on 2-corinthians 2 :16
To the one we are the savour of death unto death - There are several sayings among the ancient Jewish writers similar to this. In Debarim Rabba, sec. i. fol. 248, it is said: "As the bee brings home honey to its owner, but stings others; so it is with the words of the law;" סם חיים לישראל sam chaiyim leyisrael, "They are a savour of lives to the Israelites:" וסם המות לאומות העולם vesam hammaveth leomoth haolam, "And a savour of death to the people of this world." The learned reader may see much more to this effect in Schoettgen. The apostle's meaning is plain: those who believe and receive the Gospel are saved; those who reject it, perish. The meaning of the rabbins is not less plain: the Israelites received the law and the prophets as from God, and thus possessed the means of salvation; the Gentiles ridiculed and despised them, and thus continued in the path of death. The same happens to the present day to those who receive and to those who reject the Gospel: it is the means of salvation to the former, it is the means of destruction to the latter; for they are not only not saved because they do not believe the Gospel, but they are condemned because they reject it. For how can they escape who neglect so great a salvation? The sun which nourishes the tree that is planted in a good soil, decomposes and destroys it if plucked up and laid on the surface.
That the saved, σωζομενοι, and they that perish, απολλυμενοι, mean those who receive and obey the Gospel, and those who reject it and live and die in sin, needs no proof. No other kinds of reprobate and elect, in reference to the eternal world, are known in the Book of God, though they abound in the books of men. The Jews were possessed with such an exalted opinion of their own excellence that they imagined that all the love and mercy of God were concentrated among themselves, and that God never would extend his grace to the Gentiles.
Such sentiments may become Jews but when we find some Gentiles arrogating to themselves all the salvation of God, and endeavoring to prove that he has excluded the major part even of their own world - the Gentiles, from the possibility of obtaining mercy; and that God has made an eternal purpose, that the death of Christ shall never avail them, and that no saving grace shall ever be granted to them, and that they shall infallibly and eternally perish; what shall we say to such things? It is Judaism in its worst shape: Judaism with innumerable deteriorations. The propagators of such systems must answer for them to God.
Who is sufficient for these things? - Is it the false apostle that has been labouring to pervert you? Or, is it the men to whom God has given an extraordinary commission, and sealed it by the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost? That this is the apostle's meaning is evident from the following verse.
on 2-corinthians 2 :16
To the one - To those who perish.
We are the savour of death unto death - We are the occasion of deepening their condemnation, and of sinking them lower into ruin. The expression used here means literally, "to the one class we bear a death-conveying odor leading to their death" - a savor, a smell which, under the circumstances, is destructive to life, and which leads to death. Mr. Locke renders this: "To the one my preaching is of ill savor, unacceptable and offensive, by their rejecting whereof they draw death on themselves." Grateful as their labors were to God, and acceptable as would be their efforts, whatever might be the results, yet Paul could not be ignorant that the gospel would in fact be the means of greater condemnation to many; see the notes on 2 Corinthians 2:15. It was indeed by their own fault; yet wherever the gospel was preached, it would to many have this result. It is probable that the language here used is borrowed from similar expressions which were common among the Jews. Thus, in Debarim Rabba, sec. 1, fol. 248, it is said, "As the bee brings home honey to the owner, but stings others, so it is with the words of the Law." "They (the words of the Law) are a savor of life to Israel, but a savor of death to the people of this world."
Thus, in Taarieth, fol. 7, 1, "Whoever gives attention to the Law on account of the Law itself, to him it becomes an aromatic of life (סם חיים cam chayiym), but to him who does not attend to the Law on account of the Law itself, to him it becomes an aromatic of death (סם מות cam mowt) " - the idea of which is, that as medicines skillfully applied will heal, but if unskillfully applied will aggravate a disease, so it is with the words of the Law. Again, "The word of the Law which proceeds out of the mouth of God is an odor of life to the Israelites, but an odor of death to the Gentiles;" see Rosenmuller, and Bloomfield. The sense of the passage is plain, that the gospel, by the willful rejection of it, becomes the means of the increased guilt and condemnation of many of those who hear it.
And to the other - To those who embrace it, and are saved.
The savor of life - An odor, or fragrance producing life, or tending to life. It is a living, or life-giving savor. it is in itself grateful and pleasant.
Unto life - Tending to life; or adapted to produce life. The word "life" here, as often elsewhere, is used to denote salvation. It is:
(1) Life in opposition to the death in sin in which all are by nature;
(2) In opposition to death in the grave - as it leads to a glorious resurrection;
(3) In opposition to eternal death; to the second dying, as it leads to life and peace and joy in heaven; see the words "life" and "death" explained in the notes on Romans 6:23. The gospel is "the savor of life unto life," because:
(a) It is its nature and tendency to produce life and salvation. It is adapted to that; and is designed to that end.
(b) Because it actually results in the life and salvation of those who embrace it. It is the immediate and direct cause of their salvation; of their recovery from sin; of their glorious resurrection; of their eternal life in heaven.
And who is sufficient for these things? - For the arduous and responsible work of the ministry; for a work whose influence must be felt either in the eternal salvation, or the eternal ruin of the soul. Who is worthy of so important a charge? Who can undertake it without trembling? Who can engage in it without feeling that he is in himself unfit for it, and that he needs constant divine grace? This is an exclamation which anyone may well make in view of the responsibilites of the work of the ministry. And we may remark:
(1) If Paul felt this, assuredly others should feel it also. If, With all the divine assistance which he had; all the proofs of the unique presence of God, and all the mighty miraculous powers conferred on him, Paul had such a sense of unfitness for this great work, then a consciousness of unfitness, and a deep sense of responsibility, may well rest on all others.
(2) it was this sense of the responsibility of the ministry which contributed much to Paul's success. It was a conviction that the results of his work must be seen in the joys of heaven, or the woes of hell, that led him to look to God for aid, and to devote himself so entirely to his great work. People will not feel much concern unless they have a deep sense of the magnitude and responsibility of their work. People who feel as they should about the ministry will look to God for aid, and will feel that he alone can sustain them in their arduous duties.
on 2-corinthians 2 :16