Are you a Christian?
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 astray904
“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 head906
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, destroying907
[2.] Ver. 9, 10, 11. “But that I 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,
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;” (Chap. xii. 11.) and in the former Epistle, “I labored more abundantly than they all;” (1 Cor. xv. 10.) and again, “Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience.” (Chap. xii. 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.
“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.
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.] Ver. 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,
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. xii. 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 reproaches909
[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 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 happen912