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"1 ¶ And now a personal but most urgent matter; I write in the gentle but firm spirit of Christ. I hear that I’m being painted as cringing and wishy-
2 Please don’t force me to take a hard line when I’m present with you. Don’t think that I’ll hesitate a single minute to stand up to those who say I’m an unprincipled opportunist. Then they’ll have to eat their words.
3 The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-
4 The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture.
5 We use our powerful God-
6 Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity."
Pauls Defends his Ministry
Relations between Paul and the Christians in Corinth had been through a difficult time. However, much progress had been made with the majority who were once again responding in a positive manner towards the apostle.
In the opening chapters of this letter Paul had mostly been directing his attention towards this majority – the presence of trouble-
Yet, Paul doesn’t feel comfortable about doing this. He would far rather speak of Christ but knows that for he must defend his ministry as a true apostle of Jesus Christ if is to be able really help the Corinthians. In a sense Paul is forced to fight this battle on the terms his detractors had set down. They have done their boasting and they have made their criticisms and in doing so have somewhat thrown down the gauntlet to the apostle.
On a personal level Paul would prefer simply not to respond at all and to "turn the other cheek", but this is not a purely personal question. Paul’s apostleship and along with it the very nature of the apostolic gospel are at stake and Paul, whether he likes it or not, must stand up for the gospel – it is not a question of personal self-
The tension leads to some intensely emotional passages as Paul contests the claims of those he twice ironically labels "these super-
This evening we begin to consider Paul’s defence of his ministry and we’ll limit ourselves to 2Cor.10:1-
Paul begins his engagement with his readers with a strong personal appeal: "I, Paul, myself..." He could hardly be more emphatic or more personally engaged but his appeal is then immediately linked to the qualities of his Lord and Master "by the meekness and gentleness of Christ".
This is surely setting an example for us to imitate – the Christian disciple is to seek to emulate his Lord. Paul does so as he enters onto, what is for him, a very emotional terrain. What is to direct him? How is he to conduct himself? What better pattern to follow than the pattern set down and followed by his Lord who had been tried in every sort of way yet without sin.
So Paul’s approach involves meekness and gentleness. The two words in the original are indeed very similar and in fact they are almost synonyms. If there is a slight difference to be noted meekness is passive describing a way of responding to what others may do to us whereas gentleness refers more to the way in which we may initiate dealings with others.
In neither case are the words to be understood as signifying weakness. The world may view meekness as weakness but it calls for real strength to control one’s reactions patiently and calmly in the midst of extremely trying circumstances.
Paul then picks up on criticisms that have made concerning him and refers to them with irony.
v.1 "I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!"
His detractors have effectively said that Paul is two-
"I hear that I’m being painted as cringing and wishy-
How foolish that so evidently is! Here is Paul pleading and entreating by tender words and he is doing so by means of a letter written at distance! He will go on to plead with the Corinthians that he not be forced to be "bold" or stern when he visits and is there with them in person.
And yet, if his gentle words, his humble peace-
Paul, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, seeks to live his life in a consistent manner and that consistency is determined by the interest of Christ’s cause and Christ’s people. His detractors failed to see this itching, as they were, to minimise his influence.
This type of consistency is what we need to aspire to as well. Different circumstances may well call for different approaches and different emphases but not at the expense of faithfulness to Christ. Our lives are to be dominated by our love for Christ and our desire to see him honoured but not by any fear of man and his opinion of us. Openess to change and to adapt for Christ’s sake is to be applauded but it must really be for Christ’s sake and not for any baser motive.
Amongst other things Paul was being accused, behind his back, of doing things according to the unworthy values of the world, that he behaved exactly like sinners in the world behave. Paul was adamant: nothing could be further from the truth!
v.3 "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh."
This was in line with what Jesus prayed for in his famous high priestly prayer. There Jesus prayed that the Father might look after his followers who were in the world but not of it:
The world in the sense of the godless/anti-
Paul was having none of it.
Writing as an apostle of Christ he declares that he is not a two-
No, not a charlatan, but a fighter! Paul knows he is involved in war and he knows this war is a spiritual one which can only be won by using spiritual weapons and he declares that he has nothing to do with the weapons of the flesh.
So what weapons does Paul rely on in the spiritual warfare that is part and parcel of a disciple’s life? What is it that characterises those weapons? And against what are they wielded?
There is nothing secret about the arms that were available to the apostle Paul – the same spiritual weaponry is available to every follower of Jesus Christ who has been set free from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. And every Christian believer can expect the weapons to work in the same way for them as they for the apostle Paul.
Paul was so confident, wasn’t he? He knew that the spiritual weapons available to him were full of divine power and so effective for accomplishing their end. It is important that we recognise just what that end was so that we don’t look for the wrong direction for the wrong results.
Paul understood that his enemies were not primarily people at all but spiritual strongholds that were full of their own proud and defective arguments. Consequently Paul saw the battle as raging for the hearts, minds and wills of people. He wanted and expected to take "every thought captive to Christ".
Earlier in this same letter Paul had laid the groundwork for what he says here. The battleground was in the realm of the mind and the spirit precisely because:
2Cor.4:4 "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
Unless and until the light of the gospel, empowered by the Spirit of God, penetrates the life of a sinner that person will remain in spiritual darkness, a darkness which has blinded his eyes so that he cannot see. The Spirit must work powerfully because men and women left to the own devices don’t want the light and are sadly all-
The weapons of this world are powerless to penetrate and dispel this darkness – but the same cannot be said of the type of spiritual weaponry that Paul refers to. This is the kind of weaponry he has in mind:
Truth and truthfulness
Faith and faithfulness
And we haven’t yet mentioned the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, or the weapon of "all prayer"!
Paul is confident that the majority of the Christians in Corinth are back on the right track even if yet they still have some further action to take before all the problems might be resolved. They have returned to their former warm appreciation of the apostle and the gospel he has presented to them but there is still a problem with the continued presence and influence of "these super apostles" who may well still claim some support in Corinth.
Paul doesn’t want to act in some premature way before the grace of God has been able to produce the "complete obedience" to which he refers in the faithful Corinthians. (He is not thinking in absolute terms – until the return of Christ the work of sanctification will never be brought to that perfect completion. Paul is referring to a complete obedience with regard to the particular problems that have been so destructive and about which he has been so exercised.)
Paul doesn’t then want as it were to run ahead of the majority of the Corinthians but to take them with him when he will move on to the serious matter of discipline/punishment. He doesn’t detail what he means to do exactly but these are not the words of a man who plans to grovel when he next confronts those who have troubled the church. If punishment is necessary Paul will not shrink from carrying it out.
Gentleness combined with firmness.
Spiritual battles and spiritual weapons.
Care not to go it alone but rather the intent to take the whole church forward together as far as possible.
These are the themes of this particular section of Scripture.
May the Lord teach us what we need to learn and give us the grace to live what we learn.