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the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 10

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

[The two previous parts of this epistle have been mainly addressed to that portion of the congregation at Corinth which was loyal to the apostle. This third part, however, is especially addressed to his enemies, though he at times evidently speaks to his friends. The apostle in neither case formally indicated which party he was addressing, for he rightly assumed that each would wisely appropriate to itself the sentiments which properly belonged to it.] Now I Paul myself entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I who in your presence am lowly among you, but being absent am of good courage toward you:

Verse 2

yea, I beseech you, that I may not when present show courage with the confidence wherewith I count to be bold against some, who count of us as if we walked according to the flesh. [Hitherto the apostle had associated Timothy as a joint author of this letter, but as he now prepares to deal with his enemies and matters personal to himself, he disengages himself from all entangling fellowships and steps forth alone to defend his name and influence. That there may be no doubt as to his purpose in thus standing alone, and that his enemies may understand the spirit in which he presents himself before them, he quotes their own belittling description of him: for they had described him as a coward who threatened and thundered when absent, but was meek and lowly enough when present. Accepting for the moment this false estimate of himself, he beseeches them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ (for Jesus ever preferred gentleness to severity) that they may so amend their conduct as to make their estimate of him true thus far; viz.: that at his coming he may indeed be permitted to show them gentleness, and may not, as he now confidently expected, be compelled to show his severity toward those who accused him of conducting himself as an unprincipled worldling.]

Verse 3

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh

Verse 4

(for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds);

Verse 5

casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ;

Verse 6

and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full. [For though we are indeed human, we do not contend after a human or worldly fashion (for our weapons are not slander, detraction, misrepresentation, etc., which are the methods employed by the world in overcoming opponents, but we use divine powers in our conflicts (1 Corinthians 4:19-21; 1 Corinthians 5:5), powers which are mighty in the sight of God to tear down defenses), and which can cast down all false human reasonings, sophistries and vain deductions, and every like thing which men presumptuously rear in opposition to the word of God, and which can bring every rebellious thought into captivity, so that it shall obey Christ. With this power, therefore, I am ready to come to punish all the disobedient; but I pause that all who desire to repent may do so, and after the number of the obedient is made full I will punish the rebellious remnant that remain. In verse 4 Paul evidently alludes to the crow, a large military engine with a great claw to it, which was used to pull down the walls of castles, forts and other strongholds. Stanley thinks that Paul has in mind in this passage certain military operations which occurred in Cilicia, the province in which he was born. In the hills and mountains of that locality, certain bands of pirates and robbers entrenched themselves, and for awhile withstood the Roman arms. Cicero made some headway in suppressing them, and on his return was honored with a Roman triumph, but the final victory was achieved by Pompey the generation before Paul was born. Pompey made great use of the crow, for he pulled down one hundred and twenty fortresses. But the crow was then in as general use as the cannon is now, and a writer would hardly be thought to refer to Gettysburg if he happened to use cannonading as a figure of speech. However, Pompey’s campaign is a useful bit of history, for it shows us how forceful the figure was which Paul employed.]

Verse 7

Ye look at the things that are before your face. If any man trusteth in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again with himself, that, even as he is Christ’s, so also are we. [You false teachers who oppose me view things very shallowly and superficially, for ye deem yourselves to be Christ’s because ye came from Judæa, or perhaps have seen him, or been present with him during a large part of his ministry (Acts 1:21-22); and ye make bold to reject us as his because we seem to have been denied these privileges, failing to notice that our claims to be the Lord’s are (at the least!) equal to yours. If they were apostles merely because they had seen the Lord, so also was Paul, and in addition he had, what they did not, a direct, official appointment from Christ (Acts 9:15), a recognition from the twelve (Acts 15:25) and a compact or arrangement with them regarding the division of their work-- Galatians 2:9]

Verse 8

For though I should glory somewhat abundantly concerning our authority (which the Lord gave for building you up, and not for casting you down), I shall not be put to shame:

Verse 9

that I may not seem as if I would terrify you by my letters.

Verse 10

For, His letters, they say [a general expression, equivalent to "it is said"], are weighty and strong; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account. [Now even if I boast most freely that my authority is greater than yours, my boasting will not bring shame upon me if you put me to the test. You will find that I am not terrible in letters alone, but also in my presence, and you will find how falsely you have spoken when you said that my letters were the only part of me calculated to cause fear. However, I shall regret to thus demonstrate my power against you, for God gave me this power to use rather in building you up than in tearing you down. The apostle thus draws a subtle contrast between himself and his adversaries, for they had delighted in destructive rather than constructive works.]

Verse 11

Let such a one reckon this, that, what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such are we also in deed when we are present.

Verse 12

For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with certain of them that commend themselves: but they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding. [Let all who thus accuse me of cowardice know assuredly that when I come my deeds will comport with the threatenings and warnings in my letters. I have in no way exaggerated my authority or power in my writing to you, for in this art of exaggerated self-praise or self-commendation I am not the equal of the false leaders in Corinth. In this art I am not so proficient that I can presume to measure myself with these Corinthian experts, for they, never looking outside their own narrow circle, but comparing themselves with each other, have swelled with an inflated sense of self-importance which would have long since been punctured so that it would have collapsed if they had brought themselves into comparison with the real apostles. Real worth can never speak so highly of itself as can conceited and unreasoning vanity. Those who compare themselves with Christ lose that self-exaltation which belongs to those who compare themselves only with men, hence they are too handicapped to enter into competition with any such in the matter of boasting.]

Verse 13

But we will not glory beyond our measure, but according to the measure of the province which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even unto you. [Paul got no false idea of his own stature by measuring himself with other men; but as the most apt measure for the point to be determined, viz.: his stature or capacity as a minister of the gospel, he chose the province or territory which God had assigned him as his field of operation. Though the whole world was his bishopric (Galatians 2:7-9), yet he contents himself with saying it included Corinth. In the eyes of his opponents Corinth was the sum and center of all things, but in the larger life of Paul it was a mere dot in a limitless field of operations. See 2 Corinthians 11:28]

Verse 14

For we stretch not ourselves overmuch, as though we reached not unto you: for we came even as far as unto you in the gospel of Christ:

Verse 15

not glorying beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors; but having hope that, as your faith groweth, we shall be magnified in you according to our province unto further abundance,

Verse 16

so as to preach the gospel even unto the parts beyond you, and not to glory in another’s province in regard of things ready to our hand. [Though God gave us so vast a bishopric, we indeed filled so much of it as to reach you. We were not so much smaller than this bishopric which God gave to us, that we had to stretch ourselves to cover it. To make a show of covering our territory we did not need to take possession of other men’s labors and claim the fruits of their ministry, as though they wrought as our agents. If we had done this, we would indeed be glorying beyond our measure. But thus far (i. e., as far as unto you) we have covered the province assigned to us and we have hope that as your faith groweth, and ye become subject to Christ through being subject to his true ministers, we ourselves shall grow and be magnified so that we shall more nearly attain to the magnitude of our great province. At present your vacillation and infidelity confine our labors to you. Having taken you as a fortress for Christ, we can not leave you assailed by Satan and half surrendered to him. When you are again established in the faith I expect to go on into Italy and into Spain, and do work in those parts of my province which lie far beyond you. It is no part of my plan or intention to take possession of some other man’s labor and glory in it, as you false leaders have done by coming to Corinth and taking possession of the church which I left there ready to your hand.]

Verse 17

But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. [Paul here gives the rule of boasting as condensed from Jeremiah 9:23-24 . Paul’s enemies had not observed this rule; he had. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 he ascribed all his power to God, and in 2 Corinthians 10:13 he shows that, vast as his work was, it was far less than God demanded of him.]

Verse 18

For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. [The self-commendation of a man rests on no higher evidence than the testimony of his own lips, but the commendation of God is shown by the works which he enables those to do whom he approves.]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/2-corinthians-10.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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