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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 10 - Verse 1
INTRODUCTION to 2nd Corinthians Chapter 10
PAUL, having finished the subject of the duty of alms-giving in the previous chapter, enters in this on a vindication of himself from the charges of his enemies. His general design is to vindicate his apostolic authority, and to show that he had a right, as well as others, to regard himself as sent from God. This vindication is continued through chapters 11 and 12. In this chapter, the stress of the argument is, that he did not depend on anything external to recommend him on any "carnal weapons;" on anything which commended itself by the outward appearance; or on anything that was so much valued by the admirers of human eloquence and learning. He seems willing to admit all that his enemies could say of him on that head, and to rely on other proofs that he was sent from God. In chapter 11 he pursues the subject, and shows, by a comparison of himself with others, that he had as good a right certainly as they to regard himself as sent by God. In chapter 12 he appeals to another argument, to which none of his accusers were able to appeal, that he had been permitted to see the glories of the heavenly world, and had been favoured in a manner unknown to other men.
It is evident that there was one or more false teachers among the Corinthians, who called in question the Divine authority of Paul. These teachers were native Jews, 2 Co 11:13,22, and they boasted much of their own endowments. It is impossible, except from the epistle itself, to ascertain the nature of their charges and objections against him. From the chapter before us it would seem that one principal ground of their objection was, that though he was bold enough in his letters, and had threatened to exercise discipline, yet that he would not dare to do it. They accused him of being, when present with them, timid, weak, mild, pusillanimous, of lacking moral courage to inflict the punishment which he had threatened in his letters: To this he replies in this chapter.
(1.) He appeals to the meekness and gentleness of Christ; thus indirectly and delicately vindicating his own mildness from their objections, and entreats them not to give him occasion to show the boldness and severity which he had purposed to do. He had no wish to be bold and severe in the exercise of discipline, 2 Co 10:1,2.
(2.) He assures them that the weapons of his warfare were not carnal, but spiritual. He relied on the truth of the gospel, and on the power of motives; and these weapons were mighty, by the aid of God, to cast down all that offended him. Yet he was ready to revenge and punish all disobedience by severe measures, if it were necessary, 2 Co 10:3-6.
(3.) They looked on the outward appearance. He cautioned them to remember that he had as good claims to be regarded as belonging to Christ as they had, 2 Co 10:7. He had given proofs that he was an apostle; and the false teachers should look at those proofs, lest they should be found to be opposing God. He assured them that if he had occasion to exercise his power he would have no reason to be ashamed of it, 2 Co 10:8. It would be found to be ample to execute punishment on his foes.
(4.) The false teachers had said that Paul was terrible only in his letters. He boasted of his power, but it was, they supposed, only epistolary bravery. He would not dare to execute his threatening. In reply to this, Paul, in a strain of severe irony, says that he would not seem to terrify them by mere letters. It would be by something far more severe. He advised such objectors, therefore, to believe that he would prove himself to be such as he had shown himself to be in his letters; to look at the evidence, since they boasted of their talent for reasoning, that he would show himself in fact to be what he had threatened to be, 2 Co 10:9-12.
(5.) He pursues the strain of severe irony by secretly comparing himself with them, 2 Co 10:12-16. They boasted much, but it was only by comparing themselves with one another, and not with any elevated standard of excellence. Paul admitted that he had not the courage to do that, 2 Co 10:12. Nor did he dare to boast of things wholly beyond his ability, as they had done. He was contented to act only within the proper limits prescribed to him by his talents, and by the appointment of God. Not so they. They had boldness and courage to go far beyond that, and to boast of things wholly beyond their ability, and beyond the proper measure, 2 Co 10:13,14. Nor had he courage to boast of entering into other men's labours. It required more courage than he had to make a boast of what he had done, if he had availed himself of things made ready to his hand, as if they were the fruit of his own labours, implying that they had done this; that they had come to Corinth, a church founded by his labours, and had quietly set themselves down there; and then, instead of going into other fields of labour, had called in question the authority of him who had founded the church, and who was labouring indefatigably elsewhere, 2 Co 10:15,16. Paul adds, that such was not his intention, he aimed to preach the gospel beyond, to carry it to regions where it had not been spread. Such was the nature of his courage; such the kind of boldness which he had, and he was not ambitious to join them in their boasting.
(6.) He concludes this chapter with a very serious admonition. Leaving the strain of irony, he seriously says, that if any man were disposed to boast, it should be only in the Lord. He should glory not in self-commendation, but in the fact that he had evidence that the Lord approved him; not in his own talents or powers, but in the excellence and glory of the Lord, 2 Co 10:17,18.
Verse 1. Now I Paul myself beseech you. I entreat you who are members of the church not to give me occasion for the exercise of severity in discipline. I have just expressed my confidence in the church in general, and my belief that you will act in accordance with the rules of the gospel. But I cannot thus speak of all. There are some among you who have spoken with contempt of my authority and my claims as an apostle. Of them I cannot speak in this manner; but instead of commanding them, I entreat them not to give me occasion for the exercise of discipline.
By the meekness and gentleness of Christ. In view of the meekness and mildness of the Redeemer; or desiring to imitate his gentleness and kindness. Paul wished to imitate that. He did not wish to have occasion for severity, he desired at all times to imitate and to exhibit the gentle feelings of the Saviour. He had no pleasure in severity; and he did not desire to exhibit it.
Who in presence. Marg., in outward appearance. It may either mean that when present among them he appeared, according to their representation, to be humble, mild, gentle, 2 Co 10:10, or that in his external appearance he had this aspect. See Barnes "2 Co 10:10".
Most probably it means that they had represented him as timid when among them, and afraid to exercise discipline, however much he had threatened it.
Am base among you. The word here used (tapeinov) usually means low, humble, poor. Here it means timid, modest, the opposite of boldness. Such was formerly the meaning of the English Word base. It was applied to those of low degree or rank; of humble birth; and stood opposed to those of elevated rank or dignity. Now it is commonly used to denote that which is degraded or worthless, of mean spirit, vile; and stands opposed to that which is manly and noble. But Paul did not mean to use it here in that sense. He meant to say that they regarded him as timid, and afraid to execute the punishment which he had threatened, and as manifesting a spirit which was the opposite of boldness. This was doubtless a charge which they brought against him; but we are not necessarily to infer that it was true. All that it proves is, that he was modest and unobtrusive, and that they interpreted this as timidity, and want of spirit.
This they charged him with, that he was bold enough when away from them, but that he would be tame enough when he should meet them face to face, and that they had nothing to fear from him.
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