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10. Paul Defends His Ministry
1Now 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: 2yea, 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. 3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh 4(for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), 5casting 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; 6and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full. 7Ye 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. 8For 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: 9that I may not seem as if I would terrify you by my letters. 10For, His letters, they say, are weighty and strong; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account. 11Let 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. 12For 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. 13But 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. 14For 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: 15not 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, 16so 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. 17But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 18For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
The Apostle's Spiritual Authority. (a. d. 57.)
7 Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's. 8 For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: 9 That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. 10 For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. 11 Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.
In these verses the apostle proceeds to reason the case with the Corinthians, in opposition to those who despised him, judged him, and spoke hardly of him: "Do you," says he, "look on things after the outward appearance? v. 7. Is this a fit measure or rule to make an estimate of things or persons by, and to judge between me and my adversaries?" In outward appearance, Paul was mean and despicable with some; he did not make a figure, as perhaps some of his competitors might do: but this was a false rule to make a judgment by. It should seem that some boasted mighty things of themselves, and made a fair show. But there are often false appearances. A man may seem to be learned who has not learned Christ, and appear virtuous when he has not a principle of grace in his heart. However, the apostle asserts two things of himself:—
I. His relation to Christ: If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's, v. 7. It would seem by this that Paul's adversaries boasted of their relation to Christ as his ministers and servants. Now the apostle reasons thus with the Corinthians: "Suppose it to be so, allowing what they say to be true (and let us observe that, in fair arguing, we should allow all that may be reasonably granted, and should not think it impossible but those who differ from us very much may yet belong to Christ, as well as we), allowing them," might the apostle say, "what they boast of, yet they ought also to allow this to us, that we also are Christ's." Note, 1. We must not, by the most charitable allowances we make to others who differ from us, cut ourselves off from Christ, nor deny our relation to him. For, 2. There is room in Christ for many; and those who differ much from one another may yet be one in him. It would help to heal the differences that are among us if we would remember that, how confident soever we may be that we belong to Christ, yet, at the same time, we must allow that those who differ from us may belong to Christ too, and therefore should be treated accordingly. We must not think that we are the people, and that none belong to Christ but ourselves. This we may plead for ourselves, against those who judge us and despise us that, how weak soever we are, yet, as they are Christ's, so are we: we profess the same faith, we walk by the same rule, we build upon the same foundation, and hope for the same inheritance.
II. His authority from Christ as an apostle. This he had mentioned before (v. 6), and now he tells them that he might speak of it again, and that with some sort of boasting, seeing it was a truth, that the Lord had given it to him, and it was more than his adversaries could justly pretend to. It was certainly what he should not be ashamed of, v. 8. Concerning this observe, 1. The nature of his authority: it was for edification, and not for destruction. This indeed is the end of all authority, civil and ecclesiastical, and was the end of that extraordinary authority which the apostles had, and of all church-discipline. 2. The caution with which he speaks of his authority, professing that his design was not to terrify them with big words, nor by angry letters, v. 9. Thus he seems to obviate an objection that might have been formed against him, v. 10. But the apostle declares he did not intend to frighten those who were obedient, nor did he write any thing in his letters that he was not able to make good by deeds against the disobedient; and he would have his adversaries know this (v. 11), that he would, by the exercise of his apostolical power committed to him, make it appear to have a real efficacy.