Paul’s Methods - Page 5 of 9 (series: Lessons on 2nd Cor.)
by John Lowe
It was no uncommon thing for the early preachers of Christianity to be imprisoned. Paul was frequently in prison, but Luke tells us of only one of those occasions, which occurred at Philippi—“Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks” (Acts 16:24). The inner prison was probably a dark place and without ventilation, and hence foul and repugnant; perhaps underground. Paul’s Roman imprisonment and that at Caesarea occurred after he was in prison at Philippi.
One meaning of “in tumults” is “in tossing to and fro (finding no place of rest and quietness); being driven from place to place by the fury of their enemies.” The Greek word from which it is taken denotes “instability,” that is, disorder, tumult, commotion. Here it means that in the various tumults and commotions which were produced by the preaching of the gospel, Paul tried to act as became a minister of God. Such tumults were excited at Corinth, Act 18:6; at Philippi, Acts 16:19-20; at Lystra and Derbe, Acts 14:19; at Ephesus, Acts 19, and in various other places. The idea is that if the ministers of religion are attacked by a lawless mob, they are to attempt to show the spirit of Christ, and to display patience, and to do good even in such a circumstance. Patience and the Christian spirit may often do more good in such predicaments than a lot preaching would do elsewhere. During tumults and uproars of the people, the apostle’s lives were frequently in imminent danger. These were normal incidents in Paul's life, both up to this time and for years afterwards. For the tumults which the Apostle went through see Acts 13:50; Acts 14:5; Acts 14:19; Acts 16:22; Acts 17:5; Acts 18:12; Acts 19:23-41.
Tumult might also mean inward disorder, rather than external tumult; "insecurities," that is, homelessness, wanderings, uncertainties. Paul described such issues in 1 Corinthians 4:11: “Even to this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place.” The apostles were constantly in an unsettled state, always moving from one place to another, and had no place they could call their own; like their Lord and master, who had not where to lay his head; and like some of the Old Testament saints, who wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, in deserts, and in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
“In labors” probably refers to the work involved in the Gospel ministry, and its never-ending duties, and also to the labor which they performed for their own support, since it is well known that Paul and probably the other apostles, as well, often labored to support themselves. Paul often worked as a tent maker; a trade he followed when he was with Aquila and Priscilla—“And because he was of the same craft, he stayed with them, and worked: for by their occupation they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:3).
In most translations “sleeplessness” is called “watchings,” as it is in 2 Corinthians 11:27—“In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” Watching was a voluntary act and refers to wakefulness, or lack of sleep due to his arduous duties, and his travels, and anxiety over the churches and for the advancement of religion, and this led to him being often deprived of his ordinary rest. He was compelled to work night and day to support himself by tent making, and in preaching, praying, and singing psalms; which often continued till after midnight. In his letter to the Thessalonians, he wrote, “Neither did we eat any man's bread for nothing; but worked with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you” (2 Thess. 3:8). "Spells of sleeplessness" were a necessary part of such a life; and an extremely nervous nature like that of St. Paul is rarely capable of the habitual relief of sound sleep.
The context here refers to his trials, rather than the devotional exercise of voluntarily going without food which would be out of place in a listing of hardships. He is probably speaking of the fact that in his travels, when abroad and among strangers, he often went without food. Those who traveled as Paul did, among strangers, and without money, would often be compelled miss a meal now and then; except, with Paul, such trials
were almost without number. The religion which we now enjoy cost those who founded it a great deal. At first, it cost the painful life, the toils, the anxieties, and the sufferings of the Redeemer; and it has been propagated and perpetuated amidst the deep sorrows, the sacrifices, and the tears and blood of those who have contributed to perpetuate it on earth—and for its martyrs it cost the supreme price. For such a religion, originated, extended, and preserved in such a manner, we can never express suitable gratitude to God. Such a religion we cannot overestimate in value; and for the extension and perpetuity of such a religion, we also should be willing to practice uncomplaining self-denial.
6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,
Beginning here the apostle relates the virtues and special gifts which are necessary and should be possessed by the Gospel minister: they are the armor in which his ministry moves and the element which enables him to overcome all pitfalls and hindrances.
The first virtue is “pureness.” In the widest sense the word may mean “purity of motive,” but in this instance, seeing that he is writing to those who are citizens of Corinth, a very wicked city, the meaning is probably “purity from sexual sin”—personal chastity. In the general state of morals throughout the empire, and especially in writing to such a city as Corinth, it was natural to dwell on this aspect of the Christian character. Compare:
• 2 Corinthians 11:2: “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
• 1 Timothy 5:22: “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep yourself pure.” “Keep yourself pure,” particularly, in regard to participation in the sins of others; generally, in all things –in heart, in word, in conduct.
• 1 Peter 3:2: “While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” “Chaste”—pure, spotless, free from all impurity.
The apostle having shown how he and other ministers of God gained the approval of those they sought to see converted, by patiently bearing everything that afflicted and distressed the outward man, proceeds here to show how they were approved in other respects: this concerns the inner man, the exercise of grace, and spiritual behavior: "by pureness"; of doctrine and conversation, chastity of body and mind, a holy and pure life, sincerity of heart, and integrity of life. The substance of what he says is that it had not only been done by sufferings and trials, but by a holy life, and by entire consecration to the great cause to which he had devoted himself. All preaching, and all labors would have been in vain without this; and Paul well knew that if he succeeded in the ministry, he must be a good man. The same is true in all other professions. One of the essential requisites of an orator, according to Quintilian, is, that he must be a good man; and no man may expect ultimately to succeed in any calling of life unless he is pure. But however this may be in other callings, no one will doubt it in regard to the ministry of the Gospel. Compare:
• 1 John 3:3: “And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” By applying to, and confiding in, the purifying blood of Christ, with a penitent, believing heart; by earnestly praying for and receiving the purifying Spirit of God; by obeying the purifying word, (1 Peter 1:22) and by exercising purifying faith in the truths and promises of the gospel, Acts 15:9.
• 2 Corinthians 4:2: “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” Our business, in the course of our ministry, has been to commend ourselves to every man’s conscience, in the sight of God, by showing to them the truth of God.
• 1 Thessalonians 2:10: “You are witnesses, and God also, how piously and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you that believe” Every duty was faithfully performed. This is not a claim to absolute perfection, but it is a claim to consistency of character, and to faithfulness in duty, which every Christian should be able to make.