A Current Bible Study:

II Corinthians Chapter 10

        In his second letter to the Church at Corinth the Apostle Paul exposes the nature of the church and ministry. Notice there isn't a church building on every street corner in this town. There is only one church at Corinth, ALL the believers in Christ. There is really only one church in your town too, friend. The various groups may not be acknowledging one another, but Paul is clear,  ALL the believers are all eternally bound together in the Spirit. All we have in this physical world is each other. We are God's precious gift to each other. Yet, for the most part, we remain divided. This makes us weaker. This makes our spiritual enemy (the Devil) stronger. In my community, the Lord has led me into worship services in the prison and the nursing home and I gradually discovered that there were many brothers and sisters in Christ that I didn't realize I had. This has made me stronger.
        Paul also reveals something important about Jesus. He's not here. We (the Church), through His Spirit and Power, must stand up in His place and do His work on earth today. Until He returns it will never be enough to simply praise Him, we (the Church) must become Him. The world needed Him 2000 years ago and He was extremely effective. Our world needs the Church today, and we, according to Paul, need each other. It can be very lonely being a believer in the divided Church. It can leave a person isolated and weak, for we can have no true fellowship with this world.

        Now let's get on to chapter 10. Paul has made the powerful truths mentioned above available to the Corinthians, and yet, this Church has severe problems. Paul has stood up to the problems and has shown great courage, but now something else has gone wrong.  The united Church at Corinth is kind of big, I guess. It's got a lot of people in it, and some see themselves as leaders. They also see Paul as a threat. They have not been called by God into leadership, and in fact in the next chapter the Scriptures will clearly associate then with Satan. They do what comes all too naturally to men: they attack. They start spreading two slanders about the Apostle: he's dull, and he doesn't really preach too well. This seems silly to us, but back then, it was having it's effect on the unity and well-being of the Church and Paul was forced to present a defense. That's what chapter 10 is about. It seems a depressing theme, and yet, as Paul stated in his letter to the Church at Rome:"All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (8:28)." There is good here for us because Paul's defense of his ministry at Corinth can help us to define our own ministry and calling today.

Verse 1 - "Now I Paul myself  beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. . ."

This may seem like a weak beginning, especially for a man who is being accused of not being aggressive enough. But right from the start Paul identifies with Christ. If people notice that Paul has a trait that Jesus had, so be it. That is God's will. Paul isn't gentle because he's a weak leader. You see, Church growth is as important to Him as Church maintenance. Now you can't attract new people to the gospel by being strict and bitter and aggressive. So Paul is, generally, gentle. We should be too. That's how the Church will grow. Check out what Paul said of himself in I Corinthians 9:22: "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." Paul loved the Church too much to just "run it." He weighs everything he does by its effect on those that are still lost. Does that ever come up in our thinking today? Believers are important, but we can get too preoccupied with ourselves. What about the lost?

Verses 2 - ". . .I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh."

Well, then, how do you make a gentle Apostle mad? Try to drag Christianity back down into the level of the flesh. They were criticizing Paul's flesh, but they had missed the whole point. Paul's power to lead was spiritual power. He was called and totally enabled by the Lord. Fleshy appearances and abilities can never be the issue in ministry. The Church is not the world, and we should praise God for that!
        Power in Christianity does not come from the Christian. It never has. It never will. That is the way of pride and, ultimately, death. This is where Paul's critics are trying to take him. But he says that victory is found only in knowing God through His Son and Word, and in personal surrender to His will.  Verse 3-6 - "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (in the flesh), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." And, by the way, some of those strongholds, like pride, are internal enemies, not external.
        The Apostle didn't need to go around acting bold and aggressive all the time. He was in touch with more power than anyone could ever possess on their own. Others in touch with this power themselves should have seen that. Unfortunately, his critics could not.

        In verses 7-12 the charges against his speaking ability are addressed. Well, I imagine, some folks just weren't that impressed with Paul as a preacher. After all, this type of thing had happened to our Lord right in his own home town (see Matthew 13:53). Maybe Paul was by their standards unpleasant to listen to. Maybe he was somehow physically deformed or disabled. Maybe he was ugly. (He'll always be beautiful in my eyes, I should mention, because it was while hearing a sermon twenty years ago about his conversion, as told in the Book of Acts, that God first opened my eyes to the true possibility of my own salvation.) I think probably some of them became bored because he was so spiritually advanced, and so focused on the gospel. That can turn people off in a hurry if they don't have, as Jesus said, "ears to hear."
        Paul says, "don't look at the outward appearances of a minister of the gospel." The calling is a matter of the heart. Paul didn't get to be an Apostle by winning some kind of talent show. God gave Paul a new heart at his conversion. The Lord was nurturing and mentoring Paul through his new life, and had granted him the opportunity to serve as a leader. When God opens an opportunity like that it is understood that the abilities needed for the position will ultimately be supplied directly by Him. I once, foolishly, promised to God my music talent shortly before I became a Christian. I soon discovered that God wasn't interested. God doesn't need me or you, friend. He loves us, and he wants us to love Him. So Paul says the only way to understand or evaluate his ministry is to identify with his love for God.

        Well, you will, I hope, read this whole chapter over, but I'm going to go on and summarize verses 13-16. They said he was too reserved, but here the apostle reveals a driving ambition. Not only was he sure the Lord had empowered him to minister to them, but Paul wants them to support his expansion of the Church: "To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. . ." Verse 16. They had wondered aloud if Paul was fit to lead them. In reality God had called him to do even more, to look beyond them. The Church wasn't born to serve itself, but to reach out beyond itself. Those who started this ministry turf war at Corinth had limited vision. They didn't really understand the full scope of Paul's calling. This may be why they found him to be lacking by their standards.
        Our God is not the author of confusion. If the Church and the ministers will all take orders from the same source, God will coordinate the territories and the efforts and the Church will prosper. In this way there will be no real competition among us.

        Paul will go on in the next chapters of this letter to share the glories and sufferings of his Christian life. But he never stoops to defending the flesh. Paul had been invited to a boasting contest, but for this entire defense he has spoken only of God's sufficiency. Beloved, if you and I are going to avoid being swallowed up by the hedonism of our day, we must follow Paul's example. Hear what he says:

Verses 17-18 - "He that glorieth (boasts), let him glory in (boast of) the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth."
May Jesus Christ richly bless you-JKD 6/26/00