2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10

Boastful Self-Defense

To live before the face of Christ is to be engaged in warfare. The life we live in the flesh is one of an ongoing battle: a fight against our own sin, the Devil, and under his command, the hostile world. In 2 Corinthians 10, like an Army Captain or Lieutenant carrying a civilian reporter into battle, Paul throws us on his back and transports us onto the spiritual battlefield, not where bombs and bullets fly by our heads or penetrate our flesh, but where the fiery darts from hell shoot out from the enemy no less perilously. In this chapter we behold a war, a lofty opposition raised against the knowledge of Christ (vv. 1-6). Likewise, we are privy to the proper offense and defense in the midst of such dangerous war-waging (vv. 7-18). The hatred against Paul is not so much coming from the Corinthians (though some are not fully onboard with Paul) as it is from false friends or false apostles. In this way, then, Paul is setting up a full-frontal attack on the super-apostles in the coming chapters. For now, however, he’s just getting started. He’s loading up the guns.

At the start of the chapter we identify the opposition as attacks on Paul’s character and demeanor. In verse 1, he identifies the accusation: “Paul,” they say, “is humble in person but bold when away.” Likewise, he says a bit later in the chapter that his letters are frightening, weighty, and strong, whereas his bodily presence is anything but! He’s a weakling, and his speech is unimpressive (vv. 9-10). The attacks from these false friends (and remember, some of the Corinthians have bought the lie hook, line, and sinker) can be boiled down to two. Paul walks according to the flesh (v. 2), and he’s a hypocrite; he’s two-faced (v. 1). We’re not amazed at the accusations, of course, for we know that God’s people are promised persecution and false accusations. What’s under attack is so much more than Paul’s character and conduct when he is with or away from the Corinthians. What’s under attack is the authority of Christ the Commander. Paul is merely one soldier in the fight. To oppose Paul the Private is to oppose Christ the General of the Army of the Lord (to mix metaphors of rank from the first paragraph). Flesh and blood are not being opposed or raised up in battle. This is a spiritual battle, one between the internecine kingdoms of darkness and light, flesh and Spirit. Waging war, therefore, must be done in the Spirit and against spiritual powers: against ideas, arguments, lofty opinions, and thoughts contra Christ (vv. 3-5).

Paul is ready to go to war. He’s on the attack now. In verses 4-6, he’s on the offensive, and by divine power destroying strongholds full of the enemy, and by divine power seeking and enslaving every lofty opinion, to bring it into submissive obedience to Christ the King. Paul is ready to discipline the false friends and teachers boldly when he sees them again in Corinth (v. 2). He’s ready to attack the false ideas of these false/super-apostles. He is “ready to punish every disobedience” (v. 6a). But he waits. He waits to fully engage. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? If he’s all ready to go, why wait? It’s not really that strange when you think of it. Sticking with the battle imagery, we’d consider soldiers unwise if they went headlong into battle without the support of their brothers in arms. The same idea applies here. Paul is waiting for his fellow soldiers, the Corinthians. What’s he waiting for? He’s waiting for their obedience to be complete (v. 6b). He’s not waiting for them to be sinless, but he’s waiting for their full commitment to the cause. No commander or even soldier wants to go to battle with others who are partially committed or on the fence. You’re either on the team fully, or you stay back, lest you do more damage to the cause than good. Here’s the question for the Corinthians then: Are they ready to fight alongside him, or are they his opponents? Which team are they on? Where’s their allegiance? In order for Paul to deal fully with his opponents (which he is fully prepared and courageous to do), the Corinthians need to be his band of brothers. They will demonstrate this unbreakable bond through their full submission to the apostolic authority given to him by Christ. Paul’s delay in coming to them (2:1) and his bold letter (10:2, 9-10) serve to warn and stir up the Corinthians to deny the authority of these super-apostles and false friends, and to acknowledge God’s Word through Paul.

In the latter two-thirds of the chapter Paul takes us deeper in the battle to the manner and content of his self-defense (vv. 7-18). His manner is paradigmatic for fellow warriors. As he would say to the Corinthians elsewhere, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul entreats the Corinthians “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (v. 1). Paul is still confident, bold, courageous, and firm in his allegiance to Christ and opposition to the enemy, but his demeanor is that of lowliness. He’s humbled by the humble Christ (Matt. 11:29), and that humility of heart rises to the surface. Indeed, it was so apparent to his enemies that it was taken to be a sign of weakness and insignificance (v. 10). His lowliness is shown in verse 12. He’s not comparing himself to others. Later he says that he’s not commending himself either (v. 18). To be meek and gentle for Paul here is to know himself and his limitations. He’s a servant to the Lord, commended by the Lord. He’s not lording his authority over the Corinthians. In fact, he even says that his service is for them and their good. The Lord gave Paul this apostolic authority not to puff up Paul but to edify the Corinthians, and to increase their faith (vv. 8, 14-15). As it was the Son’s will to do the Father’s will, so it was Paul’s will to follow the orders of his Commander. And that’s why his meekness and gentleness are seen in his boasting. This boasting is within Christ-parameters (v. 13). To use John’s language, Paul isn’t going on ahead of Christ, leaving him in the dust (2 John 9). Paul is Christ-confined, so to speak. Where the Lord commissions him, that’s where he goes. How Christ expects his servant-soldier to conduct himself in the battle of strongholds, that’s how he behaves. Paul belongs to Christ despite what these super-apostles would say (v. 7). Paul has more than once rebuffed the accusation of being insincere. He takes that on here in verse 11, but he already spoke about it earlier (1:12; 2:17; 4:2). He is a sincere, lowly soldier in the Lord’s army, and he fights and boasts in the glory of his Lord (v. 17).

This chapter raises some important questions for us to think about as we engage a world dead-set on killing Christ in the culture and insistent on removing Christ from the ideas of Academia. How do we respond when people wage war against us and our reputation? How do we respond when they impugn our motives? Surely that’s happened to you, and sometimes the accusations come from a true brother or sister and not a false friend. It’s a sad reality. But what must be our response? Shall we return evil for evil? No. We shall overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). A soft answer turns away wrath (Prov. 15:1). Our answers can be both firm and soft. Our answers can be both idea-destroying and humble of heart. Jesus lived that. Paul modeled it. As imitators of Christ, that is what we’re called to do as well.

But to ask about the manner of our fighting assumes that we’re in the battle. Perhaps that’s an improper assumption, however. Therefore, let us ask ourselves. Are we even engaged in the battle against Christ’s kingdom? Are we a part of Christ’s battle campaign? When it comes to the war of worldviews, are we like some of the Corinthians who were sitting on the sidelines? Or are we actively engaged in the spiritual warfare? Will we, like David putting Uriah at the front line without military assistance to be killed, leave Paul high-and-dry? Will we leave our brothers and sisters to be outgunned and outmanned by the enemy? Or will we band together as soldiers to promote Christ’s truth, to find every Christ-despising stronghold and every Jesus-denying thought to enslave and destroy it with God’s Word? Lord willing, we’re a part of Christ’s kingdom. If so, then we’ll need to know his Word and his ways of communicating it. May Christ aid us by his Spirit as we fight for his glory.

     
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