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II Corinthians 10-13 Listen
Bold by letter, but not in person (II Corinthians 10:1-11)
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:
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.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
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;
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
7 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.
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:
9 That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.
10 For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.
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.
In verse 1, Paul compares his demeanor to that of Christ—"base" (Greek: "tapeinos" means humble). He explains in verses 2-3 that the world uses an incorrect measure of boldness when they simply make that determination based upon an overwhelming personal presence. "Bold by letter, but not in person" - that's apparently the accusation leveled against Paul by some in the Corinthian church (verse 10). Their expectations were that a person like Paul should have a dominating presence about him in public. But recall I Corinthians 2:4-5 (see notes), "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of mans 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."
Paul also points out that he doesn't use traditional weapons (i.e. fancy, powerful, persuasive speech); he relies on the power of God. You gotta love the metaphor of verse 4 when Paul says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;" The Greek word for "strong hold" (ochuroma) is the word used to describe a military fortress and was rarely used figuratively; this is its only usage in the New Testament. In other words, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, he is able to disassemble false doctrine i.e. the "imaginations" (Greek: logismos - logic or conventional reasoning) of verse 5.
Actually, Paul continues with this "warfare" metaphor down through verse 6.
Don't miss the point here! Paul wants them to realize that persuasive speaking does not equal sound doctrine. When the carnal mind reasons without direction from the Holy Spirit, false doctrine often is the result - especially when it is accompanied by persuasive speech. Sound doctrine brings "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." In other words, sound doctrine doesn't wander out of the bounds of the clear teaching of God's Word. We are also reminded of Hebrews 4:12 (see notes), "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." So...how does a Believer walk in victory day after day? As we embrace the Word of God as our weapon under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, daily victory is the norm - not the exception.
A familiar metaphor begs to be used here: "Don't judge a book by its cover." Paul says in verse 7, "Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?" It's all about substance - not personal appearance. His letters would seem to "terrify" (verse 9), but his presence not so much. So much is the contrast that he addresses the perception in verse 10 that while his letters are powerful, his physical attributes appear weak, and his speech appears "contemptible" i.e. worthless. Paul then explains in verse 11 that he practices what he preaches...or writes, and that consistency (whether in person or by letter) demonstrates the power of God.
Not a self promoter (II Corinthians 10:12-18)
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.
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.
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:
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,
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.
17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
In verse 12, Paul emphasizes that he's not into self promotion as others may be. He measures his success by the spreading of the Gospel message, pointing out that he was the first to take the message of Christ to the Corinthians, and he was pleased to be used as God's vessel to do so. Therein lies his authority to rebuke and counsel these Corinthians. In verse 18 he explains that it is God who does the rewarding when he says, "For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth."
Conversely, you can't help but notice the implications of these verses regarding others who promote themselves "without measure" (Greek: "ametros") What is the correct measure? That's found in verses 1-11 - results that yield changed lives. However, those who promote themselves "without measure" do so based upon eloquent oratories that stir their audience. They seek to make that their basis of comparison, "comparing themselves among themselves" (verse 12). Ministering the Gospel is the measuring stick (verses 14-16). Leave the commendations to God, while giving God the glory for one's accomplishments (verse 17).
1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
Paul begins his comments regarding false apostles by pointing out his special relationship with these Corinthian Believers. Paul uses a marriage metaphor in verse 2: His desire is to present these Corinthians to Christ as a "chaste" (Greek: hagnos - pure) virgin i.e. without having been corrupted by false doctrine. He had led them to Christ by presenting them with "the simplicity that is in Christ." However, just as Satan "beguiled" (Greek: "exapatao" means to mislead or deceive) Eve, he fears that these Corinthians are in danger of being deceived by those who preach "another Jesus."
Oh...don't let the word "jealous" bother you in that passage. The Greek word, "zelos" doesn't hold exactly the same connotation as does its English translation. It's meaning conveys a strong desire or fervent mind toward another. Paul means to demonstrate with this powerful word his intense desire that they should remain faithful to the truth of the Word of God. Paul expresses his concern in verse 4 that they might be deceived.
5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
6 But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.
7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?
8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.
9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.
10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.
11 Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.
12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.
Paul's concern here is that the gifted speakers are many times able to disguise their error with eloquent speaking and boastings of their accomplishments. ELOQUENT SPEAKING IS NOT AN INDICATOR OF SOUND DOCTRINE! Notice what Paul says about his own speaking abilities in verse 6, "But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things." The Greek word he uses for "rude" there is "idiotes," pronounced "id-ee-o´-tace." That's the word from which we get our English word "idiot." Let's face it; Paul did not consider himself to be a good orator. I'm reminded of the preaching experience Paul had in Acts 20:7-12 (see notes). In Troas, as Paul was preaching, a young man dozed off and fell to the ground from a third-story window...and lived to tell about it. Though not a powerful orator, Paul had this: he knew and experienced the power of God in his life.
In verse 5 Paul is probably speaking of the apostles back in Jerusalem when he refers to the "chiefest apostles." He is not accusing them of being these false apostles. However, he is pointing out that he (as well as they) is able to warn the Corinthians against going after these false apostles. In verses 7-12 Paul seems to indicate the lack of appreciation of Paul's ministry on the Corinthians' part because he did not require financing from them. He appears to be saying that people just don't tend to appreciate that for which they do not pay. As a matter of fact, to emphasize his point, he uses an extreme word "sulao" (translated "robbed") to describe the money he received from other churches while ministering to the Corinthians. While only used one time in the New Testament, ordinarily that word means to "take by force." I'm certain they got the picture from his statement there.
Incidentally, the reference to "Achaia" in verse 10 is a reference to the churches established in Greece.
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
Paul again makes reference to the notion that his writing abilities seem to surpass his speaking abilities. In this chapter he combats false teachers, whom he describes as Satan's people in verses 13-15. They look right and sound right, but they are not right. There's an important lesson here. All cults contain an element of truth. It is very, very, very, very important that Believers are not fooled into embracing a cult because of that element of truth rather than the complete truth. It doesn't matter how right it may seem; if it denies one or more of the fundamentals of our faith, it's wrong! These are non-negotiable principles from God's Word that may not be compromised.
What are the fundamentals of our faith?
Where does such a list as this come from? I'll admit, I've gleaned these fundamental doctrines from the body of scripture and simplified their statement as much as possible. There are many other very important doctrines, but these are the ones that are widely held to be essentials...deal breakers...fundamentals of our faith. It's difficult (if not impossible) to have spiritual fellowship with someone who denies one or more of these.
In verses 13-15 Paul blasts the false apostles - they look good, but they are evil. Sometimes we can be too careful in political correctness when it comes to identifying outright error in doctrine. Kind and gentle is nice when appropriate, but failure to identify real evil or false doctrine can lead to the spiritual destruction of many. Please indulge me while I repeat, ELOQUENT SPEAKING IS NOT AN INDICATOR OF SOUND DOCTRINE! Here's the scary part: These false teachers disguised themselves as "apostles of Christ" (verse 13) just as Satan is able to disguise himself as "an angel of light" verse 14. The scary result is in verse 15; these false apostles appear to many as "ministers of righteousness." Many politicians succeed in getting elected to office with a smiling face, fancy speech and good looks even though their values do not reflect those of their constituency. It's sad, but many people are easily fooled by cosmetics.
16 I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
17 That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
18 Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.
22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
Paul refers to his comments in this chapter with the same Greek word in verses 1, 17 and 21; that Greek word, "aphrosune" is translated "folly" in verse 1 and "foolishly" in verses 17 and 21. Interestingly, the word is only used one other time in the New Testament (Mark 7:22, see notes). While the word sometimes means speaking without knowledge as a fool does, it also was a first-century identifier of boasting - bragging on oneself. From the same root, "aphron" is used in verse 16 and 19 (translated "fool") to identify one who does this boasting. That's the context in which Paul is using it here.
There's another key usage of a Greek word that should be noted here - the Greek word translated "glory." When we speak of God's "glory" or "glorifying" God, these Greek words (the noun and the verb) come from the Greek root "dox." We get our English word "doxology" from this Greek root. That's not the word used here in this chapter; it is the verb "kauchaomai" and the noun "kauchesis." These words refer to boasting. These Corinthians had a tendency to go after teachers without substance who were eloquent at tooting their own horns. Since the Corinthians had fallen prey to such boasting, Paul takes this opportunity to set the record straight - the basis of his comment in verse 18, "Seeing that many glory [boast] after the flesh, I will glory [boast] also." So...we see some uncharacteristic-for-Paul speech in this chapter where he cites his own accomplishments, sacrifices and hardships in the course of his ministry.
As far as physical dominance, Paul points out in verse 21 that he is too weak for that. However, if you have respect for those who have gone through ministry hardships, Paul's resume is exhaustive in that arena. His background is Jewish - a plus (verse 22), and his hardships beginning with verse 23 through the end of the chapter are...well...seemingly unbearable for most...including 8 beatings and 3 shipwrecks. He even makes reference to his narrow escape in a basket over the city wall (verse 33) recorded by Luke in Acts 9:23-25 (see notes). In other words, these false apostles never paid the price that Paul did to spread the Gospel. Yet, to point all of this out to the Corinthians seems like the boasting of a fool to Paul...but obviously necessary.
1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
In the continuation of listing his apostolic credentials from the preceding chapter, Paul sees a need to cite an occasion that marks a turning point in his life - a miraculous direct revelation from God. Of course each direct revelation from God is miraculous, but the setting of this one is worth noting; it takes place in Heaven. Incidentally, the same Greek words defined in chapter 11, "glory" and "fool" (see above) are used here.
You may recall Acts 14:19 (see notes) regarding Paul, "And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead." What happened after that? He got up and walked away. When Paul says in verses 2-3 that he visited Heaven, but he does not know whether he was dead or in a trance, I think he's probably talking about this occasion in Acts 14:19 (see notes); the time frame fits. Anyway, he visited Heaven; how's that for apostolic credentials? And just to keep him from being overly boastful about his trip, he was given a "thorn in the flesh" to keep him humble. I think there is no question that this "thorn in the flesh" was an eye ailment. Paul tells the folks at the church in Galatia in Galatians 4:15 (see notes), "Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me." I can imagine that being pummeled in the head with large stones could very well cause a problem with one's eyes. Paul was told that rather than being healed, grace would be manifested in his life instead.
This is an instance of trial, not chastisement in Paul's life. For an explanation of trial, click below to read these two articles on the issue:
It is important to understand that trial is indicated here in verse 7 when Paul refers to "the messenger of Satan to buffet me." That's the nature of trial; it comes from Satan, but is monitored and tempered by God, as depicted in Job 1 (see notes) - our Biblical primer on the nature of trial. On the other hand, chastisement comes from God. If that's not clear to you, do go back and read the two articles listed above this paragraph. Notice verse 8; Paul requested relief from God on three separate occasions, but was told by God in verse 9, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." That just goes to show you; you don't know what environment will facilitate your greatest successes in ministry, but God does. In Paul's mind, great eyesight was important in his ministry. From God's perspective, real focus was only possible through his impaired eyesight. Paul understood and declares in verse 10, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christs sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
I should have taken your offerings (II Corinthians 12:11-21)
11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.
14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.
17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?
18 I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?
19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:
21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
The problems at Corinth were so severe, Paul had never wanted to receive financial support from them. This later became a sticky point with the congregation there. If he's an apostle, why is he not supported by the ministry at Corinth like an apostle? Paul expresses to them the reasons he did not accept financial support from them. He also defends his claim to apostleship in his previous letter to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 9 (see notes). He stresses that he's not in the ministry for the money. Perhaps those ministers who spend more time raising money than preaching the truth of the Word should read these comments of Paul. He wasn't opposed to taking money for his ministry, but he insisted that it be given by people who were right with God and in the proper spirit of giving (see notes on II Corinthians 9:6-15). Paul deals with an apparent accusation beginning in verse 16 - that he surreptitiously received money from them through messengers (i.e. Titus). So that there is no misunderstanding, he says in verse 19, "...but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying."
So...what will be the state of the church there when Paul finally is able to come? We see in verses 20-21 that his prognosis is not good. He fears that he will find them in the same spiritual state of disarray by which they had been characterized. He anticipates the necessity of a spiritual house cleaning when he arrives.
Some final warnings (II Corinthians 13:1-10)
1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
2 I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare:
3 Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.
4 For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.
5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
6 But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.
7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.
8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
9 For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.
10 Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.
Paul had been direct and severe in his correction of the Corinthians in the church there. There were some who questioned his authority to do so as we see in his words of verse 3, "Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me..." In verse 5 Paul asks them to examine their salvation experience. He points out that Believers have Christ dwelling within in the form of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 (see notes) says, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." So he asks them to examine the presence of the Holy Spirit in their own lives. If they had been saved, the Holy Spirit's presence would be there. Otherwise, they are "reprobates" (Greek: "adokimos" means unapproved or worthless).
You may recall from I Corinthians 3 (see notes) that Paul's estimation of their spiritual condition was that they were carnal Christians - Believers who were not allowing themselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit within. It appears that he throws in this challenge for self analysis of their spiritual condition before God to make a point. In I Corinthians 3 he was dealing with their divisions regarding spiritual leadership - basically the same problem they are still facing here some time later. In verse 6, Paul appeals to their good sense when he says, "But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates." In verse 7 we see that there was some mention from them that Paul was a "reprobate." When Paul prays for their "perfection" in verse 9, he uses the Greek noun "katartisis" - meaning "to furnish completely." He uses the verb form of that word down in verse 11 when he says, "Be perfect."
Final words of encouragement (II Corinthians 13:11-14)
11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
12 Greet one another with an holy kiss.
13 All the saints salute you.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
And finally, the admonition for harmonious Christian living among the Corinthians. Here are the ways Christians interact with one another when they are led by the Holy Spirit. Paul concludes this letter with these encouragements. So. how do you put into one sentence what Paul desired to see in those Corinthian Believers?
Here's your summary of desired attributes for those Believers in verse 11:
The result? "...and the God of love and peace shall be with you." Can't you just all get along?
Incidentally, verse 12 raises the interest of people regarding the nature of the "holy kiss." We don't know much about the exact procedure in the first century, but it is clear that it was a special greeting ordinarily reserved for family members. According to Charles Ryrie's reference Bible, "The 'holy kiss' was an expression of Christian love and was apparently restricted to one’s own sex." Let it suffice to say that one's greeting of a fellow Believer should be with the same affection as a family member.