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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 10

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Paul Defends His Ministry

The Apostle Paul makes a dramatic change in the subject matter and in the tone of his writing, beginning with chapter ten and going through the remainder of this letter. In chapters eight and nine, he addresses the issue of generous giving so they will be able to assist needy Christians. In the last four chapters, however, he defends his ministry and affirms his apostolic authority. Affirming his authority as an apostle is essential because his teaching of the gospel of Christ is in question. Some false teachers, who are leaders of the Corinthian congregation, have been undermining his authority, prompting the Corinthian Christians to neglect their previous promises, made more than a year earlier, to assist the poor.

Now, in chapter ten, the Apostle Paul decides it is time to defend his apostleship once and for all and to take these adversaries— these false teachers—to task and expose them for who they really are. Paul has been extremely patient with them. He has appeared humble in his writings and has been gentle with them, instead of being excessively harsh. He has given them ample time to repent, just as most of the other Christians in Corinth have. Unfortunately, the false teachers have misunderstood Paul’s gentleness and have taken his patience as a sign of cowardice and timidity; therefore, they say he could not be a trusted, true apostle of Christ.

In the next few chapters, however, since they have not repented and are, in fact, still making false accusations about him, Paul becomes confrontational even to the point of accusing them of being false teachers masquerading as apostles of Christ who are preaching a different gospel. In other words, Paul is asserting his authority as an apostle and exposing the false teachers, warning them that if they do not change their sinful actions before he returns to Corinth, he will deal harshly with them. Paul never delights in being severe, so he begs them to change.

Verse 1

Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

Many writers assume these last four chapters were not originally part of the letter that we call 2 Corinthians, but rather that they form a different letter altogether, one written probably before 2 Corinthians. Because of the harshness of these four chapters, it is often believed that the message here makes up the "painful letter" or "the severe letter" between what is known as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. This "painful letter" assumption is based on Paul’s own words:

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you (1 Corinthians 2:4).

There appears to be no validity for anyone to assume that these last four chapters are not part of Second Corinthians. Paul does, in fact, become tougher in his tone, not because it is a different letter but because he is nearing the end of this letter and intends to visit Corinth soon; therefore, he pleads with these Christians, who have not repented, to change before he arrives. He wants to return to Corinth with peace and joy and not to have to punish any of them. He makes reference to this fact in a previous letter, asking the questions: "What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4:21 NKJV).

(See more explanation of a possible "painful letter" or "severe letter" in the "Introduction" under the heading "The Apostle Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians.")

Now I Paul myself: Paul begins this new subject matter with this powerful, firm, and indisputable expression: "I Paul myself" to emphasize a tone of authority. Each word referencing him is stronger than the previous word. He uses three expressions of identification to emphasize that the hard message that is about to be written is from him and not from a fellow traveler. These false teachers have accused Paul of being timid, and now he is about to be harsh because he wants them to understand clearly that he is the author and that he will be even harsher when he comes to Corinth in person.

Paul uses these three words to identify himself because up to this point he has used the plural pronoun "we," referring to himself and his fellow travelers, such as Sosthenes (1 Corinthians 1:1) and Timothy (2 Corinthians 1:1). He has furthermore demonstrated tenderness up to this point in the letter. Because of the harshness of these last four chapters, he emphasizes that he is writing these words personally because the false teachers have challenged his apostolic authority.

beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ: Paul’s adversaries have impugned his integrity, that is, they have accused him of being weak when he is present with them. He explains the reason by saying I "beseech" (parakaleo) you, meaning it is his "desire" (Strong 3870). He wants to teach them with the same spirit that Jesus used, that is, to teach with "meekness" (praotes), meaning "humility" (Strong 4236), and with "gentleness" (epieikeia), meaning "patience" (Bratcher 104). Paul wants to imitate Jesus in his style of teaching when he comes to Corinth; therefore, he begs these impenitent Christians to repent. While he prefers to imitate the humility of Jesus, Paul is aware there were other times that necessitated Jesus to be bold, as was witnessed by the money changers in the temple; therefore, when Paul goes to Corinth, he is confidently prepared to be particularly bold in his teaching toward those who fail to repent. It appears Paul believes that he has been patient long enough with these false teachers, and now he is giving them one last opportunity to change before he exercises his apostolic authority. Paul is more concerned about his converts who have returned to Jesus and repented of their sins than about those who refuse to repent. Paul recognizes that it is time for him to demonstrate toughness to ensure the salvation of the Christians who have repented.

who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: Paul is not saying he is "base" among the Corinthians but bold at other times. He is always willing to be bold and stern when necessary. Here, he is ironically echoing the slanderous remarks of which his enemies have falsely accused him. They have misinterpreted his actions of being "bold" (tharrheo), meaning to "have confidence" (Strong 2292) sometimes, and "base" (tapeinos), that is, "humble" (Strong 5011) at other times. They have accused him of being bold when he writes letters and is a long distant away from Corinth; but they suggest he is a coward because he lacks authority and courage to be bold when he is with them in person. Hughes explains clearly:

As is common with slanderers, Paul’s opponents had taken a truth and distorted it into an untruth: in his earlier letter he had reminded the Corinthians that he had come with the gospel to them "in weakness and in fear and in much trembling," but that in striking contrast to his weakness was the amazing power of God demonstrated through his preaching of the crucified Saviour…He had not forced himself on them with bovine aggressiveness (347).

Verse 2

But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some: The word "beseech" (deomai) used here is a stronger word than the word translated "beseech" (parakaleo) in verse 1. In verse 1, Paul has reference to his "desire"; however, in verse 2, "beseech" (deomai) means "to beg" (Strong 1189). Paul, therefore, begs his adversaries in Corinth to change their attitude toward him and toward the gospel of Christ and to repent of their sins. Because of their sinful behavior, Paul is expecting to be compelled to be "bold…with confidence." He expects to be courageously bold in the sense of being "stern" (Bratcher 104), meaning severe, toward the evil Christian leaders who have refused to repent. Paul looks forward to going to Corinth, for he loves all of these Christians; but being harsh against any of them is not what he wants to do when he arrives in Corinth. On the other hand, he is expecting to be bold, and he is prepared to demonstrate that he is capable of being just as bold and harsh when he is present with them as he has been in some parts of his letters to them. Paul is prepared to prove wrong those who accuse him of being a coward by being meek and gentle in person, but speaking boldly when he is away from them (see verse 1).

which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh: Paul is specifically speaking to the Christians who have falsely accused him, saying he "walked according to the flesh." Such a man would not be one of spiritual authority; therefore, such a man’s teaching would be untrustworthy. The word "walked" (peripateo) means some believe Paul "live(s) (Strong 4043) "according to the flesh." The word "flesh" (sarx) means the impenitent Christians whom Paul is begging to change have falsely accused him of living "carnally" (Strong 4561) instead of living spiritually. To live carnally means to "act from worldly motives" or "act from purely human motives," indicating to "act as a non-Christian" (Bratcher 104). These types of actions, of course, do not describe the truth about the Apostle Paul. In a previous letter to Corinth, Paul writes:

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:3-5 NKJV).

Verse 3

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

The clear implication of these words is that every Christian is in a spiritual battle. We are in a battle for the hearts and minds of God’s children; therefore, it is crucial that we understand the weapons that will lead us to a spiritual victory.

For though we walk in the flesh: By the word "flesh" (sarx), Paul means he is a "human being" (Strong 4561). He exists in this world with flesh just as every other human being. The "flesh" used here is the same as the "mortal flesh" in chapter four, verse 11, referring to our frail earthen vessel or our "earthly house of this tabernacle" (5:1).

we do not war after the flesh: The word "war" (strateuomai) is used in a figurative sense and means "to contend with carnal inclination" (Strong 4754). In other words, how do Christians living in the flesh fight the evils of sin? Even though Paul, as all humans, lives with a mortal flesh, as Christians we do not "war after the flesh," indicating that because we are children of God, we must not be led by fleshly lusts. The phrase "do not war after the flesh" is not a simple declarative statement but is instead an inspired command. The command is: Do not use worldly tactics when we fight. While all humans do things or avoid things in human flesh, it is to be understood that these are only physical things—not spiritual actions. When Christians engage in Christian warfare, it is done by following the instruction of God’s word— not by following man and not from unChristian motives. The Christian warfare is not fought with weapons of the world because it is not a physical war. Paul explains in detail the weapons used by Christians in his letter to the Ephesians, instructing Christians to:

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:11-17 NKJV).

The Bible is the only weapon Christians need in the spiritual wars of this life because the Bible gives us all inspired instructions needed to overcome evildoers.

Verse 4

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal: The word "carnal" (sarkikos) is from a Greek adjective describing a type of "weapon(s)." In verses 2 and 3, Paul says Christians are not to use weapons of the "flesh" or "fleshly" (Strong 4559) "weapons" (hoplon), meaning fleshly "armour (or) instrument" (Strong 3696).

but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;): This parenthetical expression shows Paul is not equipped with fleshly motivations; therefore, he does not use weapons of fleshly strife. The weapons Christians use are "mighty" (dunatos), that is, they are "strong" (Strong 1415) because they are the weapons given from God. Since these weapons come from God, they are capable of "pulling down of strong holds." In worldly battles, "strong holds" are "strongly armed camps" (Bratcher 105); however, the "strong holds" Paul and all Christians are warring against are the strongholds of evil and sin. The satanic forces against which Christians must fight are not forces of flesh and blood; therefore, to attempt to overcome them with weapons of the flesh would only enhance sin—not do away with it. Through God’s powerful weapons, Christians are capable of "pulling down" (kathairesis), indicating to bring to "extinction (or) destruction" (Strong 2506), all the forces of evil such as false teachers. God’s weapons are sound scriptural teaching found in His word. God’s weapons to fight spiritual battles are:

1. Truth, that is the word of God. Creed books nor any other sources written by man are able to pull down the strongholds of sin; therefore, they are not biblically authorized.

2. Love. In our spiritual battles, love is a powerful weapon that keeps Christians from following the paths of man. Paul explains that the strength of this weapon is speaking the truth in love:

3. For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no

4. more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:12-16).

5. Faith is also a strong spiritual weapon during spiritual wars. Faith, after all, is the recognition that God is always in control. He is the commander, He is the leader, He gives us the instructions to follow.

6. Prayer is another spiritual weapon found in God’s word that every Christian must utilize. Pray that as we teach the truth of God’s word, others will accept and practice what it says.

7. The use of any weapons other than God’s word in spiritual wars will drive God away from the battle. Man’s weapons will create sin—not destroy it; however, by using God’s weapons (His word), the church is assured of victory. With God’s weapons, Christians are able overcome sin and, therefore, will be able to say what Paul said at the end of his life:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Verse 5

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Casting down imaginations: In this verse, Paul specifically describes the strongholds mentioned in verse 4 that must be destroyed. The words "Casting down" (kathaireo) mean "destroy" (Strong 2507), and the word "imaginations" (logismos) means "thought" (Strong 3053). The message is that destroying all things that hinder the gospel of Jesus Christ is the essential lifework of every Christian. Christians must constantly fight to destroy the "imaginations," that is, the thoughts and motives of false teachers. A man’s thoughts and motives determine his conduct; therefore, his positions on religious matters will be known by his actions. No heart is actually pure in the sight of God until all thoughts and desires of the heart are brought into subjection to God’s word. Paul says the Christian’s role is to destroy the thoughts of false teachers and replace those thoughts with the mind of Christ—then the wisdom of God can be known. In a previous letter, Paul wrote:

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (these are their strongholds wmb) But we (Christians wmb) preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).

and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God: Christians must also cast down, that is, destroy "every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God." The purpose of teaching the powerful word of God is to abolish the inadequate perception of the thoughts of man and everything that stands against the knowledge of God’s inspired word. When man in his own wisdom exalts himself and teaches his personal vain reasoning instead of the scriptures, he is attempting to extinguish the infallible teaching of Jesus Christ; therefore, as Christians we must understand and utterly destroy all false teaching. In his previous letter, Paul wrote, "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise" (1 Corinthians 3:18).

and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ: In this clause, Paul explains the purpose of destroying the false wisdom and teachings of man. The instruction to "bring(ing) into captivity" (aichmalotizo) means that Christians are to recognize the false teacher and to "bring under control" (Thayer 18) his thoughts. The purpose is not to bring them under control to punish them, but instead, to bring them under control to lead them "to the obedience of Christ."

Evil, sinful thoughts will sometimes fill our minds and lead us into sin when we yield to temptations; however, by constant study of God’s word (our spiritual weapon) the thoughts that enter our heart can be destroyed and lead us back to the will of Christ. Through continuous study of God’s word, a Christian can train his heart and mind to accept only the will of God.

Verse 6

And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

Paul is here preparing the Corinthians for actions he will have to take if "disobedience" is not eliminated and replaced with full "obedience." The word "readiness" (hetoimos) means "prepared" (Strong 2092) to "revenge" (ekdikeo) or to "retaliate (and) punish" (Strong 1556) all disobedience; to do so, of course, we must fill our minds only with the word of God. If we do not recognize disobedience, we cannot possibly fight against it.

The need for every Christian’s mind to be filled only with God’s word is that we might have "a readiness to revenge all disobedience." To lead others to a restoration of the truth of God’s word, however, Paul says that their "obedience is fulfilled." The word "fulfilled" (pleroo) means perfect" (Strong 4137).

In other words, we must be perfect in our own obedience. This plea is Paul’s desire for these few impenitent Christians in Corinth to repent. He begs them to return to the "obedience" of the teachings of Jesus so that he will not have to "revenge all disobedience."

In this passage Paul leaves an example that is to be imitated by Christians today. We must make attempts to help the disobedient give up their sins and become obedient servants. If they fail to do so within an acceptable period of time, steps the church must take are outlined in other passages.

Verse 7

Looking on Outward Appearance

Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? if any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.

Do ye look on things after the outward appearance: Paul here encourages the Corinthians to look into their own hearts and remember their past experience with him when he lived among them. If they will do so, they will know that they can, in fact, trust him and his teaching. At the same time, he strongly warns these same Christians not to be deceived by looking only at the outward appearance of the false teachers, that is, do not just take them at their word. By the word "look" (blepo), Paul is not suggesting to see with human eyes; but, instead, he means "perceive (or) regard" (Strong 991) the "outward appearance" (prosopon). Do not regard only the "surface" (Strong 4383) of these false teachers.

if any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s: The word "if" does not express doubt but is actually stating a fact. Paul is talking about the false teachers—some of whom have falsely claimed to be apostles. He emphasizes that they "trust" (peitho) or "have confidence" (Thayer 497-2-3982) in themselves just because they say they are in Christ, that is, that they are Christ’s apostles. Other Christians in Corinth are merely accepting the idea that these false apostles are true apostles of Jesus just because they are looking on the outward appearance. In other words, Paul’s message is that just because people claim to be apostles does not mean they are. They, in fact, do not have a special relationship to Christ that would give them more authority than other Christians—including Paul. Later in this letter, Paul addresses this issue stronger by emphatically stating, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13).

even so are we Christ’s: This expression does not suggest that Paul is admitting to be merely an equal with these false apostles. He has previously advanced the fact that he is a true apostle:

Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:1-2).

Furthermore, Paul has proved himself to be a true apostle by the working of miracles as well as by the good works he has done in other congregations; therefore, he emphatically states "even so are we Christ’s," that is, he is Christ’s apostle and has proof of this fact while the false apostles in Corinth only claim to be apostles, but they are not.

Verse 8

For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:

For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority: The word "boast" (kauchaomai) is not used here in a negative way, as boasting is sometimes used; instead, it means "rejoice" (Strong 2744). Therefore, Paul is saying, "though I should rejoice somewhat more of our authority…." He never boasts in a negative way as if he is self-centered. Instead, all of his boasting was intended for the furtherance of the gospel of Christ. Just as in the previous verses, Paul says that his boasting of the Corinthian Christians to those in Macedonia has proved to be true; likewise, his boasting that his authority comes from the Lord has also been proved to be true.

which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: The fundamental reason for Paul’s rejoicing over his authority is that his authority as an apostle was given to him by the Lord. On the day Jesus appeared to Saul as he was on the way to Damascus, the Lord appointed him to be His servant. He instructed Paul to "Rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee" (Acts 26:16). The Lord gave him this authority for "edification" (oikodome) for the purpose of providing true instructions or "confirmation" (Strong 3619) to all Christians. God’s word is always intended to build up Christians and not to tear them down. When the Lord’s words are delivered, one of two things will happen: either the word will edify the hearer or lead to his "destruction" (kathairesis), meaning the Lord’s word can possibly lead to one’s "extinction" (Strong 2506). It can prove the teaching of the false teachers to be erroneous. The intent of the Lord’s words taught by Paul is for constructive purposes, such as edification. Its intent is for destructive purposes, such as making these people "ashamed" (aischuno) or "disgrace(d)" (Strong 153). It is true that God’s word can destroy false teaching, but it is intended to be a positive blessing.

Verse 9

That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.

It appears that Paul’s adversaries in Corinth are slandering him in an attempt to damage his authority. They are teaching other Christians that he is writing his letters in a harsh tone and in such a bold way just to frighten them. They claim that in reality he does not have the power to carry out his threats even if he does come to Corinth. The word "seem" (dokeo) means to "think" (Strong 1380); therefore, Paul is saying that he does not mean to "terrify" (ekphobeo) or "frighten (you) utterly" (Strong 1629) by my "letters" (epistole). His intent is not just to frighten them by his "written message(s)" (Strong 1992). He is, in fact, warning the Corinthian Christians who have not repented of their sins that all of his letters (those recorded in the Scriptures as well as those that are not recorded) will expose their false teaching. He does want them to understand the power of God’s word as he teaches it, but his intent is not to frighten. As stated in verse 8, God’s word, as delivered by Paul, is not only for the intent of destroying their false teaching, but specifically it is for the purpose of edifying and encouraging them.

Verse 10

For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.

For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful: The Corinthians’ description of Paul’s letters is 100 percent accurate. His letters are, in fact, "weighty" (barus), meaning they are "grievous" (Strong 926). They are serious, and his terminology at times is indeed "stern" (Bratcher 108). The messages of his letters also are said to be "powerful" (ischuros) or "demanding" (Bratcher 108). The false teachers, however, are not admiring Paul because of his writing style. While the false teachers may appear to be complimentary about his letters, they are actually using them against him when they compare how he says things in these letters while he is away from them and how he says things when he is present with them. Evidently, they are also saying he is bold in his speech when he is not present with them but "weak" when he is present with them.

but his bodily presence is weak: These types of false accusations against Paul are obviously a great concern to him because several times in this letter he alludes to similar false claims (see 1:17; 3:1; 5:12-13). The difference here is that Paul appears to be quoting his adversaries’ actual words as they try to degrade him. They are being critical of him, insinuating that he cannot be trusted for two reasons; consequently, the Corinthian Christians should reject his messages.

First, they say "his bodily presence is weak"; thus, they are proposing that his written messages are not to be trusted because they claim he is physically unimpressive. It appears they have reference to Paul’s physical infirmities such as his limited eyesight. Paul’s presence is described as "weak" (asthenes), or "feeble" (Strong 772) and unimpressive. Paul addresses this same bodily infirmity in his letter to the Christians in Galatia:

Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus (Galatians 4:13-14).

and his speech contemptible: Paul’s enemies also degraded him because of his apparent poor speaking abilities. Paul is an educated man, having studied under the guidance of Gamaliel, the chief rabbi of that time. We know also he is educated in God’s word because Jesus has taught him doctrines that never before had been revealed; therefore, he is not ignorant in spiritual matters. Even so, he does not consider himself to be an eloquent speaker. In a previous letter, he writes:

I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God…And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

In chapter eleven of this letter, Paul makes reference to the lack of his speaking abilities when he says, "Though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge…" (11:6).

The fact is the people whom Paul converted were not converted by powerful and articulate speeches but by his message. Thus, the false teachers are attempting to weaken Paul’s message by attacking his ability as a public speaker, saying his "speech (is) contemptible." The word "contemptible" (exoutheneo) means that his message is "despise(d) (or) least esteemed" (Strong 1848).

Because of his physical frailties, Paul is apparently not a powerful speaker to the point that his oration itself demands attention. He probably speaks slowly and calmly, and his enemies use that style as a sign of his being a coward.

Verse 11

Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.

Let such an one think this: Since Paul’s adversaries attempt to convince other Christians not to trust his messages because he is gentle in speech while he is with them but bold in his letters, Paul encourages them to "think" for themselves. The word "think" (logizomai) means to "consider, (to) take account or to meditate on" (Thayer 379). He wants them to understand what to expect when he arrives in Corinth this time.

that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present: Paul sends a warning to the Corinthians: it may have been true that in the past he generally imitated the "gentleness of Christ" (10:1) in their presence but has been "bold" in his letters while away from them; but they can expect a change in him when he comes again. He says "think," that is, meditate on this promise now: when I return to Corinth, I am prepared to be just as bold in my speech as I am in my letters. Simply put, he is saying, "his actions (will) match his words" (Bratcher 109). Paul does not want the Corinthians to be surprised. His warning is clear: When he comes to Corinth, his attitude and actions will be just as decisive and serious when he is dealing with the troubles in Corinth as he is when he writes about them.

Verse 12

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: Paul is speaking sarcastically about his adversaries, the false apostles. It is with substantial mockery that he states that he "dare" (tolmao) not, that is, that he "dread…through fear" (Thayer 627) to think he measures up to their standards. Paul uses the same sarcasm when he says he dare not "compare" (sugkrino) himself or suggest a "resemblance" (Strong 4793) to the false apostles. Paul is saying that when he compares himself to the false apostles, he does not belong in the same classification with them. Paul is a true apostle of Jesus; therefore, he is, in fact, superior to any of the false apostles regarding the knowledge of God’s message.

but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves: Paul explains the purpose of the sarcastic statements when he speaks about them: "they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves." Paul uses the word "measuring" (metreo) in a figurative way, meaning his adversaries "estimate" (Strong 3354) their own perfection, setting themselves up as a standard of excellence for all others. They look at their lives and traits as being perfect—the standard of excellence to which all others must compare themselves. They have confidence in their own ability to invent ways that will please God by pleasing themselves and allow what pleases them to be the standard for others to imitate. Lipscomb correctly says:

Men who commend themselves, having nothing but themselves with which to measure themselves, can only end by boasting immeasurably; and Paul frankly confesses, that he has not the courage to join such a company (134).

are not wise: Paul says these false apostles are not wise—they are arrogant when they examine their own lives and make up guidelines all others should follow if they want to please God. Pleasing God is never accomplished by mandating people to imitate our lives—pleasing God comes from imitating Jesus. The false apostles are actually guilty of what they previously accused Paul of being guilty of regarding self-commendation. He addresses this false report, saying, "Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?" (3:1).

Verse 13

But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.

But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us: Paul’s message here is twofold. He is speaking both about the physical location of Corinth and also about the spiritual actions required of Christians as instructed by God. These false teachers, who have disturbed the peace in the Corinthian church, have no business being there. They are actually intruders in the Corinthian church attempting to usurp Paul’s apostolic authority. They are suggesting they founded the church in Corinth, not Paul; therefore, they deny Paul’s teaching as being from God and teach their own messages that please them. Paul teaches here that he does not invade another man’s sphere of labor as they do.

In contrast to Paul’s adversaries, who teach that God’s will is based on what personally pleases them, Paul clarifies that he and all true apostles and all faithful Christians limit their teaching to the instructions given "according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed."

The word "according" (kata) means "in proportion to" (Thayer 328) and "rule" (kanon) means "boundary" (Strong 2583); therefore, Paul emphatically states that God gives spiritual boundaries for His children. Faithful Christians do not limit what they can do or not do based on their personal preferences; but instead, true children of God base their action upon what God has set for them, and they must never go beyond those limits.

a measure to reach even unto you: This statement is given as a rebuke to the false teachers in Corinth who have refused to repent. Paul emphasizes that the "measure" (metron), meaning the "limited portion" (Strong 3358), these Corinthians are allowed to teach are the same limited portion assigned by God for every Christian as mentioned above. The limits that Paul insists upon are the ones set by God not by man.

Verse 14

For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:

Paul emphasizes that he does not "stretch" (huperekteino), meaning he does not "extend … beyond" (Strong 5239) the "measure" (metron) or the "limited portion" (Strong 3358) allotted him by God. God has guided Paul to where he should preach and to whom he should preach. For example, God guided him to go to Corinth; therefore, he, in going to Corinth, did not go beyond what God wanted him to do. Likewise, God gave Paul the message he was to teach. He could not teach his own message, but God’s message, regarding Jesus. Paul’s message here is that he "reached" (ephikneomai), meaning "to arrive" (Strong 2185) in Corinth to teach the salvation of God through Jesus.

Verse 15

Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,

Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours: Unlike his opponents, Paul does not claim the work of others as his own. The Corinthian church is, in fact, Paul’s work in that he established the congregation. He confirms this fact in a previous letter: "Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (1 Corinthians 4:15). The false apostles in Corinth arrogantly claim credit for the church in Corinth, even though they are teaching them false doctrine.

but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly: Paul’s hope is to strengthen and stabilize the Christians in Corinth and then be allowed to "enlarge" (megaluno) or "magnify" (Strong 3170) his work by preaching Jesus in other areas. He knows, however, that it is important for the spiritual health of the Corinthian church to continue working closely with them for their "faith (to be) increased." He can reach this goal only after the dispute is settled. In fact, the false teachers in Corinth have been a hindrance to Paul’s moving to another area to spread the gospel.

Verse 16

To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand.

Paul’s hope is that all the Corinthians’ faith would be strengthened, thus enabling him to go "preach the gospel in the regions beyond" them. It appears he prefers, with God’s blessing, to go to areas where the gospel has not been preached. His preference is not "to boast in another man’s line of things," that is, not to go to areas already established by others. He wants to spread the good news about Jesus in areas that do not know Jesus.

Verse 17

But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

In this letter, Paul has repeatedly had to prove the authenticity of his apostleship because his adversaries have claimed he is not a true apostle. Now, while it is necessary for him to prove his apostleship, Paul seems to be aware of the danger of causing others to misunderstand the intent of this message. He knows the more he talks about himself the more likely others may misunderstand and assume he is putting himself above Christ. Therefore, Paul frequently says things to build up Christ, such as in this verse: "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." He makes this same statement in his previous letter: "According as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31). Obviously, Paul’s message is that, in and of himself, man can find no justification for any work in which he has been involved. He is well aware of the fact that any accomplishment that comes through his preaching has not been accomplished by his message, but it is attributed to the grace of God alone.

Verse 18

For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

The only person who pleases God is the one who is "approved" (dokinos) or "tried" (Strong 1384) by the Lord. When man is teaching a new message and commends himself for coming up with the message, he is not to be trusted. The only teacher who can be trusted is one who is approved by God; he is one "whom the Lord commendeth" for teaching His message instead of man’s message. Paul speaks of this fact in a previous letter: "There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you" (1 Corinthians 11:19). Therefore, Paul is careful not to commend himself nor any other man, but Jesus.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/2-corinthians-10.html. 1993-2022.
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