Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 10:1 - 10:18

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Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 10:1 - 10:18

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With this chapter begins the last great section of the Epistle (verse 1-2Co 13:10), which contains an impassioned vindication of the apostle's position as compared with that of his opponents. It is so much more vehement and severe than the former part of the Epistle, and the whole style and tone of the Epistle at this point change so completely, that many have supposed that this is in reality another letter, and some have even identified it with the letter alluded to in 2Co_7:8-12. There is no trace of external evidence in favour of this view. It is much more probable that St. Paul would here have ended his letter but for fresh information given him by Titus, or the arrival of some new messenger from Corinth, from whom he learnt the bitter way in which his enemies spoke of him. The most flagrant offender seems to have been one teacher from Jerusalem (verses 7, 10, 11, 12, 18; 2Co_11:4). This man and his abettors and other party opponents spoke of St. Paul as mean in aspect (verses 1, 10), untutored in speech (2Co_11:6), bold at a distance and cowardly when present, a man of mere human motives (verse 2), and not quite sound in intellect (2Co_11:16, 2Co_11:17, 2Co_11:19). They had been introducing new teaching (2Co_11:4), and had shown themselves boastful (verse 7), insolent, rapacious, violent (2Co_11:20, 2Co_11:21), intrusive (verse 15), and generally dangerous in their influence (2Co_11:3), which had succeeded in alienating from St. Paul the minds of many (verse 18; 2Co_11:8, 2Co_11:20; 2Co_12:13, 2Co_12:14). Such accusations and such conduct now roused the deep indignation of St. Paul, and his Apologia pro vita sua is mainly given in these chapters.

Plunging at once into his subject, with a solemn appeal, he declares his apostolic power (verses 1-8), and that he will exercise it in person as well as by letters, in answer to the taunt of his opponents (verses 9-11). He then shows that his estimate of himself is formed on very different methods from those of his adversaries (verses 12-16), and that he referred all grounds of boasting solely to the judgment of God (verses 17, 18).


Now I Paul myself.
The words, as Theodoret says, express the emphasis of apostolic dignity. He is going to speak of himself and for himself. "I, the very Paul, with whose name you make so free." The conjecture may not even be impossible that this portion of the letter may have been written with his own hand. Perhaps he began without any intention of writing more than a few concluding words, but he was carried away by his feelings, and the subject grew under his hands (comp. Gal_5:2
; Eph_3:1; Phm_1:19). Beseech; rather, exhort. By the meekness and gentleness of Christ. The conduct which he is obliged to threaten might seem incompatible with this meekness and gentleness (Mat_11:29, Mat_11:30). It was not really so, because even Christ had been compelled at times "to burst into plain thunderings and lightnings." Still, severity and indignation were not in themselves after the inmost heart and will of Christ, though human perversity might compel love itself to assume such tones. He entreats them, however, not to force him to stern measures. Gentleness. The word epiekeia means "fairness, forbearance, sympathetic consideration for others," or, as Mr. Matthew Arnold prefers to render it, "sweet reasonableness" (see Act_24:4; Php_4:5; Jas_3:17; 1Pe_2:18). Who in presence, etc. Here, and in many similar passages of this section, he is evidently adopting or quoting the actual taunts of his adversaries. In modern times the words would be enclosed in inverted commas. Base; rather, humble (see note on 2Co_7:6; 2Co_12:7). Being absent am bold. The charge, if true, would have been the mark of a coward; and it naturally awakens an indignant echo in the language of St. Paul.


I beseech you.
The "beseech" is here right (deomai). The "you" is not in the Greek, but is rightly supplied. It rests with them to avert the necessity of personal severity, and he entreats them to do so. Against some. He leaves these undefined till the vehement outburst of 2Co_11:13
, 2Co_11:14. As if we walked according to the flesh (see note on 2Co_5:16). To say this of St. Paul was to charge him with being insincere and not disinterested.


We walk in the flesh.
St. Paul does not disclaim the possession of human infirmities, but maintains that such trials and temptations were not the guiding force of his life. We do not war after the flesh. His campaigns (Luk_3:14
) were fought with spiritual weapons. The metaphor is a constant one with St. Paul (2Co_2:14-16; 1Co_9:26; Eph_6:10-17, etc.).


(see 2Co_6:7
; Rom_6:13). Not carnal. He did not rely on the mere "arm of flesh," or on earthly sword or panoply. Mighty through God; literally, powerful for God; i.e. either

(1) powerful for the cause of God, or

(2) powerful in his estimate.

To the pulling down of strongholds. The word for "pulling down," which implies the entire clearance of an obstacle, is only found in the New Testament in this Epistle (2Co_10:4, 2Co_10:8; 2Co_13:10). The word for "strongholds" is found here alone. These "fortresses" were the opposition aroused by factious and hostile partisans, and he hoped to subdue them by the strong exercise of apostolic authority (lCo 4:21; 2Co_5:1-5). Dean Stanley suggests a reminiscence of the hundred and twenty Cilician fortresses pulled down by Pompey; but I think that these general allusions are often pressed too far.


Casting down.
This agrees with "we" understood, not with "weapons." Imaginations; rather, disputations, or reasonings. Every high thing that exalteth itself; rather, every height that is exalted. Against the knowledge of God (see 1Co_15:34
). There, however, we have passive ignorance, here active opposition. Bringing into captivity. When the fortresses are razed, their defenders will be taken prisoners, but for a beneficent end. Every thought. Even intellectual result. The word (noema) is not common in the New Testament. It occurs five times in this Epistle (2Co_2:11; 2Co_3:14; 2Co_4:4; 2Co_10:5; 2Co_11:3), but elsewhere only in Php_4:7.


Being in a readiness;
i.e. being quite prepared. My sternness of purpose is ready, but my hope is that it may not be called into action. To revenge; rather, to do justice upon. In any case, in this infliction of justice, whatever form it might take, he would only be an agent of God (Rom_12:19
). When your obedience is fulfilled. St. Paul is confident that he will overcome the mazes of those opposed to him, and win them to Christ's obedience; but if there were any who should obstinately refuse to submit, they must be reduced to submission by action, not by words.


Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?
Like many clauses in this section, the words are capable of different interpretations. They might mean,

(1) as in the Authorized Version, "Do you judge by mere externals?" or,

(2) "You judge by things which merely lie on the surface!" or,

(3) "Consider the personal aspect of the question." The Authorized Version is probably right (comp. Joh_7:24
). If any man. Perhaps alluding to some party ringleader. That he is Christ's. If a man holds this in an exclusive and partisan sense (1Co_1:12). Some manuscripts (D, E, F, G) read, "a slave of Christ." Of himself. The true reading is probably ἐφ ) , not ἀφ ) , but in either ease the meaning is, "by his own fair judgment." Even so are we Christ's. In a true and real sense, not by external knowledge and connection (which he has already disclaimed), but by inward union. This he proceeds to prove by the fact that he was the founder of their Church (2Co_10:13-18); that he had always acted with absolute disinterestedness (2Co_11:1-15); that he had lived a life of toil and suffering (2Co_11:21-33), and that he had received special revelations from God (2Co_12:1-6).


Assertion of his intentions.


Should boast.
In this section St. Paul is thoroughly haunted by this word. The fact that a word could thus possess and dominate over his style and imagination shows how deeply he was moved. The Corinthian Church, with its inflated factions and their fuglemen, recked with beasting, and St. Paul is driven, with utter distaste, to adopt in self-defence language which, to the uncandid and indiscriminating, might seem to wear the same aspect. The word, which is unfrequent in other Epistles, occurs eighteen times in these chapters alone. Other haunting words are "tolerate," "bear with" (2Co_11:1-33
:l, 4, 19, 20), and "senseless," "fool" (2Co_11:16, 2Co_11:19; 2Co_12:6, 2Co_12:11); see note on 2Co_1:3. Somewhat more; something more abundantly. For edification, and not for your destruction; for building you up, not pulling you down. The word kathairesin is from the same root as the verb in 2Co_1:5. I should not be ashamed; rather, I shall not be ashamed. No shame shall ever accrue to me from my "boast" being proved false.


By letters;
rather, by the letters. He had certainly addressed two letters to them (1Co_5:9


Say they;
literally, says he. The phrase may, indeed, imply "it is said" (on dit); but it may refer to one main critic and opponent. Perhaps it would have been wiser and kinder if no one had reported to St. Paul all these subterranean calumnies and innuendoes. Weighty and strong. This could not be denied, considering the immense effect which had been produced by his first letter (2Co_7:7
). His bodily presence is weak. This is usually taken to mean that St. Paul's personal appearance was unprepossessing (Gal_4:1). This, indeed, we should infer from many other passages (1Co_2:1-16 :34; Gal_4:13, Gal_4:14), and as a natural result of his "stake in the flesh." It is, too, the consistent though late tradition respecting him (see my 'Life of St. Paul,' 2:628). Here, however, the words may mean no more than that "he adds nothing to his cause by being present in person, since he shows vacillation and want of energy." Contemptible; rather, despised (see 1Co_2:3, 1Co_2:4).


Such a one.
A formula used to avoid mentioning a special name (see note on 2Co_2:7
). Such will we be; rather, such are we. The verb is not expressed, but it would have been if the future tense had been intended. In this verse St. Paul is not saying what he would do hereafter, but is rebutting with calmness and dignity the false charge that he was in any way different when absent from what he was when present.


We dare not.
They are in this respect of self-praise much bolder than I. Make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves; literally, judge ourselves among or judge ourselves with. There is a play on the words, like the Latin, inferre or conferre, or the German, zurechnen oder gleichrechnen. That commend themselves. The verb rendered "commend" is that from which is derived "the commendatory letters" (2Co_3:1) at the arrogant and intrusive use of which he had glanced already. St. Paul is once more rebutting the charge of self-commendation (2Co_4:2; 2Co_5:12; 2Co_6:11). But they measuring themselves…are not wise. The clause is difficult; for

(1) to compare ourselves with others in order to learn what we can and cannot do is usually accounted wise;

(2) some manuscripts and editions, omitting οὐ συνιοῦσιν ἡμεῖς δὲ , render, "But we ourselves ( αὐτοὶ ), measuring ourselves by ourselves, and comparing ourselves with ourselves, will not boast above measure;"

(3) some, for συνιοῦσιν (they are not wise) read συνίουσιν (with ourselves, who are not wise). The reading, however, of the Authorized Version is undoubtedly right, and most probably the rendering also. The meaning is that the little cliques of factious religionists, never looking outside their own narrow circles, became inflated with a sense of importance which would have been annihilated if they had looked at higher standards. Hence they thought themselves at liberty to intrude and lay down the law and usurp a claim to infallibility which there was nothing to justify. Such conduct is the reverse of wise. It is a mixture of selfishness, Pharisaism, and conceit, and there have been abundant examples of it among religious parties in all ages. St. Paul, on the other hand, keeps within his own measure, because he has learnt to adopt larger and loftier standards.


Will not boast of things without our measure.
This might be rendered, "will not indulge in these immeasurable boastings;" but 2Co_10:15
points to the sense, "we will not glory beyond our measure." Of the rule; i.e. of the measuring line. I will keep to the province and limit which God has assigned to me in my proper mea- sure. St. Paul declines the favourite office of being "other people's bishop ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος )" (1Pe_4:15). Hath distributed; rather, apportioned.


As though we reached not unto you.
In including you within the reach of our measuring line, we are guilty neither of presumption nor of intrusion. Your Church is a part of our legitimate province and range of work (Act_18:1
, Act_18:4). We are come as far as to you; rather, we anticipated others in coming to you; "we were the first to come as far as unto you." To St. Paul belonged the undisputed glory of having first introduced the gospel into the regions of Macedonia and Achaia.


That is, of other men's labours.
Not to thrust himself obtrusively into spheres of labour which legitimately belonged to others was a part of St. Paul's scrupulously chivalrous rule (2Co_3:10
; Gal_2:9; Rom_15:20). It contrasted with the usurping arrogance of these Jerusalem emissaries. When your faith is increased; rather, increases or grows. He delicately implies that their lack of faith prevents the extension of his labours. He could not leave in his rear an unstormed fortress of opposition to the gospel. The spread of the gospel depends on them. We shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly. The Revised Version renders it more clearly, "We shall be magnified in you according to our province unto further abundance."


In the regions beyond you.
Even to Rome and Spain (Rom_15:19
, Rom_15:24, Rom_15:28).


But he that glorieth,
etc.; literally, he that boasteth, etc. (see note on 1Co_1:31
; Jer_9:24).


But whom the Lord commendeth


2Co_10:1, 2Co_10:2 - Self-vindication.

"Now I Paul myself beseech you," etc. Paul, as we have frequently intimated, had detractors in the Corinthian Church, men who sought to gain power by calumniating him. We are not in possession of all the calumnies. Paul knew them all. Throughout these two Epistles we find him constantly on the defensive; here again we find him standing up for himself. In his defence he manifests—

I. A STRONG DESIRE TO DEAL WITH THEM IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. "Now I Paul myself beseech [entreat] you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ." He seems to shrink from the idea of so defending himself as to act contrary to the mild and gentle spirit of Christ. Whatever I say in my defence, I would say in the spirit of him "who, when he was reviled, reviled not again." Thus we should always act, even in reproving others and defending ourselves; in all we should be actuated and controlled by the spirit of Jesus Christ. No reproof will go so thoroughly home to the heart of the offender as that which breathes and echoes his spirit.

II. A KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONTEMPTUOUSNESS WITH WHICH HIS DETRACTORS REGARDED HIM. "Who in presence am base [lowly] among you, but being absent am bold [of good courage] toward you." This does not seem to be the estimate he forms of himself, but the character which his slanderers had given him. In 2Co_10:10 it is so stated: "For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." It would seem that they spoke somewhat thus—flow bold and courageous this man is in his "letters;" but how mean and contemptible in his appearance and conduct! He here intimates that when he comes amongst them he would be "bold" and courageous. They shall know that I am no coward, and with indomitable fearlessness I shall administer the necessary rebuke.

III. A DREAD OF EXERCISING SEVERITY TOWARDS THEM. "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." It is the characteristic of a great soul, especially of a great soul inspired with the spirit of Christ, to shrink from inflicting pain on any heart. Yet when duty calls it must be done.

2Co_10:3-6 - The true soldiership.

"For though," etc. The passage leads us to notice the weapons and victories of a true soldiership.

I. THE WEAPONS OF TRUE SOLDIERSHIP. The apostle states two things concerning these weapons.

1. They are not carnal. The word "carnal" here may be regarded as standing in contradiction to three things.

(1) To miraculous agency. Miracles, though employed at first, are not the regular weapons by which Christianity fights her battles.

(2) To all coercive instrumentality. The civil magistrate now for fifteen centuries has sought by exactions and penalties to force Christianity upon the consciences of men. Such weapons disgrace and misrepresent it.

(3) To all crafty inventions. In nothing, perhaps, has the craftiness of men appeared more than in connection with the profession of extending Christianity. What are the tricks of rhetoric, the assumptions of priests, and the claptrap of sects but craft?

2. Though not carnal, they are mighty. "Mighty through God."

(1) They are mighty through God because they are his productions. Gospel truths, the weapons of which the apostle speaks, are God's ideas, and those ideas are mighty—mighty with truth and love.

(2) They are mighty through God because they are his instruments. God goes with his ideas and works by them.


1. They are mental. Paul is speaking about imaginations and things pertaining to mind. They are not over body. There is not any glory in destroying the bodily life of man. The lion, the bear, a poisonous gust of air, will excel man in this. The victories of a true soldiership are over mind. And indeed you do not conquer the man unless you conquer his mind. If there be a future world, then the men you slay upon the battlefield may hate you in the great eternity with a profounder hatred than ever.

2. They are corrective. These victories do not involve the destruction of the mind nor any of its native faculties, but certain evils that pertain to it. What are they?

(1) The evil fortifications of the mind. "The pulling down of strongholds." What are they? Prejudices, worldly maxims, associations, passions, habits; behind these "strongholds" the mind entrenches itself against God.

(2) The corrupt thinking of the mind. "Casting down imaginations." The word "thinking" comprehends this, for the faculty which we call imagination thinks as well as the intellect. It is against evil thinkings, therefore.

(3) The antitheistic impulses of the mind. "And every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God." Every feeling and passion that rises against God. These are the victories of true soldiership.

3. They are Christian. They "bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Thought is everything to man. Now, the work of a true soldier is to bring this fontal force into entire subjection to Christ.

2Co_10:7 - Paul's special power.

"Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?" These words point to two evils.

I. JUDGING FROM ATTENDANTS. "Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?'' or that "are before your face." The teachers at Corinth who were opposed to the apostle prided themselves on their external advantages, and regarded themselves as superior in appearance, rank, and manners to Paul. They judged from appearance, This judgment led them to regard Paul as their inferior. But was he inferior? Was he not, in all that is intrinsically excellent, in mental capacity, in spiritual knowledge, in Christly enthusiasm, and supernatural power, their superior, the very prince of the apostles? Men judged Christ by the "outward appearance," and how false, wicked, and pernicious their judgment turned out to be! The only true test is the fruit. "By their fruits ye shall know them;" fruits, not actions—which often misrepresent the character of the soul—but productions that are the natural, complete, and spontaneous outgrowth and expression of the leading moral principles of man's life. Because men judge from "the outward appearance," wolves in society pass for sheep, paupers for princes, devils for saints, churls for philanthropists, etc.

II. ARROGATING SUPERIOR CHRISTLINESS. "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." Whilst there were those in the Corinthian Church who said some of them were of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, there were some who said they were of Christ. They wished to be regarded as superior to all, as knowing more of Christ, being more intimate with him, having a stronger claim upon him. It might be that some of the members of this party had (not like Paul) been with Christ while on earth, had talked with him, walked with him, feasted with him, and of this they would boast. But thousands could boast of this who had no vital fellowship with Christ. There always have been men in Churches who have arrogated superior piety. I have known not a few, not distinguished by any spiritual nobleness, who were accustomed to speak of him as "my Christ," "my Saviour." "my Redeemer," implying that he was more to them than to others.

2Co_10:8-10 - God's gift of special power to man.

"For though I should boast," etc. These verses present to our attention God's gift of special Power to man. The "authority" of which the apostle here speaks was, in all probability, a supernatural endowment. Such an endowment be both claimed and manifested (see Act_13:8-11
; Act_14:8-10; Act_15:9-12). Having this power he was superior even to the ablest of his censors in Corinth, and he felt that should he "boast somewhat" of this there was no reason for him to be ashamed. The words suggest three remarks concerning such special gift of power to man.

I. IT IS UNDER MAN'S CONTROL. Paul's language seems to imply that he might or might not use his "authority" or power; it did not coerce him; it did not make him a mere instrument; it did not overbear his will or infringe in any way his freedom of action. God has given exceptional power to some men—to Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Peter, etc.; but in all cases it seemed to leave them free—free to use it or not, to use it in this direction or in that. The Maker and Manager of the universe respects evermore the free agency with which he has endowed his rational and moral offspring. We may enslave ourselves, but he will not. He will always treat us as responsible for all we do.

II. ITS GREAT DESIGN IS USEFULNESS. "The Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction." He gives power to men, not to pull down, but to build up. Usefulness is the grand end of our existence. We are formed, not to injure, but to bless our fellow creatures. Whatever endowments we have, be they ordinary or transcendent, all are given by our Maker to promote truth and virtue and human happiness through the world. Alas! how extensively men pervert these high gifts of Heaven!

III. IT IS NO PROTECTION FROM MALICE. Though Paul was thus so distinguished by signal endowments, he was nevertheless the subject of bitter envy and cruel slander. "For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible," Did the supernatural power with which some of the old Hebrew prophets were endowed shield men from the malice of men? How were Moses, Elisha, and Elijah treated? The fact is, the higher gifts a man has the more he is exposed to the malice of others; the more distinguished a man is in gifts and graces, the more he will arouse among his contemporaries the spirit of detraction and hate. It was so with Christ himself.

2Co_10:11-13 - The false and true method of estimating men.

"Let such a 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. 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. 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." In these verses we have two subjects worthy of notice.

I. THE FALSE AND TRUE METHOD OF ESTIMATING THE CHARACTER OF OTHERS. "Let such a one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters," etc.

1. To judge by public report is a wrong method. It would almost seem that there was a general impression in Corinth that not only was Paul's "bodily presence" somewhat contemptible, but that his letters were not a fair representation of himself, that they displayed an elevation and a heroism of which the writer was destitute, and from this general impression he was judged and considered to be something of a boaster and charlatan. How common it is for people to judge those they have never seen by general report! But a miserably false standard of judgment is this. Not unfrequently have I received impressions concerning a person whom I have never seen, which a subsequent personal acquaintance has completely dispelled. As a rule, the public estimate of men, both in Church and state, is most fallacious and unjust.

2. To judge by personal knowledge is the true method. "Let such a one think [reckon] this, that, such as we are in word by letters… such will we be also in deed when we are present." The meaning of this seems to be—Wait until I come amongst you, and you will find that I am true to the character of my letters, that I will act out their spirit. A man's own letters, even when rightly interpreted, will not give a free and a complete idea of the author. The author is greater than his book, the man greater than his productions. One hour with an author will give me a better idea of him than I could obtain from all the productions of his pen, however voluminous.


1. The false method is comparing our own character with the character of others. "Measuring themselves by themselves." This the Corinthians seem to have done, and this, perhaps, is the general tendency of mankind. We judge ourselves by the characters of others. When we are accused we are prone to say we are not worse than So-and-so. A false standard this, because:

(1) The mass of mankind are corrupt.

(2) The best of men are more or less imperfect.

(3) There is only One perfect character—Jesus Christ.

In these words Paul indicates:

(a) That it is a terrible thing thus to judge ourselves. "We dare not [are not bold enough to] make ourselves of the number." Truly it is a terrible thing, for it leads to fearful issues.

(b) That it is an unwise thing thus to judge ourselves. Those who compare themselves with others "are not wise," or are "without understanding."

2. The true method is judging ourselves by the will of God. "According to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us." Though the apostle by the expression, "rule which God hath distributed," primarily refers to the Divine limits of his apostolic work, as will appear again, the "rule" applies also to his personal character, God's will is the standard or canon by which all characters are to be determined.

CONCLUSION. "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

2Co_10:14-18 - The true sphere of human usefulness and the source of human glory.

"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: 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. 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. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth." Here are two subjects for meditation.


1. It is a sphere in which we are placed by Divine appointment. Paul teaches that his sphere of labour in Corinth was according to the Divine will. "We stretch not ourselves beyond our measure [overmuch], as though we reached not unto you." As if he had said, "I am not come to Corinth merely by my own inclinations, or as a matter of impulse or caprice, or as an intruder. I am come here by the will of God. I am licensed by him to this sphere."

2. The consciousness that we are in this sphere is a just reason for exultation. "Not boasting of things without our measure." As if Paul had said, "My boasting, or my exultation, is not that I have entered into the sphere of other men's labours, but that I am in the sphere to which I have been divinely commissioned." The opponents of Paul, in Corinth, boasted of the influence they had gained in the Church which he himself had founded by his self-sacrificing labours, and whose members owed, either directly or indirectly, their conversion to him; whereas his rejoicing was that he was doing the work of God in the sphere to which he had been sent.

3. It is a sphere which widens with our usefulness. Although Paul felt that Corinth was the sphere to which he had been sent, he knew that the field would be widened according to his spiritual success. "Having hope, when your faith is increased [that as your faith groweth], that we shall be enlarged [magnified] by you according to our rule [province] abundantly." The increase of their faith would lead to an enlargement of his sphere of labour. The true method of extending the sphere of labour to which we have been sent is by the multiplication of our converts. Each soul which a minister bring to Christ enlarges the field of his usefulness, enables him to break up new ground still further on.

II. THE TRUE SOURCE OF HUMAN EXULTATION. In what did Paul exult or "boast"?

1. Not in crediting himself with the labours of other men. He did not "boast in another man's line [province] of things made ready to our hand." How common it is for men to credit themselves with the labours of others! We find this in every department of labour. In literature there are plagiarists, in scientific discoveries and artistic inventions there are unjust claimants, and even in religion one minister is often found to claim the good that others have accomplished. Paul was above this. The genius of Christianity condemns this mean and miserable dishonesty.

2. Not in self-commendation. "For not he that commendeth himself is approved" That conscience approves of our conduct, though at all times a source of pleasure, is not a true source of exultation; for conscience is not infallible. Conscience sometimes deceives. What, then, was his true source Of exultation? "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross."


2Co_10:1-7 - Change in the Epistle; spirit of his defense.

No one can fail to notice the change in the tone of the Epistle which appears in this chapter. Every thoughtful reader of St. Paul knows how abrupt his transitions frequently are, and how rapidly he digresses from his main point to something incidental to his topic. His mental associations are governed by two distinct laws—first, by ideas exciting feelings which lead him to diverge from his main line; and next, by emotions arising from some occult source that vary his action of intellect. In this instance there may have been a pause in writing after he had finished the subject of the collection. Naturally a reaction would set in. One of his excitable temperament could not have been relieved of oppressive solicitude, as he had been by the return of Titus, nor given such an expression to his joy as we have in ch. 8. and 9. without subsequent exhaustion of nervous energy. If, meantime, news came to him of the renewal of Judaizing zeal at Corinth, and of some sudden accession of strength to the party so inflamed against him, we can readily see why his indignation should be aroused. To have his hopes dashed in this way, in such a conjuncture and by such unscrupulous opponents, would put a terrible strain on a nature organized as sensitively as his, all the more so since a new era seemed about dawning in the history of the gospel. Europe and Asia appeared ready to join hands most heartily in the work of evangelizing the world, and just at this most auspicious period, to witness a fresh outbreak of discord was the severest of trials that could have befallen him. Whatever the cause, it was a sad thing for this noble spirit to be sorely chafed in an hour when it was rallying from an unusual depression and girding itself for special endeavours to cement the Asiatic and European Churches closer together. Here, in the very heart of Achaia, were agents from the Judaizing party at Jerusalem, who appear to have become more jealous than ever of his growing influence, and were heated to fiercer hostility against the apostle because of the recent triumph of his authority. While he was exerting every nerve to help the Church in Jerusalem, men from that very community were working in Corinth to disparage his ministry and undermine his personal character. It was shocking ingratitude. In itself it was rankling jealousy; in its connections, base partisanship. At that moment the interests of Christianity hung on the precise work he was doing. The liberal gospel he was preaching, the gospel of free grace and of equal honour and privilege to Jew and Gentile, was attesting its Divine excellence in the "exceeding grace of God" manifested by means of the abounding charity of Macedonia and Achaia. And yet all the promise and hope of this inspiring movement were thrown into the utmost peril by these fanatical zealots. Had he not felt this wrong keenly and resisted it courageously, he would have shown a want of manliness; for no character can have force that lacks indignation when its own integrity and a great cause identified with that integrity are ruthlessly assailed. It is under such circumstances that the true man appears in the way his sense of injustice operates. Quite as plainly the wise leader will display himself in the perception of what the emergency requires and in the decision with which his measures are executed. Now, the apostle is before us again as a study in this particular aspect of his character and ministry. Much as we have learned of him, something remains to be seen, and we may feel assured that the additional insight will amply reward us. The first utterance of his soul enkindles our admiration. Wronged, vilified, St. Paul appeals to the Corinthians "by the meekness and gentleness of Christ." It is not "we" but "I Paul," for he was the person singled out for these malicious attacks and he would reply from his own heart. It is not that sort of "meekness and gentleness" which craft and conventionality often assume to hide their art and malignity. It is the spirit of Christ, the meekness which acts by turning inwardly upon the mind and soothing its faculties, and the gentleness that exhibits itself in outward tranquillity. St. Paul cannot speak of these except as Christ's virtues. They are his; they have his life; they take their power and beauty from him. "I Paul myself"—his individuality emphasized in an unusual manner—"beseech you," at the instant when the lion was more likely to show itself in human nature than the lamb, that it may not be necessary for me to exercise my authority over these offenders. If, as my enemies say, I am base in presence among you and bold only when absent, I pray you not to let this matter go to such an extremity that I shall have to use "the rod." When one's courage has been challenged and his heroism derided, it is extremely hard for a brave man like St. Paul to forbear. But had he not said, "Love suffereth long and is kind"? Words were things to him and here was the proof of love, side by side with the irony that was not to be concealed. Would he announce an inflexible determination to punish? No; further discipline might be needful for him, further forbearance might be desirable in the case of his assailants; and all he ventured to affirm was, "I think to be bold against some." Who were the "some"? Evidently those who impeached his motives and openly reviled his ministry. How does he describe them? By the thoughts they entertained of him as an apostle. "They think of us as if we walked according to the flesh," referring to a course of conduct "determined by the fear of men or the desire of pleasing men, and hence a personal bearing disgraced by cowardice or servility. The human nature referred to was therefore one enfeebled, not merely from the want of Divine support, but from sin" (Lange's 'Commentary'). Such an opinion respecting the apostle indicates clearly enough the evil source whence it sprang. It happens often that the judgments we pronounce on others are most true in application to ourselves, and, unawares, we have disclosed what our own hearts are in estimating outside parties. A politician who is always charging other politicians with being demagogues is generally a demagogue himself, and the man who never hesitates to apply the epithet of a liar to others is quite sure to be a liar himself. But how does St. Paul meet the charge of being carnally minded in his high office? "Though we walk in the flesh [live a corporeal life], we do not war after the flesh," or "according to the flesh," the contrast being in the words "in" and "according." And forthwith he proceeds to show the difference between walking in the flesh and warring according to the flesh. A warrior he is, an open and avowed warrior—a warrior who was to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; a warrior too who would punish these Judaizers if they continued their disorganizing work; but a prudent and considerate warrior, deferring the avenging blow till "I am assured of your submission" (Stanley) "that I may not confound the innocent with the guilty, the dupes with the deceivers." What kind of a preacher he was he had shown long before; what kind of an apostle he was among apostles as to independence, self-support, and resignation of official rights in earthly matters, he had also shown; further yet, what kind of a sufferer and martyr he was had been portrayed. Step by step he had gone on with this faithful unfolding of himself, giving the most unique spiritual biography in the world of literature, and that too on no preconceived plan. How many aspects of his character had been sketched! The man as ambassador, representing the majesty of a glorified King, and labouring to reconcile a world to his Divine sceptre; the man as coworker with all the blessed ministries of earth and heaven; the man as philanthropist sharing the poverty of his countrymen in a far off city; and now the man as warrior, leading on his hosts to battle against alien spirits;—what a wide activity, how minute, how full, how varied, how comprehensive. At no point does this personal narrative draw its interest from self alone. Self is always subordinate. The biography interweaves with a history that infinitely transcends all private fortunes and all earthly affairs, and is nothing less than the history of providence in the development of Christian doctrine coincident with the work of the Holy Ghost in glorifying the ascended Christ of the Father. "Casting down imaginations." The reference is to reasoning or disputings of the natural man in the pride of his intellectual power. Yet they are imaginations, the products of the imaging faculty, the fond conceits of creative ingenuity. All these were religious beliefs or connected in some way with them, so that what the apostle said at Athens was true elsewhere: "I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious." Men who held these beliefs were earnest supporters of them and were always ready to defend their tenets. No matter in what province or city he preached the gospel, these disputants appeared. It was a battle on all occasions, and hence a battle figure, "casting down," or the destruction of bulwarks. Philosophy, art, manufactures, trade, husbandry, seamanship, military life, domestic life, statesmanship, were all intimately associated with these religious beliefs. Paganism occupied the ground. Or, if Judaism had found lodgment over the empire at every prominent centre of industry, it was the Judaism that had crucified Jesus of Nazareth. So then there was battle everywhere. The "wisdom of the world" and of "the princes of the world," backed by social influence and civil authority, was arrayed against the gospel. In the land of its birth, Christianity had nothing to show but a few Galilean fishermen, with a community of poor disciples, and behind these a malefactor's cross. In the lands to which it came on its mission of grace, it summoned men to repent of sin, to practise self-denial, to become new creatures, to abandon idolatries that were in league with lust and cruelty, and, in lieu thereof, accept a faith which demanded a pure heart and a holy morality. It could only make its way by "casting down imaginations," by telling men that they were deluded by sophistries, and further by destroying "every high thing" that exalted itself against the knowledge of God communicated to man by the revelation of the gospel. No compromise could be allowed; every thought was to be brought into" captivity" to the "obedience of Christ." What captivity meant they fully understood. It was a military word, and he uses such terms that they might have clear and vivid ideas of Christianity as a war, and nothing less than an exterminating war, on whatever stood opposed "to the obedience of Christ." The "weapons" he used were not "carnal." All the world knew his weapons. He made no disguise of them. Boldly, constantly, in every place, he proclaimed Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, nor had a mob occurred, nor had perils gathered about him, nor had Roman officers interfered for his protection, except on the single issue of preaching Christ crucified. No heathen would charge him with using carnal weapons. Philosophers of Athens, inhabitants of Lycaonia, Demetrius and his workmen at Ephesus, would make no such accusation against his ministry. Only the Judaizers had done this thing. Let them understand that these weapons were "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." Neither a false Judaism nor a colossal idolatry could offer any effective resistance to the gospel. Let these Judaizers know that his weapons were "mighty through God," and that in due time he would show "a readiness to revenge all disobedience." And let the Corinthian Church look deeper than the "outward appearance." To construe his manner of "meekness and gentleness" into imbecility and cowardice was not truth, but falsehood. And whence came this evil way of judging? Not from themselves, but from some wrong teacher who professed to have external advantages in favour of his teaching. Let that conceited man know that, if he is Christ's, so also am I.—L.

2Co_10:8-11 - Continuation of his defence.

What he had just claimed was no more than other apostles claimed. If he were to boast in stronger terms of the authority the Lord had conferred upon him, there would be no risk of personal shame by his overstating the matter. Power had been given, not for their destruction, but for their edification. It is his favourite figure once more—edification, building up, and that power should be used for this object. To terrify them by letters was not his aim; edification, not destruction, led him to write. By the admission of his enemies, the letters from him were "weighty and powerful." On the other hand, his "bodily presence" was "weak," and his "speech contemptible." This is the only notice we have in the New Testament of an apostle's personal appearance. Had it occurred in the case of St. Peter or St. John, we should have been surprised, but it falls in naturally with the order of events and the play of circumstances connected with St. Paul's apostleship. His call, position, and career were singular; the individuality gives a colouring to the minutest details of his life; and accordingly, as he was subjected to an exceptional kind and degree of criticism, even his bodily infirmities came under inspection and were made matters of public notoriety. By itself, this reference to his appearance would not attract more than a passing notice. Yet it has a broader meaning, since it serves to illustrate the fact that nothing about him escaped the closest scrutiny. Enemies in the Church, enemies out of the Church, officials, centurions, proconsuls, procurators, find something in the man to study, and their opinions of him come into the public thought of the day. The plan of Providence, we may infer, was that St. Paul should be well known, thoroughly well known, and that we should hear from both sides—friends and foes—all that could be known of him, even to his "presence" and "speech." He thought the matter of sufficient importance to recognize it so far as to say that, what he was in his letters, he would be in his deeds. Beyond this he has no concern about it.—L.

2Co_10:12-18 - Limits and labours.

Was the apostle a great letter writer only? So his enemies had declared; but he would not put himself among those who had no higher standard of what they ought to be than what they were, nor would he compare himself with such men. Instead of measuring themselves by a Divine rule, these persons thought it enough to measure themselves by themselves or by others; and this mode of judgment, originating in self and ending with self, was without understanding. Yet there was a measure, and he acknowledged it whenever ha thought or spoke of himself. If he referred to his labours, if he enumerated his sacrifices, if he cited his sufferings, it was not with any human standard in view, but in the sight of God and with respect solely to the sphere of activity to which God had appointed him as an apostle. Had he come to Corinth? Corinth had been given him of God as a field of apostolic effort. "The surveyor's chain" had laid off the territory, and he had traversed Macedonia and Achaia only because Providence had assigned the ground to him, and the Holy Spirit had inspired him to undertake the task. "As far as to you;" so far in the warfare of the West the campaign had extended, so far had he gone in the great fight of pulling down strongholds, and in demonstrating that the weapons were not carnal, but mighty through God. If he had reached Corinth as a place within the boundaries of his province, would he pause there? Was this the outer line of the vast battlefield? He hoped not. There he was only waiting till another territory had been marked out, and he should hear the signal to arise and possess the land. Was he looking across the sea of Adria and wondering when he should visit Rome? And when would that glad opportunity come? But one thing was clear to him just then, and this was that, if the faith of the Corinthians were increased, he would have his own heart enlarged, and be further endowed and qualified for apostolic labour. One moment, a glance at the Judaizers and their presumptuous occupancy of fields delegated of God to him (2Co_10:15
), "not boasting of things without measure, that is, of other men's labours;" the next moment, a thought of new work so soon as the Church at Corinth should recover from its troubles and he should find it safe to leave them. Already his heart was burning to preach the gospel in the regions beyond Corinth, and "not to glory in another's province in regard to things ready to our hand." Observe how often this last idea recurs: 2Co_10:13, "We will not boast of things without our measure;" 2Co_10:14, "We stretch not ourselves beyond our measure;" 2Co_10:15, "Not boasting of things without our measure;" 2Co_10:16, "Not to boast in another man's line of things [see Revised Version, above] made ready to our hand." Two things here are noteworthy.

1. The apostle is willing and ready to wage the holy war in new territories. He is not tired of fighting the Lord's battles. Nor is he afraid of greater and more numerous enemies. Probably his eye was on Rome. If God will, he shall go further West. His weapons have been tried and proved. He himself has been tested. Grace has been sufficient. Cast down, he has not been destroyed. Dying, he has lived. The promises of God have been Yea and Amen to his soul, nor could any experience happen that would not bring the strength and consolation of Christ to his heart. How much he had lived and how rapidly! What years had been compressed into each year! Before the dilating eye of intellect, what vistas had spread afar in the light that brightened towards the perfect day! And then the blessed realizations, ability increasing perpetually, and capacity growing even faster so as to supply fully the expanding spheres of ability, consciousness of self enlarging as self in Christ, deep opening into deep, wonder springing afresh from wonder, and, with every victory gained by the weapons of his warfare, a larger assurance that, if he had been "mighty through God" at Ephesus and Corinth, he should be mightier still "in the regions beyond." Here is a most useful lesson to teach us what we are slow to learn, namely, that no natural endowments, no amount of culture, no inspiration of knowledge, no miracles wrought in his behalf, can set aside the necessity of Christian experience, a personal work of grace in the soul, a profound sense of that work as from the Holy Spirit, in the ease of one called to the highest office of ministration.

2. We see how we are, am Christians, "members one of another." Although St. Paul was so highly endowed and so remarkably successful in the apostleship, yet he depends on the Church at Corinth for his enlargement to the work opening before him in Europe. "We shall be enlarged by you." This was conditioned on their conduct. If their divisions were healed, their false teachers silenced, their energies set free from exhausting strife and concentrated on building up Christ's kingdom, would Corinth and Achaia be the only gainers? Nay; he himself would be liberated from restraints that clogged his feet. A fresh impulse would be given his apostleship. A new current of life would flow from their hearts into his heart, for it was not his working nor any other apostle's working, but the coworking, the hearty union of Church and apostles, the cooperation of the "diversities of gifts," the oneness of the mystical body of Christ, by which the world was to be evangelized. The schism that had been threatened between the Asiatic and European Churches was in a fair way to be arrested. Jewish and Gentile believers were getting reconciled to the peculiarities of each other; the collection for the mother Church at Jerusalem was doing much to effect this most important unity. Yet this is not before him now. Nor does he allude to the singular advantages of Corinth as to geographical location and commercial opportunities. Situated on a narrow strip of land between northern and southern Greece, and connected with two seas by its harbours of Lechaeum and Cenchreae, it was a great emporium of trade for the East and West, and hence offered extraordinary facilities for the diffusion of Christianity. No doubt St. Paul felt that it was a centre of commanding influence. But he was extremely cautious as to using local motives, and in the present case he made no allusion to them. What occupied his whole thought was the increase of grace among them as a Christian community, and to this he looked for a happy furtherance in his contemplated missionary, tour. If they were revived and consecrated anew to Christ, he knew well that, when obstacles were thrown in his future pathway, when persecutions even fiercer than those already undergone came upon him, they would afford him sympathy and assistance while getting foothold in "the regions beyond." Obviously a prevailing idea in his mind was that Christianity must have a central home in every great section of country, and thence draw its human supplies during its conquests of outlying territory. And he longed for the Corinthian brethren to attain a richer experience of grace, so that they might magnify his office. Instead of being independent of their fraternal support, the stronger he felt himself the more he leaned on their sympathies. Heaven never gets so close to a man that earth does not get closer also. How the blessed Jesus leaned on his friends in the Passion week! How he needed the chosen among them to watch with him in the garden for one hour! The weary days of the apostle had not yet come, and his soul was having glorious visions of apostolic work, but amid it all, the pressure of uncertainty was upon his hope, and he would gladly hasten away from the present scene of anxiety just as soon as Providence permitted. We can enter into his solicitudes. We can imagine how Kirke White felt when he wrote the closing lines of the 'Christiad':—

"O thou who visitest the sons of men,

Thou who dost listen when the humble pray,

One little space prolong my mournful day

One little lapse suspend thy last decree!"

And we can realize Dr. Arnold's emotions when he made the last entry in his diary: "Still there are works which, with God's permission, I would do before the night cometh; especially that great work, if I might be permitted to take part in it." So too we can form some conception of St. Paul's anxiety to widen the field of his ministrations, But he could not go alone; the heart of the Corinthian Church must go with him; and he must wait till they were sufficiently "increased" in "faith" to enter on the future enterprises of his universal apostleship. How humble in his greatness! Not what St. Paul accomplished, but what God accomplished in him, was his boast and commendation. This was his strength and glory, and therefore, "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."—L.


2Co_10:4 - Spiritual weapons.

The Apostle Paul was naturally of a combative, soldier-like disposition. Before his conversion this temperament displayed itself in opposition to the cause of truth, to the Church of Christ. After his conversion his warfare was directed against the error, sin, and evil that afflicted and cursed mankind. As a soldier of Christ he fought a good fight and gained an honourable reputation. In the text we have, upon his own authority, the acknowledgment and explanation of his victories.

1. THE NATURE OF THE WEAPONS CHRISTIANITY EMPLOYS AND SANCTIONS. It is evident from this and other passages that Paul did not place his main reliance upon the miraculous and supernatural powers which he possessed, and sometimes wielded.

1. Carnal weapons are disclaimed; e.g. the appeal to force of arms or of law; the appeal to the superstitious fears of men; the address to interest and selfishness, in the use of worldly policy and craft.

2. Spiritual weapons are relied upon. The truth of God, the gospel of Christ,—this was the arm in which inspired apostles were wont to trust.

3. These weapons are mighty. In fact, there are no means of combating error and sin, of promoting the cause of truth and righteousness, so powerful as those which are taken from the armoury of the New Testament. They are "mighty through God," i.e. their power is of Divine origin, the Holy Spirit accompanying them to the souls of men.


1. They are mighty to demolish. As in warfare fortresses and cities are taken by a victorious army, and are then demolished, razed to the ground, so when the religion of Jesus went forth, conquering and to conquer, it attacked and brought low every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. Thus sin, ignorance, error, superstition, vice, crime, bigotry, malice, were again and again vanquished by the victorious energy of the gospel.

2. They are mighty to subjugate. Captivity was the common lot of the conquered foe. And as thoughts are the motive power of life, the gospel attacked these; and rebellious, disobedient, indifferent, ungrateful thoughts were captured, and, by the gentle but mighty force of Divine truth, were brought into subjection to Christ, whom to obey is liberty, peace, and joy.—T.

2Co_10:5 - The captivity of the thoughts.

Spiritual warfare is represented as leading to spiritual victory, and this as involving spiritual captivity. As the Roman general, having vanquished his foe and taken multitudes of prisoners, reserved his captives to grace his triumph, so the apostle, commissioned by Christ, regards himself as contending with all lawless and rebellious forces, and as resolved with Divine help to bring all such forces into subjection to his great Commander and Lord.

I. THE FORCES WHICH ARE BROUGHT INTO CAPTIVITY. Christianity does not contend with physical powers, does not aim at the mere regulation of outward and bodily acts. It strikes at antagonists far more powerful than any which are dealt with by the powers of this world. Thoughts, i.e. the desires and purposes of the souls of men,—these are the foes with which the spiritual religion of the Lord Jesus contends. Disobedient thoughts, selfish thoughts, worldly thoughts, murmuring thoughts,—t