DEFENSE OF HIS APOSTLESHIP
At this point Paul begins his personal defense which concludes the epistle. And here we perceive more particularly that interchange of gravity and irony to which reference has been made, and which causes these chapters to be so difficult of explanation.
The apostle’s critics had reflected on his personal appearance (2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 10:10); on what they were pleased to consider his carnality (2 Corinthians 10:3); his lack of eloquence (2 Corinthians 11:5) and his lack of dignity (2 Corinthians 11:7-10). We shall find it inconvenient to deal with these subjects otherwise than as they come before us in the chapters.
They said that in their presence he was “base” or “lowly,” but that absent he was bold as indicated in his letters (2 Corinthians 10:1). He besought them therefore, to heed his words that he might not have occasion to be “bold” against them when he was present (2 Corinthians 10:2). He had particular reference to some who regarded him as walking “according to the flesh.” They would see that any spiritual weakness in his conduct did not show itself in the weapons or results of his spiritual conflicts with the enemies of the truth (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).
They were looking on the outward appearance, despising him and conceitedly claiming some special relationship to Christ for themselves. He meets this by a presentation of his true claims, as to which he might go further without idle boasting and justify any expressions of apostolic power in his letters (2 Corinthians 10:7-11). In proof of this he appeals to facts including his work among them in Corinth (2 Corinthians 10:12-14); and delicately intimates that when the present trouble was at an end, they would assist him to extend his ministry further (2 Corinthians 10:15-18). (See Romans 1:10; Romans 15:28).
His pleadings continue because of his love for them and his fear of their beguilement. They were tolerating those who were preaching another gospel to them, and surely they might bear with him, since he was in no respect inferior to those “over much” apostles (2 Corinthians 11:1-6). 2 Corinthians 11:2 is very interesting. For an explanation of “a godly jealousy,” see Exodus 20:5, and Joshua 24:19. For “one husband” and “chaste virgin,” see 1 Corinthians 1:12. The espousal in this case took place when they were converted to Christ, the presentation will take place when He comes again. 2 Corinthians 11:3 is interesting from another point of view, since it shows that Paul regards the fall (Genesis 3) as historical. Note also that the tempter did not propose to take Eve’s allegiance away from God entirely, but only to corrupt her faith, which was enough. At this point he refers to their assumed contempt because he had not demanded pay from them, explaining the reasons for his conduct (2 Corinthians 11:7-12), plainly characterizing the “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). They had compelled him to boast (v. 16-33) for which he apologizes. 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 reveal a life of hardship far beyond anything told of Paul in the Acts. 2 Corinthians 11:19 is ironic.
Here we come to “visions and revelations” vouchsafed to him. In these there could be no self-commendation, but only that of a man in Christ lifted out of his own individuality, and thought worthy of such grace on account of being in Christ. His only object in boasting of such an one was to bear witness to the supernatural life he was living and that such glorious things had been granted him. In behalf of himself he would boast only in his infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:1-6). 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 are self-explanatory except as to the nature of the “thorn in the flesh.” It has been spoken of as chronic ophthalmia, inducing bodily weakness and a repulsive appearance (Galatians 4:15), but no one knows what it was. The Corinthians should not have made it necessary for him thus to speak of himself; they should have spoken on his behalf (2 Corinthians 12:11), for the signs of an apostle were wrought by him among them (2 Corinthians 12:12-13). The insinuation about his having ministered to them without monetary gain is once more referred to, in order to say that he will continue to do so. He is their parent, and parents lay up for the children (2 Corinthians 12:14-15). Those he had sent to them had followed his example in this respect (2 Corinthians 12:16-18).
The church, however, must not suppose that in what he was saying he was excusing himself to them. On the contrary he was doing all things for their edifying (2 Corinthians 12:19), and in the hope that when he visited them the third time, it might not be with a rebuke and with sorrow because of their sin (2 Corinthians 12:20-21).
He emphasizes the rebuke and chastening that await some on his third coming if they do not repent (2 Corinthians 13:1-10), closing with an exhortation (2 Corinthians 13:11), salutation (2 Corinthians 13:12-13) and benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14).
1. What is the general theme of this lesson?
2. In what four ways had Paul’s critics reflected on him?
3. Why had Paul declined material support from the church at Corinth?
4. What kind of apostles were these who were comparing themselves with Paul?
5. What kind of life was Paul really living?
6. Why should the Corinthians have commended Paul?
7. With what does he threaten the church on his next visit?
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Gray, James. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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