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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 10

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-14

B) Chapters 10-13. St. Paul’s Defence of his Ministry

As explained in the Introduction, this section is regarded as part of the intermediate letter, referred to in 2 Corinthians 2:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 7:8, in which the Apostle rebuked his converts, and sought to bring them to repentance. It is, therefore, to be taken as earlier in time than 2 Corinthians 1-9, which were written as the result of the Corinthians’ reception of the intermediate or ’severe’ letter.

Here the Apostle answers the charges of weakness and cowardice that have been brought against him, defends his preaching and his independence, points to the proofs of his apostleship in suffering and service, and finally warns them against evil and exhorts them to live a pure and holy life.

Verses 1-18

(a) 10:1-18. Answer to the Charge of Feebleness and Cowardice

The Apostle beseeches the Corinthians to act in such a way that he will not need to resort to extreme measures on the occasion of his forthcoming visit. He points out that his purpose is to make every man’s thoughts subject to the power of Christ, and that he will punish any who are rebellious when the Church as a whole shall have returned to its obedience. He goes on to say that those who have been accusing him of cowardice will soon find themselves mistaken. He will make no boast that his record cannot justify, and he will boast chiefly of his success in converting the Corinthians themselves. This was a field of labour the Apostle had made peculiarly his own; and he hoped for the assistance of the Church in carrying the gospel further west. But let them not forget that the only glorying that was safe was that which came through seeking the approval of the Lord.

1. Now I Paul] If this is not the beginning of the ’severe’ letter, it is evidently the beginning of a new subject. Possibly one leaf of the MS containing this letter was lost at an early date; and this loss led to the remaining portion being attached in course of time to the longer Epistle consisting of 2 Corinthians 1-9. By the meekness and gentleness of Christ] cp. Philippians 2:1. He invokes Christ’s meekness to indicate the spirit in which he wishes to deal with his opponents.

In presence am base, etc.] This was their story, by which they sought to prejudice him in the eyes of the Church.

2. According to the flesh] i.e. in a worldly spirit. His enemies declared that he was one who sought his own advantage and tried to gain popularity by whatever methods seemed best at the moment. When he was at a distance, he issued commands and declared his authority over the Church; but when he came they found him a poor creature who was overawed by the firmness of the Church against him.

3-6. Paraphrase. ’We live in the flesh, and are subject to its weaknesses and temptations, like others; but we are not prompted by fleshly motives, such as dread of giving offence, or desire of popularity. (4) For we fight not in our own strength, but in the strength of God, and this reliance upon Him enables us to prevail against all opposition and prejudice, however strong or deep-rooted. (5) In this strength we shatter the false reasonings and assertions of our opponents, and bring back your rebellious thoughts into obedience to Christ, (6) while after we secure your submission, we shall certainly punish any who may still resist His will.’

4. Carnal] RV ’of the flesh.’ Through God] RV ’before God.’

5. Imaginations] the false reasonings of his enemies. Every high thing] All the pride and self-satisfaction and self-delusion which made the Corinthians rebel against him. Bringing into captivity] The Apostle describes the Corinthians in a metaphor as rebels in possession of a castle (2 Corinthians 10:4) with battlements and high towers, (2 Corinthians 10:5) which he must attack in order to capture the defenders.

6. Disobedience] There may be some contumacious to the bitter end.

7-10. Paraphrase. ’You are too much influenced by appearances. My opponents say that I do not act as an Apostle of Christ, do they? Be sure that I am just as devoted a servant of Christ as any who assert their superiority. (8) Even if I boasted of my authority which Christ has given me, I should still be justified. (9) I write this to show that I am not seeking to terrify you by empty threats, (10) for, according to my opponents, my presence among you and my appeals were alike ineffective.’

7. Do ye look, etc.] RV ’Ye look at the things that are before your face.’ As he is Christ’s, even so are we] St. Paul claims that his relation to Christ is as close as that of any of his opponents: cp. 2 Corinthians 13:3, 2 Corinthians 13:4. For the Christ party see Intro. 1 (b). Some think that the leaders of this party claimed to have known Christ during His earthly life.

10. His letters]. They had at this date received at least two from St. Paul, (1) that mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9, and (2) our First Epistle. His bodily presence is weak] i.e. his action is feeble when he is present. His speech contemptible] RV ’of no account’; i.e. produced no effect. Possibly the Apostle pleaded with them rather than asserted his authority. He was an eloquent speaker (Acts 14:12). 11. Will we be] RV ’are we.’

12. We dare not] RV ’we are not bold’: cp. 2 Corinthians 11:2. His confidence was not based on comparison with his opponents. Not wise] RV ’without understanding.’ Such a method of self-commendation is useless and foolish.

13-18. Paraphrase. ’Others may boast without reason, but we will make no boast which cannot be justified by our work—a work which includes your conversion. (14) For in claiming you as our converts we are not making too great a boast. (15) And we are not taking credit for other men’s labours as our opponents are for ours, but are rather hoping that as your faith increases so also will our influence, (16) that we may be aided to preach the gospel in districts beyond your city, and not seek, as some are doing, to claim credit for success where others have laboured before us. (17) The only safe rule about boasting of success is this: He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (18) For self-praise is no attestation of the work that is done; that attestation is only shown when God’s blessing attends and prospers it.’

13. Without our measure] outside our province. He will only boast of work done by himself, and that included preaching the gospel in Corinth. The measure of the rule, etc.] RV ’The measure of the province which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even unto you.’ St. Paul’s province was heathendom, and that included Corinth.

14. We are come] He was the first to preach Christ in Corinth.

15. Not boasting, etc.] RV ’not glorying beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labours; but having hope that as your faith groweth, we shall be magnified in you according to our province unto further abundance.’ Of other men’s labours] The suggestion is that his opponents do so. We shall be enlarged] As their faith increased and their Christian life became more manifest, his name would become better known, his influence would increase, and his sphere of service would be much extended, according to his rule of making a Church the starting-point for further efforts.

16. The regions beyond you] These chapters were written in Ephesus; hence this would refer to Rome, and perhaps Spain. Rome was already in his mind (Acts 19:21), and soon after this date he wrote of going to Spain (Romans 15:24, Romans 15:28). Not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready] RV ’not to glory in another’s province in regard of. things ready.’

17. Cp. Jeremiah 9:23; 1 Corinthians 1:31. In the Lord] The only boasting is to be of Him who gives the blessing.

18. Not he that commendeth himself] Contrast between himself and his accusers is implied. The true test is the success of the work, not the self-advertisement of the workers.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/2-corinthians-10.html. 1909.
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