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2Corinthians 10 (web)

Waging Spiritual Warfare

10:1 Now I Paul, myself, entreat you by the humility and gentleness of Christ;
I who in your presence am lowly among you, but being absent am of good courage toward you.
10:2 Yes, I beg you that I may not, when present,
show courage with the confidence with which I intend to be bold against some,
who consider us to be walking according to the flesh.
10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we don't wage war according to the flesh;
10:4 for the weapon are not of the flesh,
but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds,
10:5 throwing down imaginations and every high thing
that is exalted against the knowledge of God,
and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ;
10:6 and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience,
when your obedience will be made full.
10:7 Do you look at things only as they appear in front of your face?
If anyone trusts in himself that he is Christ's, let him consider this again with himself,
that, even as he is Christ's, so also we are Christ's.
10:8 For though I should boast somewhat abundantly concerning our authority,
(which the Lord gave for building you up, and not for casting you down)
I will not be disappointed,
10:9 that I may not seem as if I desire to terrify you by my letters.
10:10 For, "His letters," they say, "are weighty and strong,
but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is despised."
10:11 Let such a person consider this,
that what we are in word by letters when we are absent,
such are we also in deed when we are present.
10:12 For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves
with some of those who commend themselves.
But they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves,
and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding.
10:13 But we will not boast beyond proper limits,
but within the boundaries with which God appointed to us, which reach even to you.
10:14 For we don't stretch ourselves too much, as though we didn't reach to you.
For we came even as far as to you with the gospel of Christ,
10:15 not boasting beyond proper limits in other men's labors,
but having hope that as your faith grows,
we will be abundantly enlarged by you in our sphere of influence,
10:16 so as to preach the gospel even to the parts beyond you,
not to boast in what someone else has already done.
10:17 But "he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord."(Jer 9:23,24)
10:18 For it isn't he who commends himself who is approved,
but whom the Lord commends.

Discussion Questions

vs 1-2 In what ways is Paul's dealing with the Corinthians like parents dealing with children and in what ways did the Corinthians behave as children in these verses along with 9-11?
vs 3-5 What part does debating ideas have in the Christian life?
In a practical sense, how do Christians wage war differently than those in the world?
vs 6 What does he mean about punishing every act of disobedience when their obedience is complete?
When is someone's obedience complete? And how would you know it is?
vs 7 How do you know you belong to Christ? (Extensively covered in 1John)
How might we misevaluate people on the surface and have you ever done so?
vs 8 How did Paul's view of authority - even his own - differ from that of the world?
vs 12 If we are not to compare ourselves against one another, then upon what standard are we to evaluate ourselves?
vs 13-18 In what ways might Christians wrongly take credit for the work of others, or for work they have not done?
What is your realm of responsibility? (And therefore of your authority)


A Meek Appeal

2Cor 10:1,2  By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you— I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.

"timid" here is the world "lowly" or "humble" used for example in Mt 11:29 "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." But Paul was not being duplicitous anymore that Jesus was. For while Jesus was lowly, he was so with regards to the teachable. But notice even how Jesus responded to the hypocrisy of the religious elite in Matthew 23 and to those who were practicing greed and coveteousness in the temple.

"live by the standards of this world" is a correct interpretation but is literally, "as if we walked according to the flesh.", a phrase he uses in Romans chapter 8 verses 1 and 4. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Rom 8:1 and Peter also writes, "the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority" 2Peter 2:9-10a

In many cases walking according to the flesh is the same as living by the standards of the world with regards to its desires. "For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away" 1John 2:16-17a

In this case, much as in the book of Galatians, some reckoned Paul to be walking in the flesh with regards to pleasing man. But in Galatians he writes, "If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal 1:9,10

While are those ministers who pander to the flesh so to gain popularity, Paul was not one of them.

The War of the Worlds

2Cor 10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.

"Live in the world" is literally "walk in the flesh", the conjunction being "en", which is not the same as the phrase in verse 2 "walked according to the phrase", in which the conjunction is "kata" in Gk, indicating conformity. Thus Paul writes, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world" Rom 12:2a

The world wages war by firstly playing upon one's fleshly desires - one's prejudices, greed, covetousness. The world hates its enemies, but Christians are to love their enemies. Spiritual warfare is supposed to be beneficially to one's enemies, while the world wages war to destroy one's enemies. And secondly the weapons of warfare are of the flesh bringing physical harm. And in fact there have been those in the Christian community that wage war in the spiritual realm like Islamic terrorists, even burning at the stake those who oppose their interpretation of the Bible. But Christian warfare is in the realm of ideas.

The War of Ideas

2Cor 10:4,5 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Note that Paul fought not in the physical realm, but in the realm of ideas, taking every thought to the obedience of Christ. Words are the weapons of our warfare, the basis being "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Eph 6:17b But not in the sense of mindless indoctrination, as is the case in Islam for example. Rather reason is involved in the Christian faith. When one scruntizes ideas - comparing religions and philosophies, Christianity wins out.

Paul argued with people. Acts 18:4 "Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks." Though he avoided foolish and stupid arguments. (2Tim 2:23) Likewise Apollos "vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." Acts 18:28

We should have reasonable answers to the world's questions and responses to worldly viewpoints.

Maturity invokes Accountability

2Cor 10:6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

Which is to say that once they've matured they will be subject to greater scrutiny. And isn't that the case in life?  It's one thing for a child to misbehave, but it's a serious matter when an adult misbehaves as they set themselves up as the model to follow.

Such punishment is part of loving others as it is written, "the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?" Heb 12:6,7

What would constitutes the kind of punishment Paul is alluding to? One example is given in 2Cor 2:6 "The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him.", alluding to the man in 1Cor chapter 5 whom was handed over to Satan "so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." 1Cor 5:5

Look Deeper

2Cor 10:7,8 You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he.  For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.

There are those who allege to be Christians but who treat the Word of God as mere opinion. They view Paul's teachings as having no more weight their their own feelings. They view his authority as only in name. Today this is most revealing when alleged believers respond to Paul's gender specific commands. Paul's word is scripture. And those who don't like it either consider Paul to be wrong, or distort his writings to conform to however they feel, as Peter writes, "Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." 2Peter 3:15b-16 So Paul writings are classified as Scripture.

And as there were those who were competing with Paul for authority over the church, Paul invokes the status the Lord gave him as an apostle to disuade the church from putting their confidence in illegitimate authorities who were trying to tear down the church. So in practice we scrutinize all teachings and all teachers in light of Paul writings, along with the rest of scripture.

Scary Letters

2Cor 10:9-11 I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

Here you can see the contempt that some of the Corinthian "Christians" have for Paul. I was in a Bible study recently with alleged belivers like that where there were those who heard what the Bible said, but were unimpressed and reckoned what the Bible said amounted to nothing. But there are consequences to how we receive the Word of God.

It's interesting that Paul in actuality was no different in letter than in presence, and likewise with Jesus. And yet the written word is viewed as more weightier and forceful than the spoke word. I wonder if there's some principle there. I mean, afterall, God left us with the written word - the scriptures. There's something about having something in writing which gives it greater weight. A person may share his opinion in conversation, but if he makes it into a book, that somehow leaves a stronger impression.

But while writing is superior in expressing one's convictions, it lacks the interactive quality of sword sharpening sword conversations, which, as they didn't have email in those days, was limited to being there. That would also make lectures, as practiced by most churches, to be least effective, as they are spoken, but no feedback or discussion is allowed. And in fact that seems to be the case in my experience. In other words, sermons may be more effective if they are simply written down and handed out to the congregation to read rather than spoken.

These issues of forms of communication are minor matters. But if one really wants to unimpress people, they simply have to play the hypocrite - saying one thing and yet doing the opposite, in which case your word will pretty much amount to nothing. And this is what some alleged of Paul.

Don't Make More of Yourself Than You Should

2Cor 10:12-13 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.

Comparing oneself with oneself is like shooting an arrow and then drawing a target around whereever it lands. Why boast about hitting a target that you drew after you shot the arrow? Yet when asking the theistic non-Christian as to what they think they must do to go to heaven the response is often to live up to their own standards of goodness. Seldom do any consider that God's standards may be different than their standards, or even let God have a say in answering the question. And if an evil man feels that's he's morally better than another evil man, what good is that? In response to a man calling him "good". "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good— except God alone." Lk 18:19  For "there is no one who does good, not even one." Rom 3:12b

Yet there's a sort of elitism that characteristically infiltrates the ranks of institutional Christianity as history has shown. An elitism which is also reflected in the gospels by the hypocrisy of the religious elite of Jesus' day. Humility is a lost virtue among such people. While a celebrity at the time, John the Baptist said of Jesus, "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30 Yet characteristically when one becomes a celebrity, whether in the religious or secular realms, they lose their humilty. One way a person may regulate his pride is by restricting what he boasts of and the degree to which he boasts of it.

First concerning the object of our boasting Jeremiah writes, "This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD." Jer 9;23,24 

But concerning the regulation of our boasting, in his sermon on the mount Jesus advocated such things as fasting, prayer, and charity be done in secret, and that boasting of such results in some loss of reward for such service. Here Paul speaks of limiting his boasting to the field God has assigned to them, which was namely his influence on the Corinthian Christians in this case.

What do you find yourself boasting about and what limits have you placed on such boast so to regulate your pride inherent in your sinful nature?

Don't Take Credit for Other People's Work

2Cor 10:14-18  We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man’s territory.  But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Taking credit for other people's work is a form of lying and stealing. In fact in Acts 5 God killed a Christian couple for boasting about doing more for the church than they actually were doing. But you can enter into other people's labor. Jesus said to his disciples, "I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor." John 4:38 Yet often Christians boast of their leading someone to Christ while ignoring the hard work others have done to that end.

But with regards to maturity, what is implied here is that spiritual maturity will result is more participation. In fact that's a measure of maturity, as it is fruitfulness. Just as it is expected that when people get older they get married and have kids, so also when Christians mature they participate in ministry bearing fruit to God. "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God." Rom 7:4 So stake out some territory and get to work!

Again the quote in verse 17 is likely an allusion to Jer 9:23,24 which I mentioned previously. He's mentioned it also in his first letter to them. "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 1Cor 1:30,31 And Paul sets the example saying, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Gal 6:14

As for commending oneself, proverbs says, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips." Prov 27:2

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Edition: Aug 15,2020