2Cor.10:1-6 - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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2Corinthians 10:1-6

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2 Cor.10:1-6 Message

"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-washy when I’m with you, but harsh and demanding when at a safe distance writing letters.
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-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will.
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-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.
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-makers has not been ignored but rather they had been relegated to the background. Now it is time for Paul to write about them in a more much vigorous and up-front way. The closing chapters of this letter contain an unusual though robust defence of his own ministry as he responds to criticisms that have been made of him.

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-promotion.
The tension leads to some intensely emotional passages as Paul contests the claims of those he twice ironically labels "these super-apostles" (11:5; 12:11). This tension is evident from the way Paul writes: In the first 9 chapters "I" appears 66x but in the last 4 chapters its appearances are 100+. There is also an emphatic word for "I" in Greek which is used for emphasis: in the early part of the letter it is used sparingly – just 3x in 9 chapters but in chapters 10-12 it appears 7x.

This evening we begin to consider Paul’s defence of his ministry and we’ll limit ourselves to 2Cor.10:1-6.

The Christian to live by Christ’s example
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-faced, he is one thing in person and quite another when absent, they regarded the very tone of his letters as being insolent and rude. This is how the Message puts it:

"I hear that I’m being painted as cringing and wishy-washy when I’m with you, but harsh and demanding when at a safe distance writing letters."

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-seeking attitude as he writes, prove to be ineffective he will not hesitate to adopt a different tone when present. Far from being wishy-washy Paul will not hesitate to stand up to his detractors who are falsely accusing him and misrepresenting him.

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:

Jn.17:15-16 "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world..."

The world in the sense of the godless/anti-God world-system is always trying to influence Christians, trying to squeeze them into its mould and to weaken or destroy the witness of the church. Sometimes the challenge is open and flagrant and at other times it is creeping and insidious – and we need to be vigilant that we do not succumb. Sometimes the world with its glitz and glamour tries to infiltrate the church substituting its apparently successful ways and wisdom for the ways and wisdom of God. How easy and how tempting at times to allow it to do so and to surrender to its charms!

Paul was having none of it.

Writing as an apostle of Christ he declares that he is not a two-faced charlatan. That’s what he had been accused of by "these super-apostles". Such accusations are to be expected and we shouldn’t be surprised if we are charged with hypocrisy either because lies have always been part of the devil’s armoury. Satan knows his time is limited and uses his weapons to try to resist his inevitable defeat. He had been using plenty of those weapons as he battled to destroy the church in Corinth.

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?

The Christian’s Spiritual Weaponry
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-too happy with the darkness that they know.

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:

  • Holiness

  • Integrity

  • Truth and truthfulness

  • Faith and faithfulness

  • Justice

  • Obedience

And we haven’t yet mentioned the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, or the weapon of "all prayer"!

Final Words
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.


  • Integrity.

  • Christ-centred consistency.

  • 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.


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