not so?) thou art deeply anxious and thoughtful how thou mayest give account of them, thou who dost not so much as care to remember them, but sportest with what is no sporting matter. But there will come a time when our sport can go on no longer. For we must needs die: (for the great insensibility of the many obliges me to speak even of things that are evident:) and must needs rise again, and be judged, and be punished; nay rather this needs not, if we choose. For those other things are not at our own disposal; neither our end, nor our resurrection, nor our judgment, but at our Lord’s; but our suffering punishment or not is at our own disposal; for this is of those things that may or may not happen. But if we choose, we shall make it of the number of impossible things; just as Paul, as Peter, as all the saints did; for it is even impossible for them to be punished. If therefore we have a mind, it is in like manner impossible also that we should suffer ought. For even if we have offended in ten thousand things, it is possible to recover ourselves so long as we are here. Let us then recover ourselves: and let the old man consider that in a little while hence he will depart, since he took his pleasure long enough in his lifetime; (although what sort of pleasure is this, to live in wickedness? but for the present I so speak in respect to his way of thinking;) let him consider, besides, that it is possible for him in a short time to wash away all. The young man again, let him also consider the uncertainty of death, and that oftentimes, when many older persons continued here, the young were carried off before them. For, for this reason, that we may not make traffic of our death, it is left in uncertainty. Wherefore also a certain wise man adviseth, saying, “Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day: for thou knowest not what to-morrow shall bring forth.” (Si 5,7; Pr 27,1) For by putting off there is danger and fear; but by not putting off manifest and secure salvation. Hold fast then by virtue. For so, even if thou have departed young, thou hast departed in safety; and if thou shouldst come to old age, thou shalt arrive Eat death] with great provision made, and shaft have a double feast all thy life long; both in that thou abstainest from vice, and layest hold on virtue. Say not, ’ there will come a time when it may be well to turn,’ for this language provokes God exceedingly. And why so? Because He hath promised thee countless ages, but thou art not even willing to labor during this present life, this short life that dureth but a season; but art so indolent and unmanly as to seek a shorter even than this. Are there not the same revellings daily? Are there not the same tables, the same harlots, the same theatres, the same wealth? How long wilt thou love those things as though they were aught? How long will thy appetite for evil remain insatiate? Consider that as often as thou hast fornicated, so often hast thou condemned thyself. For such is the nature of sin: once committed, the Judge hath also passed his sentence. Hast thou been drunken, been gluttonous, or robbed? Hold now, turn right back, acknowledge it to God as a mercy that He snatched thee not away in the midst of thy sins; seek not yet another set time wherein to work evil. Many have been snatched away in the midst of their covetousness, and have departed to manifest punishment. Fear lest thou also shouldest suffer this, and without excuse. ‘But God gave to many a set time for confession in extreme old age.’ What then? Will He give it to thee also? ‘Perhaps He will,’ says one. Why sayest thou ‘perhaps,’ and ‘sometimes,’ and ‘often?’ Consider that thou art deliberating about thy soul, and put also the contrary case, and calculate, and say, ‘But what if He should not give it?’ ‘But what if He should give it?’ saith he. God hath indeed given it; but still this supposition is safer and more profitable than that. For if thou begin now, thou hast gained all, whether thou hast a set time granted thee or not; but if thou art always putting off, for this very cause perhaps thou shalt not have one given thee. When thou goest out to battle, thou dost not say, ‘there is no need to make my will, perhaps I shall come back safe;’ nor dost thou when deliberating about marriage, say ‘suppose I take a poor wife, many have even in this way got rich contrary to expectation;’ nor when building a house, ‘suppose I lay a rotten foundation, many houses have stood even so;’ yet in deliberating about the soul, thou leanest on things more rotten still; urging thy ‘perhaps,’ and ‘often,’ and ‘sometimes,’ and trustest thyself to these uncertainties. ‘Nay,’ saith one, ‘not to an uncertainty, but to the mercy of God, for God is merciful.’ I know it too; but still this merciful God snatched those away of whom I spoke. And what if after thou hast had time given thee, thou shalt still continue as thou weft? for this sort of man will be listless even in old age. ‘Nay,’ he said, ‘not so.’ For this mode of reasoning even after the eighty years desireth ninety, and after the ninety an hundred, and after the hundred will be yet more indisposed to act. And so the whole of life will have been consumed in vain, and what was spoken of the Jews will happen also to thee; “Their days were consumed in vanity.” (Ps 78,33) And would that in vanity only, and not unto evil also. For when we have departed thither bearing the heavy burden of our sins, this will be unto evil also. For we shall carry away fuel for the fire and a plentiful feast for the worm. Wherefore I pray and conjure you to halt at length in noble wise, and to desist from wickedness, that we may also obtain the promised good things: whereunto may we all attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, now and ever,and world without end. Amen).
2300 in a little foolishness and, indeed ye do bear with me.() (2Co 11,1-12)
2301 Being about to enter upon his own praises he uses much previous correction. And he does this not once or twice, although the necessity of the subject, and what he had often said, were sufficient excuse for him. For he that remembereth sins which God remembered not, and who therefore saith that he was unworthy of the very name of the Apostles, even by the most insensate is seen clearly not to be saying what he is now going to say, for the sake of glory. For if one must say something startling, even this would be especially injurious to his glory, his speaking something about himself; and to the more part it is offensive. But nevertheless he regarded not timidly any of these things, but he looked to one thing, the salvation of his hearers. But still in order that he might not cause harm to the unthinking by this, by saying, I mean, great things of himself, he employs out of abundant caution these many preparatory correctives, and says, “Would that ye could bear with me,” whilst I play the fool in some little things, yea, rather, “ye do indeed bear with me.” Beholdest thou wisdom? For when he says, “would that,” it is as putting it at their disposal: but when he even asserts [that they do], it is as confiding greatly in their affection, and as declaring that he both loves and is loved. Yea, rather, not from bare love merely, but from a sort of warm and insane passion he says that they ought to bear with him even when he plays the fool. And therefore he added, “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy.” He did not say, ‘for I love you,’ but uses a term far more vehement than this. For those soulsare jealous which burn ardently for those they love, and jealousy can in no other way be begotten than out of a vehement affection. Then that they may not think, that it is for the sake of power, or honor, or wealth, or any other such like thing, that he desires their affection, he added, “with a jealousy of God.” For God also is said to be jealous, not that any i should suppose passion, (for the Godhead isimpassible,) but that all may know that He doeth all things from no other regard than their sakes over whom He is jealous; not that Himself may gain aught, but that He may save them. Among men indeed jealousy ariseth not from this cause, but for the sake of their own repose; not because the beloved ones sustain outrage, but lest these who love them should be wounded, and be outshone in the good graces, and stand lower in the affections, of the beloved. But here it is not so. ‘For I care not,’ he says, ‘for this, lest I should stand lower in your esteem; but lest I should see you corrupted. For such is God’s jealousy; and such is mine also, intense at once and pure.’ Then there is also this necessary reason;
“For I espoused you to one husband, as a pure virgin.” ‘Therefore I am jealous, not for myself, but for him to whom I have espoused you.’ For the present time is the time of espousal, but the time of the nuptials is another; when they sing, ‘the Bridegroom hath risen up.’ Oh what things unheard of! In the world they are virgins before the marriage, but after the marriage no longer. But here it is not so: but even though they be not virgins before this marriage, after the marriage they become virgins. So the whole Church is a virgin. For addressing himself even to all, both husbands and wives, he speaks thus. But let us see what he brought and espoused us with, what kind of nuptial gifts. Not gold, not silver, but the kingdom of heaven. Wherefore also he said, “We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ,” and beseeches them, when he was about to receive the Bride. What happened in Abraham’s case was a type of this. (Gn 24,4, &c). For he sent his faithful servant to seek a Gentile maiden in marriage; and in this case God sent His own servants to seek the Church in marriage for His son, and prophets from of old saying, “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and forget thine own people and thy father’s house, and the King shall desire thy beauty.” (Ps 45,10-11) Seest thou the prophet also espousing? seest thou the Apostle too expressing the same thing himself with much boldness, and saying, “I espoused you to one husband that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ?” Seest thou wisdom again? For having said, ‘Ye ought to bear with me,’ he did not say, ‘for I am your teacher and I speak not for mine own sake:’ but he uses this expression which invested them with especial dignity, placing himself in the room of her who promotes a match, and them in the rank of the bride; and he adds these words;
2Co 11,3. “But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is toward Christ.”
‘For although the destruction be yours [alone], yet is the sorrow mine as well.’ And consider his wisdom. For he does not assert, although they were corrupted; and so he showed when he said, “When your obedience is fulfilled,” (2Co 10,6). and “I shall bewail many which have sinned already;” (2Co 12,21). but still he does not leave them to get shameless. And therefore he says, “lest at any time.” For this neither condemns nor is silent; for neither course were safe, whether to speak out plainly or to conceal perpetually. Therefore he employs this middle form, saying, “lest at any time.” For this is the language neither of one that entirely distrusts, nor entirely relies on them, but of one who stands between these two. In this way then he palliated, but by his mention of that history threw them into an indescribable terror, and cuts them off from all forgiveness. For even although the serpent was malignant, and she senseless, yet did none of these things snatch the woman from punishment. ‘Beware then,’ he says, ‘lest such be your fate, and there be naught to screen you. For he too promising greater things, so deceived.’ Whence it is plain that these too, by boasting and puffing themselves up, deceived. And this may be conjectured not from this place only, but also from what he says afterwards,
2Co 11,4. “If he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or ifye receive a different Spirit which ye did not receive, or a different Gospel which ye did not accept, ye do well to bear with him.”
And he does not say, ‘Lest by any means as Adam was deceived:’ but shows that those men are but women who are thus abused, for it is the part of woman to be deceived. And he did not say, ‘so ye also should be deceived:’ but keeping up the metaphor, he says, “so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is toward Christ.” ‘From the simplicity, I say, not from wickedness; neither out of wickedness [is it], nor out of your not believing, but out of simplicity.’ But, nevertheless, not even under such circumstances are the deceived entitled to forgiveness, as Eve showed. But if this does not entitle to forgiveness, much more will it not do so, when through vain-glory any is so..
[2.] “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus whom we did not preach:” showing hereby that their deceivers were not Corinthians, but persons from some other quarter previously corrupted: wherefore he saith, “he that cometh.”
“If ye receive a different Spirit, if a different Gospel which ye did not accept, ye do well to bear” with him. What sayest thou? Thou that saidst to the Galatians, “If any preach another Gospel to you than that ye have received, let him be anathema;” dost thou now say, “ye do well to bear” with him? And yet on this account it were meet not to bear with, but to recoil, from them; but if they say the same things, it is meet to bear with them. How then dost thou say, ‘because they say the same things, it is not meet to bear with them?’ for he says, ‘if they said other things, it were meet to bear with them.’ Let us then give good heed, for the danger is great, and the precipice deep, if men run past this carelessly; and what is here said giveth an entrance to all the heresies. What then is the sense of these words? Those persons so boasted as if the Apostles taught incompletely, and they were introducing somewhat more than they. For it is probable that with much idle talk, they were bringing in senseless rubbish so as to overlay these doctrines. And therefore he made mention of the serpent and of Eve who was thus deceived by the expectation of acquiring more. And alluding to this in the former Epistle also, he said, “Now ye are become rich, ye have reigned as kings without us;” and again, “we are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ.” (1Co 4,8 1Co 4,10). Since then it was probable that using the wisdom which is without, they talked much idly, what he says is this: that ’ if these persons said any thing more, and preached a different Christ who ought to have been preached, but we omitted it, “ye do well to bear” with them.’ For on this account he added, “whom we did not preach.” ‘But if the chief points of the faith are the same, what have ye the more of them? for whatsoever things they may say, they will say nothing more than what we have said.’ And observe with what precision he states the case. For he did not say, ‘if he that cometh saith any thing more;’ for they did say something more, haranguing with more authority and with much beauty of language; wherefore he did not say this, but what? [If] “he that cometh preacheth another Jesus,” a thing which had no need of that array of words: “or ye receive a different Spirit,” (for neither was there need of words in this case;) that is to say, ‘makes you richer in grace;’ or “a different Gospel which ye did not accept,” (nor did this again stand in need of words,) “ye do well to bear” with him. But consider, I pray thee, how he every where uses such a definition as shows that nothing very great, nor indeed any thing more, had been introduced by them. For when he had said, “If he that cometh preacheth another Jesus,” he added, “whom we did not preach;” and “ye receive a different Spirit,” he subjoined, “which ye did not receive; or a different Gospel,” he added, “which ye did not accept,” by all these showing that it is meet to attend to them, not simply if they say something more, but if they said any thing more which ought to have been said and was by us omitted. But if it ought not to have been said, and was therefore not said by us; or if they say only the same things as we, why gape ye so admiringly upon them? ‘And yet if they say the same things,‘ saith one, ‘wherefore dost thou hinder them?’ Because that using hypocrisy, they introduce strange doctrines. This however for the present he doth not say, but afterwards asserts it, when he says, “They fashion themselves into Apostles of Christ;” (2Co 11,13). for the present he withdraws the disciples from their authority by less offensive considerations; and this not out of envy to them, but to secure these. Else why does he not hinder Apollos, who was, however, a “learned man, and mighty in the Scriptures;” (Ac 18,24 1Co 16,12) but even beseeches him, and promises he will send him? Because together with his learning he preserved also the integrity of the doctrines; but with these it was the reverse. And therefore he wars with them and blames the disciples for gaping admiringly upon them, saying, ‘if aught that should have been said we omitted and they supplied, we do not hinder you from giving heed to them: but if all has been fully completed by us and nothing left deficient, whence is it that they caught you?’ Wherefore also he adds,
2Co 11,5. “For I reckon that I am not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles,” no longer making comparison of himself with them, but with Peter and the rest. ‘So that if they know more than I do, [they know more] than they also.’ And observe how here also he shows modesty. For he did not say, ‘the Apostles said nothing more than I,’ but what? “I reckon,” so I deem, “that I am not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles.” For since this also appeared to bespeak an inferiority in him, that those having preceded him were of greater name; and more respect was entertained for them, and these persons were intending to foist themselves in; therefore he makes this comparison of himself with them with the dignity that becomes him. Therefore he also mentions them with encomiums, not speaking simply of“the Apostles,” but “the very chiefest,” meaning Peter and James and John.
[3.] 2Co 11,6. “But though I be rude in speech, yet am I not in knowledge.”
For since those that corrupted the Corinthians had the advantage in this, that they were not rude; he mentions this also, showing that he was not ashamed of, but even prided himself upon it. And he said not, “But though I be rude in speech,” yet so also are they, for this would have seemed to be accusing them as well as himself, and exalting these: but he overthrows the thing itself, the wisdom from without. And indeed in his former Epistle he contends even vehemently about this thing, saying that it not only contributes nothing to the Preaching, but it even throws a shadow on the glory of the Cross; (1Co 1, 17) and many other things of the same kind; because “in knowledge” they were “rude,” which is also the extremest form of rudeness. When therefore it was necessary to institute a comparison in those things which were great, he compares himself with the Apostles: but when to show that which appeared to be a deficiency, he no longer does this, but grapples with the thing itself and shows that it was a superiority. And when indeed no necessity urged him, he says that he is “the least of the Apostles,” and not worthy even of the title; but here again when occasion called, he says that he is “not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles.” For he knew that this would most advantage the disciples. Wherefore also he adds,
“Nay, in every thing we have made it manifest among all men to you ward.” For here again he accuses the false Apostles as “walking in craftiness.” (Chap. 4,2). And he said this of himself before also, that he did not live after the outward appearance, nor preach “handling the word deceitfully (ibid). and corrupting it. But those men were one thing and appeared another. But not so he. Wherefore also he every where assumes a high tone, as doing nothing with a view to men’s opinion nor concealing aught about himself. As he also said before, “by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience,” (ibid). so now again he saith “in every thing we have made it manifest to you.” But what does this mean? ‘We are rude,’ he said, ‘and do not conceal it: we receive from some persons and we do not keep it secret. We receive then from you, and we pretend not that we do not receive, as they do when they receive, but we make every thing that we do manifest unto you;’ which was the conduct of one that both had exceeding confidence in them, and told them every thing truly. Wherefore he also calls them witnesses, saying now, “among all men to you-ward,” and also before, “For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or even acknowledge.” (Chap. 1,13).
[4.] Then after he had defended his own conduct he goes on next to say with severity,
2Co 11,7. “Or did I commit a sin in abasing myself that ye might be exalted?”
And in explanation of this, he adds,
2Co 11,8. “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you.”
What he says is this; ‘I lived in straitness;’ for this is the force of “abasing myself.” ‘Can you then lay this to my charge? and do ye therefore lift up yourselves against me, because I abased myself by begging, by enduring straits, by suffering, by hungering, that ye might be exalted?’ And how were they exalted by his being in straits? They were more edified and were not offended; which also might [well] be a very great accusation of them and a reproach of their weakness; that it was not possible in any other way to lead them on than by first abasing himself. ‘Do ye then lay it to my charge that I abased myself? But thereby ye were exalted.’ For since he said even above that they accused him, for that when present he was lowly, and when absent bold, in defending himself he here strikes them again, saying, ‘this too was for your sakes.’
“I robbed other churches.” Here finally he speaks reproachfully, but his former words prevent these from seeming offensive; for he said, “Bear with me in a little foolishness:” and before all his other achievements makes this his first boast. For this worldly men look to especially, and on this also those his adversaries greatly prided themselves. Therefore it is that he does not first enter on the subject of his perils, nor yet of his miracles, but on this of his contempt of money, because they prided themselves on this; and at the same time he also hints that they were wealthy. But what is to be admired in him is this, that when he was able to say that he was even supported by his own hands, he did not say this; but says that which especially shamed them and yet was no encomium on himself, namely, ‘I took from others.’ And he did not say “took,” but “robbed,” that is, ‘I stripped them, and made them poor.’ And what surely is greater, that it was not for superfluities, but for his necessities, for when he says ‘wages,’ he means necessary subsistence. And what is more grievous yet, “to minister unto you.” We preach to you; and when I ought to be supported by you, I have enjoyed this at others’ hands. The accusation is twofold, or rather three-fold; that when both living amongst them and ministering to them, and seeking necessary support, he had others supplying his wants. Great the excess, of the one negligence, of the other in zeal! For these sent to him even when at a great distance, and those did not even support him when amongst them.
[5.] Then because he had vehemently scourged them, he quietly again relaxes the vehemence of his rebuke, saying,
2Co 11,9. “And when I was present withyou, and was in want, I was not a burden on any man.”
For he did not say, ‘ye did not give to me,’ but, ‘I did not take,’ for as yet he spares them. But nevertheless even in the subduedness of his language he covertly strikes them again, for the word, “present,” is exceedingly emphatic, and so is “in want.” For that they might not say, ‘what matter then, if you had [enough]?’ he added, “and was in want.”
“I was not a burden” on you. Here again he hits them gently, as making such contributions reluctantly, as feeling them a burden. Then comes the reason also, full of accusation and fraught with jealousy. Wherefore also he introduced it, not in the way of a leading point, but as informing them whence and by whom he was supported, so as to stimulate them again, in an unsuspicious way, as to the point of alms-giving;
“For the measure of my want,” he says, “the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied.” Seest thou how he provokes them again, by bringing forward those that had ministered to him? For inspiring them first with a desire of knowing who these could be, when he said, “I robbed other churches;” he then mentions them also by name; which would incite them also unto almsgiving. For he thus persuades those who had been beaten [by them] in the matter of supporting the Apostle, not to be also beaten in the succor they gave to the poor. And he says this also in his Epistle to the Macedonians themselves, “For in my necessities ye sent unto me once and again, even in the beginning of the Gospel;” (Ph 4,15-16). which point also was a very great commendation of them, that from the very beginning they shone forth. But observe how everywhere he mentions his “necessity,” and no where a superfluity. Now therefore by saying “present,” and in “want” he showed that he ought to have been supported by the Corinthians; and by the words, “they supplied the measure of my want,” he shows that he did not so much as ask. And he assigns a reason which was not the real one. What then is this? That he had received from others; “for,” says he, “the measure of my want those that came supplied.” ‘For this reason,’ he says, ‘I was not a burden; not because I had no confidence in you.’ And yet it is for this latter reason that he so acts, and he shows it in what follows; but does not say it plainly, but throws it into the shade, leaving it to the conscience of his hearers. And he gives proof of it covertly in what follows, by saying,
“And in every” thing “I kept myself from being burdensome, and so will I keep” myself.“For think not,” says he, “that I say thesethings that I may receive.” Now the words“so will I keep myself,” are severer, if he has not even yet confidence in them; but once forall had given up the idea of receiving aught fromthem. He shows, moreover, that they even considered this to be a burden; wherefore he said, “I have kept myself from being burdensome, and so will I keep myself.” He says this in his former Epistle also, “I write not this that it may be so done unto me; for” it were “good for me rather to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.” (1Co 9,15) And here again, “I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep” myself.
[6.] Then, that he may not seem to speak these things for the sake of winning them on the better [to do this], he saith,
238 2Co 11,10. “As the truth of Christ is in me.” ‘Do not think that I therefore have spoken, that I may receive, that I may the rather drawyou on: for,’ saith he, “as the truth is in me,
“No man shall stop me of this glorying in the regions of Achaia.” For that none should think again that he is grieved at this, or that he speaks these things in anger, he even calls the thing a “glorying.” And in his former Epistle too he dressed it out in like terms. For so that he may not wound them there either, he says, “What then is my reward?” “That when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel of Christ without charge.” (1Co 9,18) And as he there calls it “reward,” so doth he here “glorying,” that they may not be excessively ashamed at what he said, as if he were asking and they gave not to him. ‘For, what, if even ye would give?’ saith he, ‘Yet I do not accept it.’ And the expression, “shall not stop me,” is a metaphor taken from rivers, or from the report, as if running every where, of his receiving nothing. ‘Ye stop not with your giving this my freedom of speech.’ But he said not, ‘ye stop not,’ which would have been too cutting, but it “no man shall stop me in the regions of Achaia.” This again was like giving them a fatal blow, and exceedingly apt to deject and pain them, since they were the only persons he refused [to take from]. ‘For if he made that his boast, it were meet to make it so every where: but if he only does so among us, perchance this is owing to our weakness.” Lest therefore they should so reason and be dejected, see how he corrects this.
2Co 11,11. “Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.”
Quickly [is it done],and by an easy method. But still, not even so did he rid them of those charges. For he neither said, ‘ye are not weak,’ nor yet, ‘ye are strong;’ but, “I love you,” which very greatly aggravated the accusation against them. For the not receiving from them, because they felt it an exceeding grievance, was a proof of special love toward them. So he acted in two contrary ways out of love; he both did receive, and did not receive: but this contrariety was on account of the disposition of the givers. And he did not say, ‘I therefore do not take of you, because I exceedingly love you,’ for this would have contained an accusation of their weakness and have thrown them into distress; but he turned what he said to another reason. What then is this?
2Co 11,12. “That I may cut on occasion from them that desire an occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.”
For since this they sought earnestly, to findsome handle against him, it is necessary to remove this also. For this is the one point onwhich they pique themselves. Therefore that they might not have any advantage whatever, it was necessary to set this right; for in other things they were inferior. For, as I have said, nothing doth so edify worldly people as the receiving nothing from them. Therefore the devil in his craftiness dropped this bait especially, when desirous to injure them in other respects. But it appears to me that this even was in hypocrisy. And therefore he did not say, ‘wherein they have well done,’ but what? “wherein they glory;” which also was as jeering at their glorying; for they gloried also of that which they were not. But the man of noble spirit not only ought not to boast of what he has not, but not even of what he possesses; as this blessed saint was wont to do, as the patriarch Abraham did, saying, “But I am earth and ashes.” (Gn 18,27) For since he had no sins to speak of, but shone with good works; having run about in every direction and found no very great handle against himself, he betakes himself to his nature; and since the name of “earth” is in some way or other one of dignity, he added to it that of “ashes.” Wherefore also another saith, “Why is earth and ashes proud?” (Si 10,9)
[7.] For tell me not of the bloom of the countenance, nor of the uplifted neck, nor of the mantle, and the horse, and the followers; but reflect where all these things do end, and put that to them. But and if thou tell me of what appears to the eye, I too will tell thee of things in pictures, brighter far than these. But as we do not admire those for their appearance, as seeing what their nature is, that all is clay; so therefore let us not these either, for these too are but clay. Yea rather, even before they are dissolved and become dust, show me this uplifted [neck] a prey to fever and gasping out life; and then will I discourse with thee and will ask, What has become of all that profuse ornament? whither has that crowd of flatterers vanished, that attendance of slaves, that abundance of wealth and possessions? What wind hath visited and blown all away? Nay, even stretched upon the bier, he beareth the tokens of that wealth and that pride; a splendid garment thrown over him, poor and rich following him forth, the assembled crowds breathing words of good omen. Surely this also is a very mockery; howbeit even this besides is presently proved naught, like a blossom that perishes. For when we have passed over the threshold of the city gates, and after having delivered over the body to the worms, return, I will ask thee again, where is that vast crowd gone to? What has become of the clamor and uproa? where are the torches? where the bands of women? are not these things, then, a dream? And what too has become of the shouts? where are those many lips that cried, and bade him ‘be of good cheer, for no man is immortal?’ These things ought not now to be said to one that heareth not, but when he made prey of others, when he was overreaching, then with a slight change should it have been said to him, ‘Be not of good cheer, no man is immortal; hold in thy madness, extinguish thy lust;’ but ‘Be of good cheer’ is for the injured party. For to chant such things over this man now, is but like men exulting over him and speaking irony; for he ought not for this now to be of good cheer, but to fear and tremble.
And if even this advice is now of no use to him since he has run his course, yet at least let those of the rich who labor under the same disease, and follow him to the tomb, hear it. For although beforehand through the intoxication of wealth, they have no such thing in mind, yet at that season when the sight of him that is laid out even confirms what is said, let them be sober, let them be instructed: reflecting that yet a little while and they will come that shall bear them away to that fearful account, and to suffer the penalty of their acts of rapacity and extortion. ‘And what is this to the poor?’ saith one. Why, to many this also is a satisfaction, to see him that hath wronged them punished. ‘But tons it is no satisfaction, but the escaping suffering ourselves.’ I praise you exceeedingly and approve of you in that ye exult not over the calamities of others, but seek only your own safety. Come then, I will ensure you this also. For if we suffer evil at the hands of men, we cut off no small part of our debt by bearing what is done to us nobly. We receive therefore no injury; for God reckons the ill-treatment towards our debt, not according to the principle of justice but of His loving-kindness; and because He succored not him that suffered evil. ‘Whence doth this appear?’ saith one. The Jews once suffered evil at the hand of the Babylonians; and God did not prevent it: but they were carried away, children and women; yet afterwards did this captivity become a consolation to them in respect of their sins. Therefore He saith to Isaiah, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, ye priests: speak unto the heart of Jerusalem, for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for sins.” (Is 40,1-2) And again; “Grant us peace, for Thou hast repaid us every thing.” (Is 26,12, LXX). And David saith; “Behold mine enemies, for they are multiplied; and forgive all my sins.” (Ps 45,19 and Ps 25,18) And when he bore with Shimei cursing him, he said, “Let him alone, that the Lord may see my abasement, and requite me good for this day.” (2S 16,11-12). For when He aideth us not when we suffer wrong, then most of all are we advantaged; for He sets it to the account of our sins, if we bear it thankfully.
[8.] So that when thou seest a rich man plundering spoor, leave him that suffereth wrong, and weep for the plunderer. For the one putteth off filth, the other bedaubeth himself with more filth. Such was the fate of Elisha’s servant in the story of Naaman (2R 5,20, &c). For though he took not by violence, yet he did a wrong; for to get money by deceit is a wrong. What then befel? With the wrong he received also the leprosy; and he that was wronged was benefited, but he that did the wrong received the greatest possible harm. The same happens now also in the case of the soul. And this is of so great force that often by itself it hath propitiated God; yea though he who suffereth evil be unworthy of aid; yet when he so suffers in excess, by this alone he draweth God unto the forgiveness of himself, and to the punishment of him that did the wrong. Wherefore also God said of old to the heathen, “I indeed delivered them over unto a few things, but they have set themselves on together unto evil things;” (Za 1,15. LXX). they shall suffer ills irremediable. For there is nothing, no, nothing, that doth so much exasperate God as rapine and violence and extortion. And why forsooth? Because it is very easy to abstain from this sin. For here it is not any natural desire that perturbeth the mind, but it ariseth from wilful negligence. How then doth the Apostle call it, “a root of evils.” (1Tm 6,10) Why, I say so too, but this root is from us, and not from the nature of the things. And, if ye will,let us make a comparison and see which is the more imperious, the desire of money or of beauty; for that which shall be found to have struck down great men is the more difficult to master. Let us see then what great man the desire of money ever got possession of. Not one; only of exceeding pitiful and abject persons, Gehazi, Ahab, Judas, the priests of the Jews: but the desire for beauty overcame even the great prophet David. And this I say, not as extending forgiveness to those who are conquered by such a lust, but rather, as preparing them to be watchful. For when I have shown the strength of the passion, then, most especially, I show them to be deprived of every claim to forgiveness. For if indeed thou hadst not known the wild beast, thou wouldest have this to take refuge in; but now, having known, yet falling into it, thou wilt have no excuse. After him, it took possession of his son still more completely. And yet there was never man wiser than he, and all other virtue did he attain; still, however, he was seized so violently by this passion, that even in his vitals he received the wound. And the father indeed rose up again and renewed the struggle, and was crowned again; but the son showed nothing of the kind.
Chrysostom on 2Cor 2200