2 Corinthians 10:13


Sunday, 15 November 2015

We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. 2 Corinthians 10:13

The sense of this verse seems plain enough, but to understand it in context, it should be taken with the preceding two verses.

“For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you.”

Paul spoke of himself and his associates as not putting themselves in the same class as those who would commend themselves. The reason is that in their commending of themselves, they became their own standard of measurement for everyone else and thus everyone else would seem lower than their supposed high and lofty measurement.

On the other hand, he says that, “We, however, will not boast beyond measure.” There was a limit to what they could boast of. If they were their own standard, there could be no limit, but because they had limitations, their boast would be within those limits. And that is “within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us.”

The word “sphere” here is kanón. It is a word only used by Paul and it is only found in 2 Corinthians and Galatians. According to Vincent’s Word Studies, it indicates “a straight rod or ruler. Hence a carpenter’s rule. Metaphorically, that which measures or determines anything, in morals, art, or language. The Alexandrian grammarians spoke of the classic Greek authors collectively as the canon or standard of the pure language. In later Greek it was used to denote a fixed tax. In christian literature it came to signify the standard of faith or of christian teaching; the creed; the rule of Church discipline, and the authorized collection of sacred writings. Hence canon of Scripture.”

Paul and his associates had a limit which was set by God. They didn’t boast outside of those boundaries. They didn’t claim the work of another, they didn’t speak of areas they had never evangelized as if they had, etc. They simply spoke of the authority that they had been granted by God and went no further.

However, as a large slap in the face to those he is particularly addressing, he finishes with, “…a sphere which especially includes you.” Those who had been comparing themselves with themselves are being told that they are, in fact, not the standard. Instead, they don’t even rise to the standard which God had set for Paul and the others with him. Therefore, Paul had a right to exercise his authority over them when he came to Corinth. If necessary, he would do so without compunction.

Life application: Let none of us think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

Heavenly Father, how good it is to know that You have set the boundaries of our lives. Because of this, we have no need to act boastfully as if we had set our own borders. Nor do we need to feel shame because our sphere of influence is somehow limited – as if we have failed You. Instead, we can know that the borders of our walk in this life have been ordained by You. We can praise You for who we are and feel satisfied that the life we have been granted is exactly what You intended. And so, if we live it for You, You will be pleased with it. Thank You for this reassurance. Amen.





2 Corinthians 10:12


Saturday, 14 November 2015

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
2 Corinthians 10:12

Paul has been speaking of the perception of him by some of those in Corinth. In the preceding verse he let them know that the person he is in his letters is who he will be in their presence. Understanding that, he says, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves.” The Geneva Bible notes that he is actually speaking in a taunting manner. The words form an assonance which is lost in English, but which reveals his demeanor towards those he is challenging.

In his words, but without doing so again, he alludes to the accusations of self-commendation that he has written about several times already. These are found in 2 Corinthians 3:1; 4:2; & 5:12. Here in this verse he doesn’t allude to these directly, but rather implicitly through the use of the words, “For we dare not…”

What is implied is that the people he is writing about, however, are doing just that. Continuing on, he says directly, “But they…” This is the instigators which have been the subject of his words and now they continue to be. It is they who spend their time “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves.” They have set a false standard and then they have used that standard in order to make their evaluations of all others, including Paul and the other apostles.

His words do include a touch or irony though. By saying that he would never compare himself with those who commend themselves, he is actually doing just that. However it is in a taunt rather than in a direct manner. But there must always be a basis by which he can show them their folly and so the words are appropriate.

It seems certain that, as in several verses previously seen in this epistle, he has the book of Proverbs on his mind. On several occasions, Solomon writes about someone who is wise in their own eyes. One example which Paul may have been thinking of is verse 26:12 –

“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 26:12

As, Charles Ellicott notes about Paul’s words –

“Of all such self-admiration—one might almost say, of all such autolatry—St. Paul declares, what the experience of all ages attests, that they who practise it ‘are not wise.’ They lose, as the Greek verb more definitely expresses it, all power of discernment.”

In their lack of discernment, they were looking at themselves and their accomplishments as superior to all others. In so doing, no one could ever meet their supposedly unattainable mark. The inevitable result is that they would condemn everyone around them as lowly and contemptible.

Life application: Proverbs is filled with wisdom for those who are willing to receive it. The problem with attempting to enlighten those who are wise in their own eyes is that they will never be able to see the true wisdom through their own self-idolizing glare.

Lord God, the Bible teaches us to not be wise in our own eyes. If we are, then we will never be able to receive true wisdom when it comes our way. Help us to be humble and meek in our opinions about ourselves and to realize that Your word was written by You, the One who fashioned us in the first place. Therefore, to pursue true wisdom, we need to turn to what You have provided. And what a superior word it is! Thank You for the heaps of wisdom which pour from every page. Thank you for it Lord. Amen.




2 Corinthians 10:11


Friday, 13 November 2015

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. 2 Corinthians 10:11

This takes us right back to the first two verses of the chapter –

“Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.”

After that, each subsequent verse has built upon the thought. He was perceived as being “bold” when he wrote his letters, but when he was present they perceived him as “lowly.” They made the assumption from this that his letters were only a facade with no substance behind them. Rather however, when he was present he attempted to be meek and gentle, emulating Christ.

He lets them now know that when it becomes necessary for him to show his boldness, he would not object to do so. In order to show them that this was the case, he begins this verse with, “Let such a person consider this.” It is a way of introducing his next words, asking for sober consideration of them. And the thought to be presented is “that we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.”

Translators insert a few words for clarity here. Instead of “such we will also be” it should read “such we are.” The reason is that if Paul intended it to be in the future tense, he would have expressed the verb. As he did not, it implies that it is in the present tense. The character of the person in the letters is the same as the character of the person at all times. It didn’t matter if he and the other apostles were present or absent, they were consistent in their deeds and actions.

Life application: The Bible is God’s word to us. It reflects who He is, and Jesus is the One who reveals Him. He is the subject of our being able to comprehend who God is. His word while He is absent reflects who He will be when He is again present. Therefore, though He is loving, as His word describes Him, He is also just, righteous, and holy. He will not spare those who reject Him. What is your impression of Jesus? The only way to know how He will treat you is to know His word and what it expects of you. Don’t believe the lie that He is not in Person who He is in His word.

Heavenly Father, You have given us Your word to know and understand Jesus. And yet, we seem to pick and choose the Jesus we want to know. We accept the words which tell us of His gentle, meek, and loving side, but we often fail to accept the words which tell of His righteousness, holiness, and that He is coming again to judge the world for rejecting Him. How can we have a right impression of our Lord unless we consider the whole counsel of the word which reveals Him? Help us to be faithful to Your superior word – all of it. Amen.

2 Corinthians 10:10


Thursday, 12 November 2015

 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 2 Corinthians 10:10

Paul now notes how both he and his letters are perceived by his audience. “For his letters” is speaking of the letters of instruction that he wrote to the churches, some of which are now the epistles found in the Bible. The words “they say” is speaking of the people who received them. They would read Paul’s words and come to the conclusion which he will next note in this verse about himself.

Before looking at their conclusion though, it should be noted that many manuscripts say, “…he said” rather than “they say.” It is in the singular. It could be then that this is Paul’s way of writing in an impersonal manner, referring to any individual who reads his words. Or it could be that there was actually one person who was the ring leader of the group who opposed Paul. If so, then it is he who made the charge which will be specified as the verse continues. Though it can’t be determined which is correct, both should be considered. Paul was not without enemies, even in the churches he established.

Concerning the letters, they are noted as “weighty and powerful.” This is surely the case. History has borne out that Paul’s letters have the greatest weight and the utmost power. They have been studied for 2000 years and yet they still produce hidden treasures for us to consider. Within them are special words which have been used in unusual and particular ways to bring forth the most precise doctrine. There are numerous patterns which permeate his writings and which show the highest of intelligence and the sure mark of inspiration. They are the greatest of treasures for the hungry human soul who needs to understand the grace of God which is found in Jesus Christ.

But, his detractors looked at his letters as somewhat of a contradiction to him as a man. Despite his letters being so weighty and powerful, they note that “his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible.” The weak presence of Paul is hinted at throughout the book of Acts as well as in his own writings. He carried afflictions with him and he seemed to need to be accompanied everywhere he went, as if he couldn’t take care of himself as he traveled.

The contemptible speech is literally “speech of no value.” Charles Ellicott thinks this means either a “weak or unmusical voice, or to the absence of the rhetorical artifices, the exordium, divisions, perorations, in which Greek audiences delighted.” With theses infirmities, those who opposed him made the supposition that there was a disconnect between what he wrote and what he could actually carry out.

In essence, they felt assured that his letters were mere braggadocio and that there was no true authority in the man himself to enforce the words he wrote. He will correct them on this. His challengers mistook his humility and physical weakness as weakness of character and as an inability to exercise his apostolic authority. Instead, however, these were actually strengths which they had misunderstood.

Interestingly, this verse shows us an amazing parallel between Moses and Paul. When Moses was given his commission at the burning bush, we read his words of response to the Lord –

“O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

We see that like Paul, Moses’ speech was “contemptible.” And yet, human history has never seen words more “weighty and powerful” than those of Moses. It is of great interest that the Lord chose these two men, with these similar impediments, to reveal His intentions for the people of the world. Moses revealed the law while Paul explains the grace.

But the parallel between the two doesn’t stop there. In verse 10:1, Paul spoke of the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” which he possessed and how he was lowly among them, meaning humble. Moses likewise was characterized in this way, being called “very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

The Lord appears to have chosen these men for their weaknesses so that His power could be revealed through them. He also chose them for their humility, so that His own compassion would be more fully understood through them as well. Those who challenged both Moses and Paul underestimated the true power that they held and they ultimately strove against the One who commissioned them in the first place.

Life application: Let us never assume that someone of humility is weak and ineffective. Let us also never assume that one who is physically infirm is incapable of accomplishing great feats of strength. Instead, let us look at these aspects of the person and see how the Lord can work through them to reveal His own greatness.

Heavenly Father, how often do we look at people with a physical infirmity and think that they are incapable of doing great things? And yet, quite often the opposite turns out to be true. And how often do we look at someone who exhibits humility and make the assumption that they are of weak character. And yet, Your word shows time and time again that You can and do work through these things to reveal Your own greatness. Help us to look at the inner man and not merely judge by externals. Help us to see You and Your power revealed through what man often perceives as weakness. Open our eyes and hearts to Your great hand in the lives of others. Amen.



2 Corinthians 10:9


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

…lest I seem to terrify you by letters. 2 Corinthians 10:9

These words are dependent on the previous verse. Paul mentioned that he might somewhat boast about the authority that he and the others possessed, an authority which was given to them by the Lord for the edification of their audience. In that boasting, he says that he won’t be ashamed, “lest I seem to terrify you by letters.”

In other words, even if his letters bring about a sense of being frightened, he would not be ashamed of causing this type of result. The reason for this will be explained in the coming verses, but he is saying in advance that his boasting in the weight of his letters is not an empty boasting, but rather one which bears his authority to act upon what he has written.

Because of this, if the Corinthians were terrified of his letters, they should also be terrified of whatever action the letters threaten. If that action proves to be necessary, Paul will carry out what he has written.

As a side point, the wording of the Greek says, dia ton epistalon, or “by means of the letters.” It is plural. For this reason, many scholars believe that there is another letter that Paul wrote to them which is not included in the Bible and which is referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9. This verse may support that theory, but it does not prove it. It could be that he is referring to 1 Corinthians and the letter he is now writing, 2 Corinthians.

Life application: Paul is often very direct in his words as are other authors of the Bible. There are statements which are taken in today’s politically correct world to be too forceful, or the remnants of a less-cultured or loving time. Even many words of Jesus are disregarded because they speak of judgment, hell, and condemnation. But let us stand on these truths and never withhold speaking them when it is appropriate to do so. Just because the “world” finds offense at the word of God, we have no excuse to not declare its whole counsel.

Lord God, Your word stands. Many things included in it, even from the mouth of Jesus, are considered as too offensive to be declared in today’s politically correct world. Words of righteous indignation, justice, judgment, and everlasting punishment are disregarded, even when spoken by Him. But they are a part of the truth of Your word. Give us the fortitude to be willing to speak of these things without compromise so that the entirety of Your word is presented to the world. Amen.