6-Week Series: Against All Odds

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Summary: Paul continues to answer his critics in Corinth, and we are faced with the same problem we had before; we are only hearing one side of the argument, Paul’s side, and we can only deduce what the criticisms were from Paul’s reply to them.

December 10, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

Lesson IV.A.2: By his Authority. (10:7-11).

2nd Corinthians 10:7-11 (NKJV)

7 Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ's, even so we are Christ's.

8 For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed--

9 lest I seem to terrify you by letters.

10 "For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible."

11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.

Introduction

Paul continues to answer his critics in Corinth, and we are faced with the same problem we had before; we are only hearing one side of the argument, Paul’s side, and we can only deduce what the criticisms were from Paul’s reply to them.

Commentary

7 Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ's, even so we are Christ's.

Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?

The Greek word for “look” is best translated as a command; therefore, these opening words can mean: “Look at what is before your eyes” (RSV), that is, the facts are there, as plain as the nose on your face; look at them. “You are looking at things according to their external appearance”; that is why you accept some intruder’s claim of authority instead of seeing that we have God-given authority to lead you. He bids them to consider the obvious results of his ministry—the men and women brought out of darkness into the light, the conversion of people in whose lives the genuine fruits of the Spirit are manifest. Unlike Paul, the false apostles had founded no churches and had suffered no persecution for the cause of Christ. Paul could call on his companions and even Ananias as witnesses to the reality of his Damascus road experience; there were no witnesses to verify the false apostles alleged encounters with the risen, glorified Christ.

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to adjust their perspective. They had been looking only at the outward appearance of things—listening intently to the false teachers who were boasting of themselves—their own authority (10:12-13), their perfect Hebrew heritage (11:21-22), and their visionary experiences (12:11-12). All of their loud boasts and extravagant displays of power had dazzled the Corinthians so much that they had become blind to the simplicity of the Gospel message that Paul had preached to them in the first place (1 Corinthians 2:1-3).

One of the most difficult lessons Paul’s disciples had to learn was that, in the kingdom of God, position and power were no evidence of authority. Jesus warned His followers not to pattern their leadership after that of the Gentiles who loved to “lord it over” others and act important (see Mark 10:25-35). The example we must follow is that of Jesus Christ who came as a servant and ministered to others. Paul followed this example.

But the Corinthians were not spiritually minded enough to discern what Paul was doing. They contrasted his meekness with the “personality power” of the Judaizers, and they concluded that Paul had no authority at all. Admittedly, he wrote powerful letters; but his physical appearance was weak, and his speech “unimpressive.” They were judging by the outward appearance and were not exercising spiritual discernment.

If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ's, even so, we are Christ's.

The false teachers who had infiltrated the Corinthian church were claiming to be teachers of Christ and their purpose were to try to supplant Paul (10:13). Since they were from Judea (11:21-22), their claims may have included some knowledge or acquaintance with Jesus during His ministry on earth. In any case, Paul matched their claim to belong to Christ. The Corinthians would have certainly known about Paul’s personal encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road, the encounter that had changed Paul forever (see Acts 9:1-10).

It seems clear that at least some of Paul’s opponents were saying that he did not belong to Christ in the same way they did—that they had a special relationship with Jesus Christ and letters of recommendation from the apostles in Jerusalem. Perhaps they were slamming him for once being the arch-persecutor of the church. Perhaps they claimed special knowledge. Perhaps they claimed special holiness. In any event, they looked down on Paul and glorified themselves and their own relationship to Christ. But nobody has an exclusive claim on Christ; he belongs to the Lord Jesus as much as any man. Whoever the exclusive Christians were, Paul does not deny they belonged to Christ. Therefore, in this verse, he can hardly be referring to the false apostles and deceitful workers who transformed themselves into apostles of Christ (11:4). It seems that he is dealing with different adversaries from the Corinthian church, some saved and some unsaved. However, it is not clear from the text who it is or what group he is referring to; so, it can be either the false teachers or some individual or group in the Corinthian church. My personal opinion is that it is all of these.

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