Paul’s Methods - Page 9 of 9 (series: Lessons on 2nd Cor.)
by John Lowe
“And behold we live”—“behold” calls attention to what seemed like a daily miracle. Strange as it may seem, we still survive. Through all our trials we are preserved, and though often exposed to death, yet we still live. The idea here is that in all these trials, and in these exposures to death, they endeavored to commend themselves as the ministers of God. They bore their trials with patience; submitted to these exposures without a complaint; and ascribed their preservation to the grace, mercy, and providence of God.
As chastened, and yet not killed
“As chastened”—the word "chastened" means corrected, “chastised.” It is applied to the chastening which God causes by afflictions and tragedies. Compare:
• 1 Corinthians 11:32: “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” We are chastened by the Lord; as children by a father, in love and kindness, in order to bring us a sense of our sin.
• Revelation 3:19: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” The meaning is that it is a proof of love on His part that if his professed friends go astray, He recalls them by gentle and friendly trials, and harsher ones if necessary.
This doesn’t refer to the scourgings to which they were subjected in the synagogues and elsewhere, but to the chastisements which God inflicted; the trials to which he subjected them. And the idea is, that in the midst of these trials, they attempted to act as became the ministers of God. They bore the trials with patience. They submitted to them because they came from His hand. They felt that they were doing nothing wrong, but were doing right; and they submitted without a complaint.
“And yet not killed”—meaning that though our heavenly Father has chastened us (not in a way of vindictive wrath, but in a fatherly manner), He has not killed us: the apostle may have alluded to Psalm 118:18, where it is said, “The LORD has chastened me sore: but he has not given me over to death.” The Lord hath chastened me sore; but he hath not given me over to death.
10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing
“As sorrowful”—means grieving, afflicted, troubled, and sad. Under these sufferings we seem to be always discouraged and sad. We endure afflictions that usually lead to the deepest expressions of grief. If the world looks only upon our trials, we must appear to be always suffering, and always sad. The world will suppose that we have cause for continued expressions of grief, and they will regard us as among the unhappiest people. This may be the opinion which the world usually attaches to the Christian life. They regard it as a life of sadness and of gloom; of trial and unhappiness. They see little in it that is cheerful, and they suppose that a heavy burden presses constantly on the heart of the Christian. They think joy is found only in the merriments and pleasures of this life; and that religion is only sadness. It is true, they are not free from sorrow. They are tried and tested like others. They have special trials arising from persecution, opposition, contempt, and from the conscious and deep-felt depravity of their own hearts. They are serious; and their seriousness is often interpreted as gloom. But there is another side to this picture, and there is much in the Christian character and feelings which are not seen or appreciated by the world.
“Yet always rejoicing”— their outward appearance may be sorrowful, and oftentimes they really are sad on account of sin, their own and others, and due to their afflictions, physical and spiritual. “Yet always rejoicing”; not in themselves, or in any creature, but in the Lord, in the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, and salvation by Him. So Paul was always rejoicing, although as a matter of fact, he always appeared to have reasons for grief. Religion had a power not only to sustain the soul during trials, but to fill it with positive joy. The sources of his joy were no doubt the assurances of the divine favor and the hopes of eternal glory. And the same is true of religion today. There is an internal peace and joy which the world may not see or appreciate, but which is far more than ample compensation for all the trials which the Christian endures.
The prophet Habakkuk wrote: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17-18). In spite of misfortunes and tragedies, the people will joy in God; though earthly blessings perish He remains their portion. The joy is partly a present one since we are in the possession of the Spirit of Christ and of a good conscious, and partly one of hope in His salvation in this life and in a future life in heaven.
As poor, yet making many rich.
“As poor”—the idea is, we are poor, yet in our poverty we attempt “to do nothing that would be viewed as wrongdoing, and to commend ourselves as the ministers of God.” This would be accomplished by their patience, and their determination not to do anything dishonest and dishonorable, and by their readiness, when necessary, to support themselves. There is no doubt that the apostles were poor. Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). He didn’t have any on him, and neither did he have much elsewhere; the apostles abounded, but in grace, not in riches. The little property which some of them had, had all been forsaken in order that they might follow the Saviour, and go and preach His Gospel. And there is little doubt that today the mass of ministers are still poor, and that is the way God wants it. It is in this way that He plans to illustrate the beauty and the sustaining power of religion, and that they should serve as examples to the world. As for why this should be, I would suggest there are good reasons for it:
1. That they might be maintained by the people, which is the ordinance of God.
2. That it might appear that Christ's kingdom is not of this world.
3. That the faith of men might not stand in the riches of the world, but in the power of God
4. That ministers might not be above their work, nor neglect it, nor drop it, and so that they might not be ensnared and encumbered with the things of life.
“Yet making many rich”—here the apostle means that he and his fellow-laborers, though they were poor, were the instruments of conferring durable and supremely valuable possessions on many persons. They had bestowed on them the true riches. They had been the means of investing them with treasures infinitely more valuable than any which kings and princes could bestow. Those to whom they ministered were made partakers of the treasure where the moth doth not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. Ministers are instruments in making many souls rich in spiritual things (blessings) by showing them their spiritual poverty, stripping them of what they trusted in, and valued; directing them to where true riches are found, and furnishing them with spiritual knowledge—with the knowledge of things which are worth more than thousands of gold and silver.
As having nothing, and yet possessing all things
“As having nothing”—the apostles gave up everything for Christ; they were sent out by him with nothing but the clothes on their back; what they had they gave away, and were very destitute of worldly delights—having no houses, no lands, no silver or gold (Acts 3:6).
"And yet possessing all things"—they had food and clothing, with which they were content; and then they enjoyed all spiritual good things; they not only had a right to them, but were in possession of them; they had all things pertaining to life and godliness; they had Christ, and all things with Him, and therefore could say as Jacob did, that they had enough, yes, that they had “all things.” They were as well satisfied with that little which they had, as the men of the world are with their abundance; possessing all things in Christ, though having little in the world. Believers are heirs of all things. We have a title to immortal life—a promised part in all that the universe can furnish that can make us happy.