It might be argued that Paul began a defense of his authority as an apostle in chapter 10, and continued the same through to 2 Corinthians13. We might find it strange the great preacher of the New Testament church era found it necessary to answer his critics, but such was the case for Paul (a contradiction to some who argue a pastor should never answer or rebuke his critics.) The powerful tone of Paul’s first epistle to Corinth was an issue, and Paul minced no words in asserting a forthright answer to his critics. You might find it distressing, even disturbing that Paul found it necessary to defend his calling and manner of ministry. Nevertheless, let this be a warning to all: False teachers and phony believers are in the congregation, and such demands a perpetual vigilance of both shepherd and sheep!
2 Corinthians 10 – Paul’s Response to Critics
Some in Corinth had derided Paul, saying he was weak in person, but bold in his letters (10:1-2). The apostle answered, his desire was to minister to them with “the meekness and gentleness of Christ;” yet, some mistook his humble manner as lacking courage. Those critics suggested his first letter to Corinth was “after the flesh,” and Paul declared: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh” (10:3).
Spiritual Warfare (10:4-6)
While the enemies of Paul’s ministry appeared as men and women within and without the congregation, the apostle reminded believers the real battle was not physical, but spiritual. In his epistle to Ephesus, Paul wrote, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
If the adversaries of believers are not “flesh and blood,” but spiritual enemies and “wickedness in high place,” how can we go to war and hope for victory? Paul reminded the Corinthians: “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [of the flesh], but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5Casting 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” (10:4-5).
We cannot wage spiritual warfare apart from God’s power (10:4). Only in the strength of His Spirit are we able to assail and pull down spiritual strongholds (sinful lusts, passions, thoughts, and evil intents, 10:4b). What is the method of spiritual warfare? (10:4-5) We must confront, and cast down: 1) “Imaginations” (wicked and evil thoughts); 2) Cast down false doctrines (“every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God”); 3) Discipline every thought (“bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”).
Lest any doubted Paul’s courage and intent, he doubled down, and declared: “And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (10:6). He was ready to confront false teachers and their doctrine; however, he was giving the congregation an opportunity to choose where and with whom they would stand. Would they choose the Truth?
Paul Answered His Critics (10:7-16)
Some enemies cast dispersion on his small stature, and criticized his preaching for being less than compelling (10:10). (In Acts 20:9, a man named Eutychus fell asleep when “Paul was long preaching…and was taken up dead.”)
He assured his adversaries he was capable and willing to address them as bold in person as he had in his letter (10:11). Nevertheless, he had no interest in comparing himself with others (10:12), and refused to boast or magnify his accomplishments beyond that with which God had blessed him (10:13). While false teachers faked their credentials, and took credit for the accomplishments of others (10:14-15), Paul’s passion was to preach the Gospel where no man had gone (10:16-17). Paul’s overriding desire was to glory, not in himself, but that his life and ministry would be to the glory of God (10:17-18).
Closing thoughts (10:17-18) – There is no calling or office higher than that of serving Jesus Christ. Believer, don’t give in to the temptation of falsifying your resume, faking your accomplishments, and pursuing men’s applause.
Serve the LORD faithfully, and with a passion that one day you may be commended before Him. (10:18).
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