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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 16: Second Epistle to the Corinthians.

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Part:  A  B  C

It was through the counsel of God that he had been turned away from his original purpose of visiting them, so that when he should go to them, it would not be with the rod of correction, but with love, approval, and the spirit of meekness. He had felt that more could be gained by his letter than by his presence at that time. He had admonished them to put away the evils existing among them, before he should visit Corinth in person.

His compassion for them is evinced by his advice that the ones who had been dealt with for their sins, having given proof of their repentance, should be received with love and kindness. They were at liberty to act in his behalf toward the repenting sinner. If they could forgive and accept the penitent, he, acting in Christ's stead, would ratify their action. Thus the apostle shows his confidence in the wisdom of the church, and recognizes their authority to receive again into their fellowship those who had once injured the cause by their wicked course, but had now become truly penitent.

Paul's opposers in the church made use against him of his failure to visit Corinth according to [p. 181] his promise, and argued that he was inconsistent and vacillating, changing his plans according to his convenience or inclination. But the apostle solemnly assures his Corinthian brethren that the reports were untrue, and that their knowledge of him should convince them of their injustice. His change of purpose, viewed from any standpoint, was no evidence that his doctrine was uncertain. As God was true and faithful, Paul's preaching was not in uncertainty or contradiction. After he had once declared the doctrine of Christ, he had said yea in Christ, and had never after said nay; or, in other words, had never retracted a single point which he had established by the word of God. His testimony had been straightforward, uniform, and harmonious, and exemplified by his own life.

He and his fellow-laborers had been, in their teachings and doctrine, unchangeable. Their course had been consistent and unwavering. They had ever assured their hearers that salvation was to be found alone in Christ. In matters of customs and ceremonies, the apostle declared that he had wisely met the people where they were, that none might be turned from the truth by pressing upon them that which was of no vital importance. He had carefully instructed them in the truly essential matters of the faith.

The apostle declares that their belief in the truths of the gospel was not the result of wisdom of words in their teachers. No human power had worked the great change. They had not been converted from heathenism to Paul or to any other man, but to Christianity. God had accepted them and made them his children, stamping his divine image upon their hearts [p. 182] through the transforming power of his Spirit and grace. But it was necessary that those among them who had perverted the gospel of Christ, and corrupted the pure doctrines taught by him, should be rebuked, to prevent them from corrupting others, and that all might be warned by seeing that the frown of God was upon those enemies of the faith.

After informing his brethren of his great anxiety in their behalf, and the relief that he experienced at the coming of Titus, the apostle breaks forth with a voice of praise and triumph: "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish." The figure in the apostle's mind was that of a general returning from a victorious warfare, followed by a train of captives, according to the custom of the day. On such occasions there were persons appointed as incense-bearers. As the army marched triumphantly home, the fragrant odors, the signal of victory, were to the captives appointed to die a savor of death, in that it showed them they were nearing the time of their execution. But to those of the prisoners who had found favor with their captors, and whose lives were to be spared, it was a savor of life, in that it showed them that their freedom was near.

Paul had been an ardent opposer of the gospel, but he had been conquered by light from Heaven, and had yielded himself a captive of Christ. He had become an incense-bearer, signaling the victory of Christ over his enemies. Paul was now full of hope and faith. He felt that Satan was [p. 183] not to triumph over the work of God. The praise and gratitude of his heart was poured forth as a precious ointment. He determined that the name and salvation of Jesus should be diffused by him as a sweet odor. He and his fellow-laborers would celebrate their victory over the enemies of Christ and the truth. They would go forth to their duties with new zeal and courage to spread the knowledge of Christ, as a stream of fragrant incense, through the world. To those who would accept Christ, the message would be a savor of life unto life; but to those who would persist in unbelief, it would be a savor of death unto death.

Paul, feeling the overwhelming magnitude of the work, exclaims, "And who is sufficient for these things?" Who is competent to preach Christ in such a way that his enemies shall have no just cause to despise him or the message which he bears? Paul would impress upon believers the solemn responsibility of the gospel ministry. Faithfulness in preaching the word, joined to a pure and consistent life, would alone make the efforts of ministers acceptable to God, and profitable to souls. Ministers of our day, burdened with a sense of the greatness of the work, may well exclaim, with the apostle, "Who is sufficient for these things?"

Part:  A  B  C

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