2 Corinthians 10
10:1-6 Paul Defends His Ministry
I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Paul had some detractors and opponents in Corinth. While he was away, they criticized him and tried to undermine his authority. From Paul’s response in this passage, we can ascertain some of the things they said about him.
Verse 1 implies they said he was humble when he was with them face to face, but bold when he was away and communicating by letter.
In Verse 2, he indicates they accused him of walking according to the flesh.
In verse 10, Paul says they say his bodily presence is weak and his speech of no account. He did not have an impressive presence or voice.
Paul did have great authority. He was appointed an apostle by Christ. He had the gifts and authority of an apostle, but he wanted to bring them into obedience by entreaty rather than by an exercise of his authority. In this passage, he makes the entreaty, but holds out the threat of his authority.
In verse 1, Paul said “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…”, reminding them that Jesus himself was humble, meek and gentle, so Paul should emulate, or copy, that attitude of Christ rather than being forceful all the time. He wanted them to become obedient and loyal to him without any show of boldness. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus was gentle and humble, but he did have a yoke.
Yet, Paul told the Corinthians he could become bold and confident if need be. He had the weapons necessary to overcome them. Those weapons were no physical weapons, however. He said they were not “weapons of the flesh”. He would not count on an imposing physical appearance or a sonorous voice or sharp logic.
Rather, Paul said his weapons were weapons of divine power.
There is a nice play on words in verse 3. He was accused of walking according to the flesh, which I take to mean with pomp and outward show. He said, instead, the he walked in the flesh, meaning he was confined to a body like the rest of us. But, although he walked in the flesh, he did not fight in the flesh, with weapons of the flesh, but weapons of the Holy Spirit, giving Paul divine power. This is spiritual warfare for Paul, and he sees his detractors and enemies, not as fleshly enemies, but spiritual enemies and allies of his greatest spiritual enemy, Satan.
Paul named his enemies here as:
1. In verse 4, strongholds;
2. In verse 5, arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God
3. In verse 5, thoughts that he would take captive to obey Christ; and
4. In verse 6, disobedience.
Strongholds, or fortresses, means anything that has glory or is exalted against God. Paul said he would destroy these.
All of these things are subject to Paul’s spiritual authority and power, and he knows he can conquer them if he has to. Jesus told the apostles, in Matthew 18:18, “…whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…” He gave them authority, when he sent them out, over demonic spirits and other things.
Paul exercised his authority on many occasions. A short tour of the book of Acts reveals this. Paul caused Bar-Jesus, a magician and Jewish false prophet in Cyprus to go blind in 13:11. He called him a son of the devil, the enemy of all righteousness, identifying the false prophet with the true enemy, Satan. In Iconium, he performed signs and wonders, according to 14:3. In Lystra, he made a crippled man walk (Acts 14:8-10).
In Philippi, Paul cast a demon out of a fortune teller (16:16-18). At Troas he raised Eutychus fro the dead (Acts 20). There were many other miraculous actions and events. So, Paul had apostolic, spiritual authority. He engaged in spiritual warfare.
Do you believe in spiritual warfare?
Jesus did. He said: "If by the finger of God I cast out demons, the kingdom of God has come upon you," (Luke 11:20).
Paul did. He said, "We are not contending against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers . . . against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
Peter said, "Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
James said, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
John said, "Every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already" (1 John 4:3).
The Bible portrays Satan as a real being who is an adversary of believers, as he has been an adversary of God.
Paul likened false prophets and apostles to demons. He said, in 2 Corinthians 11:13–15, "Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness."
So, if there is spiritual warfare and Satan is the enemy, what is Satan's aim and his strategies?
He is the father of lies. (John 8:44) His nature is falsehood! He only speaks the truth in order to deceive.
Therefore, his chief enemy is truth—he opposes God's word. (Genesis 3:1–5.)
He casts doubt on God's goodness. (Genesis 3:1–5) He destroys the obedience of faith. He opposes the truth reaching and converting people.
He hinders missions strategy. (1 Thessalonians 2:18)
He distorts and prevents effective gospel message. (Acts 13:8–9)
He avoids inner need by removing external trouble. (1 John 3:12)
He uses the fear of death to hold men in bondage. (Hebrews 2:15)
He causes people to stumble over bad Christian attitudes. (2 Timothy 2:24–26)
He blinds the minds of unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
He exploits a lack of understanding. (Matthew 13:19)
He suggests ways that don't involve suffering. (Matthew 16:23; Matthew 4:1–11)
He imitates religious roles. (2 Corinthians 11:14–15; Matthew 13:28, 30; Revelation 2:9)
He misuses Scripture. (Matthew 4:6)
He imitates signs and wonders. (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Mark 13:22)
He offers exotic occult alternatives. (Revelation 2:19–24
He attacks faith to destroy believers:
attacks faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 11:3)
brings persecution. (Revelation 2:9; 1 Peter 5:8; Luke 22:31)
brings sickness. (Job 1:11; 2:5; Luke 13:16)
dissension over doctrine and causes rifts. (Romans 16:17–20)
sexual allurements. (1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Timothy 5:15)
unresolved anger. (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 4:27)
pride. (1 Timothy 3:6)
Humility under God is the great devil resistance (James 4:6–7). It eliminates pride and self as weaknesses.
10:7-12 Face The Facts
7 Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ's, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ's, so also are we. 8 For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. 9 I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. 12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
Saying “he is Christ’s” here probably means, not faith in Christ, but Christ given authority. Some are disputing his authority, so he is defending himself. His boasting is for this purpose, to show that he has divinely given authority and the Lord gave it to him for building up the church, including the part at Corinth.
Paul does not want to compare himself to others. This is a mistake. He will measure himself against the standard of Christ, not his opponents in Corinth or other ministers.
10:13-18 Boasting In The Lord
13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
Even though Paul is an apostle, his ministry had limits. He was the missionary and apostle to the Gentiles. In verse 14, he pointed out that he was the first one to come all the way to Corinth to preach the gospel to them. He was also a pioneer missionary. He wanted to preach in places where no one else had preached or had influence. You remember he wanted to go all the way to Spain, which to him would have been the farthest west you could go.