Summary: Paul had his critics there in Corinth and in this last section of the letter Paul makes a strong defense against them. We learn some helpful things from Paul about dealing with our own critics.
A. The story is told about D.L. Moody, one of the most effective American evangelists of the 1800s.
1. Like all preachers, he had some supporters and some critics.
2. One day we went into the pulpit to give his sermon.
3. He looked down on the podium and noticed a note for him.
4. The note had only one word on it – “Fool.” He held the note up for all to see.
5. This note might have intimidated a lot of preachers, but not Moody.
6. He simply said, “I have known many instances where a person wrote a letter and forgot to sign their name. But this is the first case I’m aware of were someone signed their name and forgot to write the letter.”
B. Like Moody, the apostle Paul also had his critics, and as we have seen, much of 2 Corinthians is written to respond to his critics there in Corinth.
1. This letter we have been studying has three major sections.
a. The first section is chapters 1-7. In those chapters, we see Paul giving a mild defense of his apostleship, we see him defining his ministry, and we see him stressing his relationship with the Corinthians.
b. The second section is chapters 8 and 9. In those two chapters, which we have studied these past two weeks, we see Paul discussing the special collection for the poor in Judea, and the Corinthians participation in that effort.
c. Today we are entering the third and last section of the letter – the Grand Finale – chapters 10-13. In these chapters we will see Paul pulling out all the stops in a strong defense of his apostleship and ministry.
2. Another one of the interesting things we realize as we study 2 Corinthians is that these three sections of the letter that seem to be written to different groups in the church there in Corinth.
a. The first section, chapters 1-7, seem to be written to the majority of the church who have either remained faithful in their support of Paul, or who have repented and have returned to Paul.
b. The second section, chapters 8-9, seem to be written to the entire church as Paul encourages them to make good on their promise to help in the relief effort.
c. The third and final section, chapters 10-13, seem to be written to the small group in Corinth who continue to oppose Paul.
C. As we study through this last section of this letter, Paul will do his best to defend his ministry.
1. Paul may not have a lot of hope for turning his opponents around, but he knows he must attempt to do so for the sake of those his opponents have impacted.
2. Like a shepherd going after a wolf who has taken his sheep, we will see Paul grit his teeth and courageously take on the wolves in an attempt to rescue the sheep.
3. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
4. We will see Paul draw the Sword of the Spirit and wield it with great skill in his defense.
D. Today, as we study chapter 10, let’s see what we can learn about Paul, his ministry, and how to answer critics.
I. Understanding the Word
A. What we will see as we study through this chapter is a number of the accusations that were being made against Paul and his response to those accusations.
B. We notice that two of the criticisms appear in the first couple of verses.
1. Look at verses 1 and 2: By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away! 2I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. (2 Cor. 10:1-2)
2. The first of the criticism, which comes up a couple of times in this chapter, is the accusation that Paul is bold when absent and weak when present.
3. In contrast to Paul, these opponents must have been powerful and controlling while present there in Corinth.
4. Unfortunately, most people assume that church leadership is supposed to be like worldly leadership – large and in charge!
5. You remember how Jesus spoke against that notion and said that leadership in his kingdom would be upside down.
a. The greatest and most powerful would be the greatest servants, not those were served and who wielded the most power and control.
6. And do you remember Jesus’ great invitation from Matthew 11: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30)