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III. THE APOSTLE’S SELF-DEFENSE AND VINDICATION. Chapters 10-13
1. The Vindication of His Authority
The apostle now turns to vindicate the authority, which he had received from the Lord. This had been brought into question by the enemy. In doing this Satan aimed at three things: He attempted to discredit him as a true minister of God; he tried to damage the great truths the apostle preached, and he endeavored also to bring about a separation between the apostle and the Corinthians. Assuredly the great man of God was troubled and did not want to speak much of himself and his authority. But he was forced to do so in this epistle and also in the epistle to the Galatians, for the truth of God and the honor of the Lord were at stake. The defense of his apostolic authority stands in the foreground in Galatians; here he puts it at the close of his letter, for it was necessary to deal with other matters first, and to assure the Corinthians of his deep concern for them and thus pave the way for an answer to the accusations brought against him.
He begins by entreating them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. The three words “Now I, Paul,” were to remind them of his own person. It was the Paul who had come amongst them to preach the gospel, and through his preaching wonderful results had been brought about. And now attacked and belittled among the same people, who, next to God, had to thank him for everything, he begins to entreat them and vindicate his authority and character. He states, “Who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you.” These words make partly reference to his personal appearance, which was not of a character which appealed to the Corinthians, who admired the athletic physique of the Greeks. Not alone was his outward form lowly, but he was equally so in his manner and conduct. From this we learn that his accusers, who tried to influence the Corinthians against him, had thrown contempt on his person and character. We shall find that he takes up repeatedly their false charges and insinuations, to meet and refute them. When he writes, “but being absent am bold toward you,” he has in mind what his enemies had said about the epistle he had written them; they belittled his personal appearance and his character, and sneeringly said, he is bold when he is absent; he knows how to write strong letters when he is away, but otherwise he is a coward. He answers by saying,
“But I beseech you that I may not be bold when I am present with the confidence with which I think to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walk according to the flesh.”
He beseeches them that he may not be obliged to use his authority as an apostle when among them, against those who had wronged him by their false charges. He had written in boldness, yet he could also act in boldness and with authority when he was present with them. They had accused him that he was walking on the same level with them, that is, “according to the flesh.” This he repudiates by saying that he walks in flesh, (note in the Greek the word flesh is without the definite article; not “in the flesh”, but “in flesh”), which is quite a different thing. He was a man like other men; but when it came to warfare, he waged no fleshly conflict. He acknowledges that he has no wisdom in himself; as to flesh he is powerless, he is cast upon God. How different from these false teachers, his accusers who walked in pride and boasted of wisdom and were governed by selfish motives. The weapons he used were not fleshly, but mighty through God; the weapons which the Holy Spirit supplies. And this spiritual warfare means “the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
Well has it been said, “repression of the natural will, which is the seat and vehicle of Satan’s machinations, is the true aim of spiritual warfare.” Mere fleshly, independent “reasonings” and “imaginations” are inconsistent with a real subjection to God. The natural man thinks his own thoughts and follows his own imaginations, but not so the believer: he abandons his own thoughts and imaginations; he casts down all that exalteth itself against the true knowledge of God, and brings into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. The Corinthians had not done this; they walked in a carnal way and the enemy got an advantage over them. And so it is largely today among God’s people.
After stating that he was ready to avenge all disobedience, in virtue of his apostolic authority, when their obedience was fulfilled, he asks, “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?” This is what they had done. “For his letters,” say they, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” But he answers that just what he was in his letters when not with them, so would he also be when he is present with them, He speaks of his authority given to him by the lord for edification and not for their destruction; he wanted them to know that he was not terrifying them by his letters. He did not dare to do as others did, commending himself. Those who opposed him constantly measured themselves among themselves, and not in God’s presence. He acted differently. “But we will not boast of things without measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.” He disavowed all connection and comparison with those whose glory was of themselves, and though he had greater gifts bestowed upon himself than others, yet he would not boast of it. The measure which God had given to him had reached unto the Corinthians, for they were the fruit of his labors. He did not boast of other men’s labors, and hoped that with an increase of their faith there would also be an increase of his labors even to the regions beyond.
“But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” If there is any glorying it must be in Him, who is the only proper object. He must be glorified by the true minister; He must be praised and exalted, and not the instrument. Self-praise and self-commendation do not mean approval from the Lord, but the opposite. “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” Self-commendation, the love of human praise in some form, disguised or undisguised, are prominent characteristics with many who preach and teach a great deal of truth in our days of boasting. Happy is the servant who hides himself, whose aim is to please the Lord and who looks to Him for approval.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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