For who maketh thee to differ - It is likely that the apostle is here addressing himself to some one of those puffed up teachers, who was glorying in his gifts, and in the knowledge he had of the Gospel, etc. As if he had said: If thou hast all that knowledge which thou professest to have, didst thou not receive it from myself or some other of my fellow helpers who first preached the Gospel at Corinth? God never spoke to thee to make thee an apostle. Hast thou a particle of light that thou hast not received from our preaching? Why then dost thou glory, boast, and exult, as if God had first spoken by thee, and not by us?
This is the most likely meaning of this verse; and a meaning that is suitable to the whole of the context. It has been applied in a more general sense by religious people, and the doctrine they build on it is true in itself, though it does not appear to me to be any part of the apostle's meaning in this place. The doctrine I refer to is this: God is the foundation of all good; no man possesses any good but what he has derived from God. If any man possess that grace which saves him from scandalous enormities, let him consider that he has received it as a mere free gift from God's mercy. Let him not despise his neighbor who has it not; there was a time when he himself did not possess it; and a time may come when the man whom he now affects to despise, and on whose conduct he is unmerciful and severe, may receive it, and probably may make a more evangelical use of it than he is now doing. This caution is necessary to many religious people, who imagine that they have been eternal objects of God's favor, and that others have been eternal objects of his hate, for no reason that they can show for either the one, or the other. He can have little acquaintance with his own heart, who is not aware of the possibility of pride lurking under the exclamation, Why me! when comparing his own gracious state with the unregenerate state of another.
For who maketh - This verse contains a reason for what Paul had just said; and the reason is, that all that any of them possessed had been derived from God, and no endowments whatever, which they had, could be laid as the foundation for self-congratulation and boasting. The apostle here doubtless has in his eye the teachers in the church of Corinth, and intends to show them that there was no occasion of pride or to assume pre-eminence. As all that they possessed had been given of God, it could not be the occasion of boasting or self-confidence.
To differ from another - Who has separateD you from another; or who has made you superior to others. This may refer to everything in which one was superior to others, or distinguished from them. The apostle doubtless has reference to those attainments in piety, talents, or knowledge by which one teacher was more eminent than others. But the same question may be applied to native endowments of mind; to opportunities of education; to the arrangements by which one rises in the world; to health; to property; to piety; to eminence and usefulness in the church. It is God who makes one, in any of these respects, to differ from others; and it is especially true in regard to personal piety. Had not God interfered and made a difference, all would have remained alike under sin. The race would have together rejected his mercy; and it is only by his distinguishing love that any are brought to believe and be saved.
And what hast thou - Either talent, piety, of learning.
That thou didst not receive - From God. By whatever means you have obtained it, it has been the gift of God.
Why dost thou glory - Why dost thou boast as if it were the result of your own toil, skill or endeavor. This is not designed to discourage human exertion; but to discourage a spirit of vain-glory and boasting. A man who makes the most painful and faithful effort to obtain anything good, will, if successful, trace his success to God. He will still feel that it is God who gave him the disposition, the time, the strength, the success. And he will be grateful that he was enabled to make the effort; not vain, or proud, or boastful, because that he was successful. This passage states a general doctrine, that the reason why one man differs from another is to be traced to God; and that this fact should repress all boasting and glorying, and produce true humility in the minds of Christians. It may be observed, however, that it is as true of intellectual rank, of health, of wealth, of food, of raiment, of liberty, of peace, as it is of religion, that all come from God; and as this fact which is so obvious and well known, does not repress the exertions of people to preserve their health and to obtain property, so it should not repress their exertions to obtain salvation. God governs the world on the same good principles everywhere; and the fact that he is the source of all blessings, should not operate to discourage, but should prompt to human effort. The hope of his aid and blessing is the only ground of encouragement in any undertaking.
God “looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.
He fashioneth their hearts alike.” MH 166.1
Psalm 33:14, 15. MH 166
He bids us, in dealing with the tempted and the erring, consider “thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1. With a sense of our own infirmities, we shall have compassion for the infirmities of others. MH 166.2Read in context »
Paul lays down a rule for giving to God's cause, and tells us what the result will be both in regard to ourselves and to God. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” “This I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (... Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.” 5T 735.1
We are not to feel that we can do or give anything that will entitle us to the favor of God. Says the apostle: “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” When David and the people of Israel had gathered together the material they had prepared for the building of the temple, the king, as he committed the treasure to the princes of the congregation, rejoiced and gave thanks to God in words that should ever dwell in the hearts of God's people. “David blessed the Lord before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be Thou Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine.... And in Thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee. For we are strangers before Thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build Thee an house for Thine holy name cometh of Thine hand, and is all Thine own. I know also, my God, that Thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy Thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto Thee.” 5T 735.2
It was God who had provided the people with the riches of earth, and His Spirit had made them willing to bring their precious things for the temple. It was all of the Lord; if His divine power had not moved upon the hearts of the people, the king's efforts would have been in vain, and the temple would never have been erected. 5T 736.1Read in context »