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2 Corinthians 4:2

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

But have renounced - Απειπαμεθα· We have disclaimed the hidden things of dishonesty; τα κρυπτα της αισχυνης, the hidden things of shame; those things which wicked men do; and which they are ashamed to have known, and ashamed to own. Dr. Whitby thinks that the apostle refers to carnal abominations, of which the Jews and their rabbins were notoriously guilty. And it does appear from the first epistle that there were persons in Corinth who taught that fornication was no sin; and it appears also that several had taken the part of the incestuous person.

Not walking in craftiness - Πανουργιᾳ· In subtlety and clever cunning, as the false teachers did, who were accomplished fellows, and capable of any thing. The word is compounded of παν, all, and εργον, work.

Nor handling the word of God deceitfully - Not using the doctrines of the Gospel to serve any secular or carnal purpose; not explaining away their force so as to palliate or excuse sin; not generalizing its precepts so as to excuse many in particular circumstances from obedience, especially in that which most crossed their inclinations. There were deceitful handlers of this kind in Corinth, and there are many of them still in the garb of Christian ministers; persons who disguise that part of their creed which, though they believe it is of God, would make them unpopular, affecting moderation in order to procure a larger audience and more extensive support; not attacking prevalent and popular vices; calling dissipation of mind, relaxation; and worldly and carnal pleasures, innocent amusements, etc. In a word, turning with the tide, and shifting with the wind of popular opinion, prejudice, fashion, etc.

But by manifestation of the truth - An open, explicit acknowledgment of what we know to be the truth - what we are assured is the Gospel of Jesus; concealing nothing; blunting the edge of no truth; explaining spiritual things, not in the words of man's wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit of God.

Commending ourselves to every man's conscience - Speaking so that every man's conscience shall bear its testimony that we proclaim the truth of God. This is one characteristic of Divine truth: even every man's conscience will acknowledge it, though it speak decidedly against his own practices.

In the sight of God - Whose eye is ever on the heart and conscience of man, and who always bears testimony to his own word.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But have renounced - ( ἀπειπάμεθα apeipamethafrom ἀπὸ apoand εἶπον eipon). The word means properly to speak out or off; to refuse or deny; to interdict or forbid. Here it means, to renounce, or disown; to spurn, or scorn with aversion. It occurs no where else in the New Testament; and the sense here is, that the apostles had such a view of the truth of religion, and the glory of the Christian scheme 2 Corinthians 3:13-18, as to lead them to discard everything that was disguised, and artful, and crafty; everything like deceit and fraud. The religions of the pagan were made up mainly of trick, and were supported by deception practiced on the ignorant, and on the mass of people. Paul says, that he and his fellow-laborers had such views of the truth, and glory, and holiness of the Christian scheme, as to lead them solemnly to abjure and abhor all such dishonest tricks and devices. Truth never needs such arts; and no cause will long succeed by mere trick and cunning.

The hidden things of dishonesty - Margin, “shame.” The Greek word most commonly means shame, or disgrace. The hidden things of shame here mean disgraceful conduct; clandestine and secret arts, which were in themselves shameful and disgraceful. They denote all “underhanded” dealings; all dishonest artifices and plans, such as were common among the pagan, and such probably as the false teachers adopted in the propagation of their opinions at Corinth. The expression here does not imply that the apostles ever had anything to do with such arts; but that they solemnly abjured and abhorred them. Religion is open, plain, straightforward. It has no alliance with cunning, and trick, and artifice. It should be defended openly; stated clearly; and urged with steady argument. It is a work of light, and not of darkness.

Not walking in craftiness - Not acting craftily; not behaving in a crafty manner. The word used here πανουργία (panourgiafrom πᾶν , “all,” ἔργον

, “work,” that is, doing every thing, or capable of doing anything) denotes shrewdness, cunning, and craft. This was common; and this was probably practiced by the false teachers in Corinth. With this Paul says he had nothing to do. He did not adopt a course of carnal wisdom and policy (note, 2 Corinthians 1:12); he did not attempt to impose upon them, or to deceive them; or to make his way by subtile and deceitful arts. True religion can never be advanced by trick and craftiness.

Nor handling the word of God deceitfully - ( δολοῦντες dolountes). Not falsifying; or deceitfully corrupting or disguising the truth of God, The phrase seems to be synonymous with that used in 2 Corinthians 2:17, and rendered “corrupt the word of God;” see the note on that verse. It properly means to falsify, adulterate, corrupt, by Jewish traditions, etc. (Robinson, Bloomfield, Doddridge, etc.); or it may mean, as in our translation, to handle in a deceitful manner; to make use of trick and art in propagating and defending it. Tyndale renders it: “neither corrupt we the Word of God.”

But by manifestation of the truth - By making the truth manifest; that is, by a simple exhibition of the truth. By stating it just as it is, in an undisguised and open manner. Not by adulterating it with foreign mixtures; not by mingling it with philosophy, or traditions; not by blunting its edge, or concealing anything, or explaining it away; but by an open, plain, straightforward exhibition of it as it is in Jesus. Preaching should consist in a simple exhibition of the truth. There is no deceit in the gospel itself; and there should be none in the manner of exhibiting it. It should consist of a simple statement of things as they are. The whole design of preaching is, to make known the truth. And this is done in an effectual manner only when it is simple, open, undisguised, without craft, and without deceit.

Commending ourselves to every man‘s conscience - That is, so speaking the truth that every man‘s conscience shall approve it “as” true; every man shall see it to be true, and to be in accordance with what he knows to be right. Conscience is that faculty of the mind which distinguishes between right and wrong, and which prompts us to choose the former and avoid the latter; John 8:9; Romans 2:15 note; 1 Corinthians 10:25, 1 Corinthians 10:27-29 notes; 2 Corinthians 1:12 note. It is implied here:

(1) That a course of life, and a manner of preaching that shall be free from dishonesty, and art, and trick, will be such as the consciences of people will approve. Paul sought such a course of life as should accord with their sense of “right,” and thus serve to commend the gospel to them.

(2) that the gospel may be so preached as to be seen by men to be true; so as to be approved as right; and so that every man‘s conscience shall bear testimony to its truth. People do not “love” it, but they may see that it is “true;” they may hate it, but they may see that the truth which condemns their practices is from heaven. This is an exceedingly important principle in regard to preaching, and vastly momentous in its bearing on the views which ministers should have of their own work. The gospel is reasonable. It may be seen to be true by every man to whom it is preached. And it should be the aim of every preacher so to preach it, as to enlist the consciences of his hearers in his layout. And it is a very material fact that when so preached the conscience and reason of every man is in its favor, and they know that it is true even when it pronounces their own condemnation, and denounces their own sins. This passage proves, therefore, the following things:

(1) That the gospel may be so preached as to be seen to be true by all people. People are capable of seeing the truth, and even when they do not love it; they can perceive that it has demonstration that it is from God. It is a system so reasonable; so well established by evidence; so fortified by miracles, and the fulfillment of prophecies; so pure in its nature; so well-adapted to man; so suited to his condition, and so well designed to make him better; and so happy in its influence on society, that people may be led to see that it is true. And this I take to be the case with almost all those people who habitually attend on the preaching of the gospel. Infidels do not often visit the sanctuary; and when they are in the habit of doing it, it is a fact that they gradually come to the conviction that the Christian religion is true. It is rare to find professed infidels in our places of worship; and the great mass of those who attend on the preaching of the gospel may be set down as speculative believers in the truth of Christianity.

(2) the consciences of people are on the side of truth, and the gospel may be so preached as to enlist their consciences in its favor. Conscience prompts to do right, and condemns us if we do wrong. It can never be made to approve of wrong, never to give a man peace if he does that which he knows to be evil. By no art or device; by no system of laws, or bad government; by no training or discipline, can it be made the advocate of sin. In all lands, at all times, and in all circumstances, it prompts a man to do what is right, and condemns him if he does wrong. It may be silenced for a time; it may be “seared as with a hot iron,” and for a time be insensible, but if it speak at all, it speaks to prompt a man to do what he believes to be right, and condemns him if he does that which is wrong. The consciences of people are on the side of the gospel; and it is only their hearts which are opposed to it. Their consciences are in favor of the gospel in the following, among other respects:

(a) They approve of it as a just, pure, holy, and reasonable system; as in accordance with what they feel to be right; as recommending that which ought to be done, and forbidding that which ought not to be done.

(b) In its special requirements on themselves. Their consciences tell them that they ought to love God with all the heart; to repent of their sins; to trust in that Saviour who died for them; and to lead a life of prayer and of devotedness to the service of God; that they ought to be sincere and humble Christians, and prepare to meet God in peace.

(c) Their consciences approve the truth that condemns them. No matter how strict it may seem to be; no matter how loud its denunciation against their sins; no matter how much the gospel may condemn their pride, avarice, sensuality, levity, dishonesty, fraud, intemperance, profaneness, biasphemy, or their neglect of their soul, yet their consciences approve of it as right, and proclaim that these things ought to be condemned, and ought to be abandoned. The heart may love them, but the conscience cannot be made to approve them. And the minister of the gospel may “always” approach his people, or an individual man, with the assurance that however much they may “love” the ways of sin, yet that he has their consciences in his favor, and that in urging the claims of God on them, their “consciences” will always coincide with his appeals.

(3) the “way” in which a minister is to commend himself to the consciences of people, is that which was pursued by Paul. He must:

(a) Have a clear and unwavering conviction of the truth himself. On this subject he should have no doubt. He should be able to look on it as on a burnished mirror (note, 2 Corinthians 3:18); and to see its glory as with open face.

(b) It should be by the simple statement of the truth of the gospel. Not by preaching philosophy, or metaphysics, or the traditions of man, or the sentiments of theologians, but the simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. People may be made to see that these are truths, and God will take care that the reason and consciences of people shall be in their favor.

(c) By the absence of all trick and cunning, and disguised and subtle arts. The gospel has nothing of these in itself, and it will never approve of them, nor will God bless them. A minister of Jesus should be frank, open, undisguised, and candid. He should make a sober and elevated appeal to the reason and conscience of man. The gospel is not “a cunningly devised fable;” it has no trick in itself, and the ministers of religion should solemnly abjure all the hidden things of dishonesty.

In the sight of God - As in the immediate presence of God. We act as if we felt that His eye was upon us; and this consideration serves to keep us from the hidden things of dishonesty, and from improper arts in spreading the true religion; see the note on 2 Corinthians 2:17.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The best of men would faint, if they did not receive mercy from God. And that mercy which has helped us out, and helped us on, hitherto, we may rely upon to help us even to the end. The apostles had no base and wicked designs, covered with fair and specious pretences. They did not try to make their ministry serve a turn. Sincerity or uprightness will keep the favourable opinion of wise and good men. Christ by his gospel makes a glorious discovery to the minds of men. But the design of the devil is, to keep men in ignorance; and when he cannot keep the light of the gospel of Christ out of the world, he spares no pains to keep men from the gospel, or to set them against it. The rejection of the gospel is here traced to the wilful blindness and wickedness of the human heart. Self was not the matter or the end of the apostles' preaching; they preached Christ as Jesus, the Saviour and Deliverer, who saves to the uttermost all that come to God through him. Ministers are servants to the souls of men; they must avoid becoming servants to the humours or the lusts of men. It is pleasant to behold the sun in the firmament; but it is more pleasant and profitable for the gospel to shine in the heart. As light was the beginning of the first creation; so, in the new creation, the light of the Spirit is his first work upon the soul. The treasure of gospel light and grace is put into earthen vessels. The ministers of the gospel are subject to the same passions and weaknesses as other men. God could have sent angels to make known the glorious doctrine of the gospel, or could have sent the most admired sons of men to teach the nations, but he chose humbler, weaker vessels, that his power might be more glorified in upholding them, and in the blessed change wrought by their ministry.
Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 195.1

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. 2 Corinthians 4:2. TDG 195.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 337-8

Elder K knows not of what spirit he is. He is uniting his influence with the dragon host to oppose those who keep the commandments of God, and who have the testimony of Jesus. He has a hard warfare before him. As far as the Sabbath is concerned, he occupies the same position as the Seventh Day Baptists. Separate the Sabbath from the messages, and it loses its power; but when connected with the message of the third angel, a power attends it which convicts unbelievers and infidels, and brings them out with strength to stand, to live, grow, and flourish in the Lord. It is time for God's people in Wisconsin to find their position. “Who will be on the Lord's side?” should be sounded by the faithful, experienced ones in every place. God requires them to come out and cut loose from the various influences which would separate them from one another and from the great platform of truth upon which God is bringing His people. 1T 337.1

I was shown the case of Mr. L. He has much to say upon sanctification, but he is deceived in himself, and others are deceived in him. His sanctification may last him while he is in meeting, but it cannot bear the test. Bible holiness purifies the life; but L's heart is not cleansed. Evil exists in the heart, and is carried out in the life, and the enemies of our faith have had occasion to reproach Sabbathkeepers. They judge of the tree by its fruits. 1T 337.2

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.” 1T 337.3

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 331

Paul reminded his brethren that as Christ's messengers he and his fellow laborers were continually in peril. The hardships they endured were wearing away their strength. “We which live,” he wrote, “are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” Suffering physically through privation and toil, these ministers of Christ were conforming to His death. But that which was working death in them was bringing spiritual life and health to the Corinthians, who by a belief in the truth were being made partakers of life eternal. In view of this, the followers of Jesus were to be careful not to increase, by neglect and disaffection, the burdens and trials of the laborers. AA 331.1

“We having the same spirit of faith,” Paul continued, “according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.” Fully convinced of the reality of the truth entrusted to him, nothing could induce Paul to handle the word of God deceitfully or to conceal the convictions of his soul. He would not purchase wealth, honor, or pleasure by conformity to the opinions of the world. Though in constant danger of martyrdom for the faith that he had preached to the Corinthians, he was not intimidated, for he knew that He who had died and risen again would raise him from the grave and present him to the Father. AA 331.2

“All things are for your sakes,” he said, “that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.” Not for self-aggrandizement did the apostles preach the gospel. It was the hope of saving souls that led them to devote their lives to this work. And it was this hope that kept them from ceasing their efforts because of threatened danger or actual suffering. AA 332.1

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