on 2-corinthians 4 :2
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.
on 2-corinthians 4 :2
But have renounced - (ἀπειπάμεθα apeipametha from ἀπὸ apo and 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 (panourgia from πᾶν pan, "all," ἔργον ergon, "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:
on 2-corinthians 4 :2
4:2 But have renounced - Set at open defiance. The hidden things of shame - All things which men need to hide, or to be ashamed of. Not walking in craftiness - Using no disguise, subtlety, guile. Nor privily corrupting the pure word of God - By any additions or alterations, or by attempting to accommodate it to the taste of the hearers.