Paul’s Methods - Page 6 of 9 (series: Lessons on 2nd Cor.)
by John Lowe
Interpreters have differed considerably in the interpretation of the gift (or virtue) of knowledge. Some of these opinions are:
1. “Knowledge” means “prudence;” the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason, or shrewdness in the management of affairs, and skill and good judgment in the use of resources.
2. Paul is referring specifically to knowledge of the Law.
3. Paul is referring to his supreme desire to improve in the knowledge of those truths which they were called to communicate to others.
Probably the idea expressed by the word “knowledge” is a very simple one. Paul is showing how he went about to commend the gospel to others (v. 4). He says that one way was by communicating knowledge, true knowledge. He proclaimed that which was true, and which was real knowledge, in opposition to the false science of the Greeks, and in opposition to those who would substitute eloquence of oratory for argument, and the mere ornaments of rhetoric for truth. The idea is, that the minister should not be ignorant, but if they wished to commend their office, they should be well informed, and should be people of good sense. Paul did not believe that an ignorant minister was preferable to one that was characterized by true knowledge; and he felt that if he was to be useful it was to be by his imparting to others truth that would be useful. “The priest's lips should keep knowledge” (Malachi 2:7). The “knowledge” is obviously not that of earthly things, but of the mysteries of God: “Whereby, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). The "mystery" is Christ Himself, once hidden, but now revealed: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).
“By longsuffering” is meant patience in our trials, in our insults, and in the aggravations which we meet with. We attempt to maintain control over our passions (desires, cravings, and urges), and to keep them in subjection. We are not easily provoked to wrath, but bearing with patience every indignity and affront. Compare:
• 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Charity love suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity brags not itself, is not puffed up” Here the apostle attributes to love the qualities and actions of a person. Our love for God, and of our neighbor for God’s sake, is patient toward all men.
• 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” The success of the Gospel ministry should be patiently waited for as husbandmen do for the fruits of the earth.
The word translated “kindness,” denotes any goodness by which a man may show himself either courteous and pleasant, or useful and profitable, to his neighbor. We are to attempt to show kindness to all men, regardless of how they treat us. Paul felt that if a minister would do good he must be kind, and gentle to all—“Charity love suffers long, and is kind. . . ” (1 Co. 13:4). The idea is that we are to remain gentle and mild even when we are provoked and treated badly by others.
By the Holy Spirit
“By the Holy Ghost” means “by the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit; by those graces and virtues which He produce in the heart. Paul lists them in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Paul is not referring here to the spiritual gifts of healing, tongues, and prophesy produced by the power of the Holy Spirit, but to the feelings, impulses and promptings which Holy Spirit produced in the hearts of him and his fellow-ministers, and in the hearts of all the children of God. The Holy Spirit influences and assists in the exercise of every grace, and the discharge of every duty, and inspires our whole mind and conduct. Compare:
• 1 Thessalonians 1:5: “For our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as you know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” The peculiar “power” in which St Paul and his helpers spoke at Thessalonica was not their own: their message came from the Holy Spirit, accompanied by the supernatural energy of the Spirit of God and of Christ.
• Romans 15:19: “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” The success of the preaching of the Gospel was not due to the skill and powerful oratory of the preacher; nor merely to the power of signs and wonders; but by the powerful and effectual grace of the Spirit of God, who took away the stony, stubborn, and disobedient heart, and gave them an heart of flesh, a tender, flexible, and obedient one that could be penetrated and converted.
By sincere love (most versions have, “love unfeigned”)
“By sincere love” is meant “sincere, true, ardent love for all men; unfeigned, pure, and genuine affection for the souls of people. What good can a minister do if he does not love his people, and the souls of people? The prominent characteristic in the life of the Redeemer was love—love for all. So if we are like him, and if we are going to do any good, we will have love for people. No man is effective without it; and ministers, in general, are effective in proportion to the love they have for their people. Love will motivate one to hard work, self-denial, and toil; it will make them patient, devoted, kind; it will give them zeal, and will give them access to the hearts of others; it will accomplish what no eloquence, hard work, or learning can without it. He who shows that he loves me has access at once to my heart; he who does not, cannot make headway there by any argument, eloquence, denunciation, or learning. No minister is successful without it; no one with it can help but be successful.
“Sincere love” is the surest fruit of the Spirit, and the best of all spiritual gifts; Paul could appeal to his own career to show that his love was as real as its expression was passionate—“O you Corinthians, our mouth is open to you, our heart is enlarged” (2 Corinthians 6:11). The main idea here is that he had a strong affection for them; a heart which embraced and loved them all, and which expressed itself in the language of deep emotion. He loved them so much that he was willing to be rebuked, and to be persecuted, and to be poor, and to have his name disrespected. A heart full of love will give vent to its feelings. There will be no play-acting and hypocrisy there. And if a minister loves the souls of his people he will pour out the affections of his heart in strong and glowing language.
7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
By the word of truth
“By the word of truth,” that is, by making known the truths of the gospel. It was his intention to make known the simple truth. He did not corrupt it by mixing in with it philosophy and human wisdom, but communicated it as it had been revealed to him. The object of Christian ministry is to make the truth of God known, and when that is properly done, their office and work will receive the favorable regards of people. In James 1:18 it says, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” “The word of truth” is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which the Holy Spirit uses in the process of regeneration. The process proceeds in this manner: The man of God speaks the “word of truth” to a sinner; the Holy Spirit applies the Word to the sinner’s heart, and through a miracle wrought by the power of God, a child of God is produced. A process repeated thousands of times every year.