The Epistle of Second Corinthians
Lesson Number 41
TRANSLATION LEGEND: AMPLIFIED or AMP = Amplified Bible, (1965), ASV=American Standard Version (1901), BBE=Bible in Basic English (1949), DRA=Douay-Rheims (1899), ESV=English Stand Version (2001), IE = International English, ISV = International Standard Version (1967), JPS = Jewish Publicatrion Society (1917), KJV=King James Version (1611), LIVING = Living Bible (1971), MONTGOMERY = Montgomery’s New Testament (2001), MRD = Peshitta-James Murdock Translation (1852), NAB=New American Bible (2002), NASB=New American Standard Bible (1977), NAU=New American Standard Bible (1995), NIB=New International Bible, NIV=New International Version (1984), NJB=New Jerusalem Bible (1985), NKJV=New King James Version (1979), NLT=New Living Translation (1996), NRSV=New Revised Standard Version (1989), PHILLIPS = J B Phillips New Testament (1962), PNT = BISHOP’S New Testament (1595), RSV=Revised Standard Version (1952), TNK=JPS Tanakj (1985), Webster=The Webster Bible (1833),WEYMOUTH=Weymouth’s New Testament (1903), WILLIAMS = William’s New Testament (1937), TNK = JPS Tanakh (1985), TYNDALE= Tyndale’s Bible (1526), WYCLIFFE= Wycliffe New Testament (1382), YLT=Young’s Literal Translation (1862).
LEXICON LEGEND: FRIEBERG=Friberg Lexicon, UBS=UBS Lexicon, LOUW-NIDA=Louw-Nida Lexicon, LIDDELL SCOTT=Liddell Scott Lexicon, THAYER=Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
ASSESSMENT VERSUS REALITY
“ 10:7 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. 12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 13 But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.” (2 Cor 10:7-13)
When we consider living “unto the Lord” (Col 3:23), how can this be accomplished? How is the work of the Lord to be approached? How does a man become involved in “that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God?” (Rom 12;2). What does it mean to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:25), “live by faith” (Rom 1:17), and “do all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31)? How do saints “not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor 5:15). Why do the Scriptures speak in this way of life, rather than simply referring to “the Christian life,” or being a member of this or that church? Why is it that no person or work of the Lord is ever associated with worldly credentials, achievements, natural ability, or worldly recognition? These questions, and a host of similar ones, are addressed in our text, which has to do with our approach to life – whether it is fulfilling the extremity of the apostolic ministry like Paul, or a practical matter on the other end of the spectrum, like taking a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem.
The way those in Christ live, or, more precisely, how they address life, is seen from several different revealed perspectives. All of them are weighty, reflecting the purpose of God, as well as the very nature of spiritual life. Here are a few of them.
☛ Presenting your bodies a living sacrifice unto God (Rom 12:1).
☛ Running with patience the race before us (Heb 12:1).
☛ Doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col 3:17).
☛ Seeking the things that are above (Col 3:1).
☛ Setting our affection on things above (Col 3:2).
☛ Seeking a continuing city (Heb 13:14).
☛ Passing the time of our sojourning in fear (1 Pet 1:17).
☛ Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living soberly, righteously, and godly (Tit 2:12).
☛ Living by faith (Heb 10:38).
☛ Living in the Spirit (Gal 5:25).
☛ Living unto the Lord (Rom 14:8).
☛ Living in fellowship with God’s Son (1 Cor 1:9).
☛ Living unto Him who died for us and rose again (2 Cor 5:15).
☛ Living unto God (Gal 2:19).
☛ Living unto righteousness (1 Pet 2:24).
☛ Living by every word of God (Lk 4:4).
☛ Living to the will of God (1 P:et 4:2).
☛ Living to please the Lord (1 Thess 4:1).
☛ Walking by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).
☛ Walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16).
☛ Walking in the light (1 John 1:7).
☛ Walking as children of light (Eph 5:8).
☛ Walking in the steps of the faith of Abraham (Rom 4:12).
☛ Walking honestly, as in the day (Rom 13:13
☛ Walking in the newness of life (Rom 6:4).
☛ Walking after the Spirit, and not after the flesh (Rom 8:4).
☛ Walking honestly, as in the day (Rom 13:13).
☛ Walking according to the “rule” of the new creature (Gal 6:15-16).
☛ Walking in the good works that God has ordained, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10).
☛ Walking in love (Eph 5:2).
☛ Walking circumspectly, as being wise (Eph 5:15).
☛ Walking according to the rule of pressing toward the mark (Phil 3:14-17).
☛ Walking worthy of the Lord (Col 1:10).
☛ Walking worthy of God (1 Thess 2:12).
☛ Walking as Jesus walked (1 John 2:16).
☛ Walking in the truth (2 John 1:4).
☛ Walking after His commandments (2 John 1:6).
☛ Looking unto Jesus (Heb 12:1).
☛ Looking for the blessed hope of Christ’s return (Tit 2:13).
☛ Looking for the Savior (Phil 3:20).
☛ Looking and hastening to the coming of the day of God (2 Pet 3:12).
☛ Looking for the new heavens and earth (2 Pet 3:13).
☛ Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 1:21).
☛ Fighting the good fight of faith and laying hold on eternal life (1 Tim, 6:12).
These are a mere sampling of a host of similar expressions. They all have to do with the posture of life – how we position ourselves to live. In Christ we are given:
☛ A different kind of life.
☛ A different reason for living.
☛ A different objective of life.
☛ A different surrounding for life.
It ought to obvious that such an approach to life cannot be systematized. These things cannot be handily posted in a manual that is carried about with us. Nor, indeed, can they be conveniently summarized into a few main points that can be administered by means of a procedure. You cannot market any of these things, or put them into a form that is marketable. They will not lend themselves to the forming of an institution, the vaunting of the flesh, or the making of a name. As soon as a person is in any way distant from the Lord, all of these things begin to fade from view, and are no longer accessed by the conscience. They all require a lively sense of God and His purpose.
None of them can be done seasonally or cyclically. You cannot turn them on and off at will, suddenly making them prominent, then turning them off to live within a different framework. They all require a dominating faith, a permeating love, and a robust hope.
Much of the religion of our day is mechanical, lacking life, response, and consistent objective. Because it lends itself to “proceduralization,” a large room is reserved for statistics, surveys, scientific approaches, probability studies, training sessions, and the likes. In fact, without these things, the fabric of modern religion begins to shred. A great number of Christian conventions would have to shut down if they could not have a plethora of workshops and various presentations of “how-to” techniques.
Those acquainted with Scripture find that no such approaches are found in God’s Word – not even the slightest hint of them. What if Moses had considered the statistical possibility of a whole nation coming out of a country that had held them for four hundred and thirty years – and doing so in a single night? What kind of tests could Noah had applied to the ark to ensure that it would survive the tempestuous flood, and the one hundred and fifty days of landless sight that followed it? Could Daniel hold a workshop on how to survive a night in a lion’s den without so much as a scratch,, while Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego held one across the hall on coming through a fiery furnace without the smell of smoke on their clothes? Does anyone imagine that Elijah could teach us how to prepare a meal that would give you strength for forty days? Or, that the widow of Zarephath could document and teach how to make a handful of meal and a little oil last through an entire famine?
Does all of that seem trite, and disassociated from life? If you are tempted to think in such a foolish way, consider the relevance of such things to those who actually experienced them. There came a time in their lives when they did not have time to develop a procedure – not to mention that they were not even slightly inclined to do so.
Faith, hope, and love cannot be regulated, or ordered by the wisdom of men. They are not matters of procedure, but issues of life. They all require a tender heart, a pure conscience, and an unwavering love for the Lord.
As soon as “the flesh,” or “the carnal mind” (Rom 8:7) becomes dominant, it sends a destructive tsunami wave against the thought processes, eroding faith, hope, and love. This is the reason for the rise of divisions(1 Cor 1:10), inconsideration (1 Cor 8:11), a lack of discernment (1 Cor 11:29), immorality (1 Cor 5:1-5), and all kinds of spiritual confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Carnal thinking is what moved the Corinthians to doubt Paul’s apostleship (1 Cor 9:1-6). It caused them to deny the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:12-13). It also was the reason for their delay in gathering up the offering for the poor saints (2 Cor 8:10; 9:2).
Now Paul takes the matter of erroneous thinking even further. He will affirm that there is no place for thinking as men within the kingdom of Christ. The work of the Lord does not allow thinking according to the flesh, whether on personal, collective, or global matters. The “mind of the flesh” is not welcome among the righteous. It is out of place in the “courts of the Lord.” Judgments and assessments made according to the flesh are thrown out of heaven’s court.
Paul will show that as soon as “the flesh” enters the arena, a war is commenced: the Spirit “lusteth against the flesh” (Gal 5:17), whether in personal internal struggle, or among the gathering of the saints. The Spirit “yearns jealously” for our affection – particularly when the world is being courted. Thus James wrote, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’?” NKJV (James 4:5). This yearning precipitates, or goes before, a fight against worldly tendencies. The Spirit will strive us, seeking to turn our hearts and mind toward heaven and away form “this present evil world” (Gal 1:4). While He is relentless in this endeavor, however, He will not always strive with men (Gen 6:3).
THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE
“ 10:7a Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?”
Some of the Corinthians had been assessing Paul after the manner of men. It may seem of little consequence to some, but not to Paul. He has been communicating the truth of God, and now “the flesh” has walked into the arena of communication. It is turning the heads of the people toward earth, and moving them to draw upon human resources rather than heavenly ones.
This is not an innocent activity. The people of God – all of them – have been “delivered from the power of darkness” (Col 1:13) and raised from death “in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1-6), being seated together with Christ in “the heavenly places” (Eph 2:6). There can be no justification for thinking in the flesh, being dominated by the carnal mind, or reverting to the world’s manner of assessment. Such thinking is always wrong, and must be so regarded. When, owing to some weakness within us, this kind of thinking surfaces, it is to be confessed and abandoned. This is precisely David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa 139:23-24).
It is never right or acceptable to be at variance with “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16), “the mind of the Spirit” (Rom 8:27), or “the mind of the Lord” (1 Cor 2:16). It is always wrong to be out of harmony with “the purpose of God” (Rom 9:11; Eph 1:11), the “will of God” (Rom 12:2), the “word of God” (Eph 6:17), or the “truth of God” (Rom 15:8). No man is at liberty to have objectives that are in conflict with the “good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2). No human judgment, assessment, or view is in any way appropriate or acceptable that is in conflict with things as the Lord sees them (1 Sam 16:7).
While these things may appear very obvious, the structure of contemporary Christianity does not make provision for these consistent conclusions. This is because it is largely founded on the suppositions of men, and does not view the Word of God as fundamental to sound thought and analysis. Room has been made for the “tradition of men” (Mk 7:8), the “doctrines of men” (Col 2:22), and “the wisdom of men” (1 Cor 2:5).
The text before us employs powerful spiritual weaponry to pull down these “strongholds” or erroneous thought.
DO YOU LOOK ON THINGS
“Do ye look on things . . . ” Other versions read, “You are looking on things,” NASB “Look at,” NRSV :Give attention to,” BBE “See the things,” DOUAY and “The trouble with you is that you make your decisions.” NLT
How we “look on things” is a critical consideration. How do we see things? What is our perspective of them. What is the primary context of our thoughts? What do we feel is the fundamental objective? We can “look on things” with minds that are “controlled by the Spirit,” NIV or “the mind set on the flesh” NASB (Rom 8:7). We can consider all things with the notion that this world is primary, or we can ponder them with “the world to come” in mind. One’s locus of thought can be self or God, personal pleasure or pleasing God. It makes a difference how we “look on things.” That “look” reveals our priorities, degree of understanding, and whether or not we are living by faith.
AFTER THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE
“ . . . after the outward appearance?” Other versions read, “on the surface of things,” NIV “what is before your eyes,” NRSV “things that are before your face,” ASV “What confronts you,” NAB “things as they are outwardly,” NAU “the evidence of your eyes,” NJB “on the basis of appearance,” NLT “the things in presence,” YLT and “you don’t look beneath the surface.” LIVING
Shallow thinking has always been a weak point in religion. Where there is no godly interest, men tend to think on the surface. To put it another way, that it the result of men putting themselves at the center of their lives, making their betterment in this world primary.
The things of God are never fully or accurately seen “after the outward appearance” – as they appear to the eye, or in accordance with human judgment.
The Example of Jesus
Take, for example, the Lord Jesus Himself. It is said of Him, “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa 53:2-3). The thought is that He did not appear on the surface to be what He really was. Jesus said of Himself, “it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought” (Mark 9:12). This particularly had to do with how Jesus appeared when He was doing the singular work for which He came into the world – to reconcile men to God by means of His willing death. It was at that time that He became specifically uncomely to the world. As it is written, “As many were astonied at thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isa 52:14). They had viewed Jesus according to appearance – as mere men see things – and they saws nothing appealing in Him!.
The Example of Paul
Judging strictly “according to appearance,” the Corinthians said of Paul, “his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” A worldly ruler named Festus once said to Paul, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad” (Acts 26:24). A group of unbelieving Jews said of him, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6). A Jewish orator named Tertullus said of Paul, “For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple” (Acts 24:5-6). Whether the heathen, unbelieving Jews, or the critics at Corinth, they had viewed Paul “according to appearance,” thinking as unregenerate men.
How Serious Was This?
First, if anyone doubts that we are not to look on, or judge, according to appearance, Jesus has spoken directly to this matter, forbidding such evaluations. “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). If “righteous judgment” is the opposite of judging according to appearance, then it because judging according to appearance is unrighteous, and “all unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). Whether it is Korah and his comrades rejecting Moses (Num 16:1-3), the Jews rejecting Jeremiah (Jer 18:18), the scribes opposing Jesus (Matt 9:3), Diotrephes opposing John (2 John 1:9), the Jewish council opposing Stephen (Acts 7:57), or the Corinthians examining Paul to justify their doubts of him (1 Cor 9:3), such judgment is wrong, and will not be tolerated by the God of heaven.
How serious was it for the Corinthians to be thinking like the world in regard to Paul, or anything else? Are not the people of God strictly charged, “be not conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2). Once delivered from the world (Gal 1:4), is it in any way proper for us to begin thinking like it?
When we adopt the world’s way of thinking we have made friends with it, and “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Further, “Whosoever wishes to make himself a friend of the world makes himself the enemy of God” NASB (James 4:4). How can one adopt the world’s manner of thinking without first loving the world, thereby placing a high value on its assessments? Candidly the Spirit says, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
An Objection Answered
The sophist will object, saying that this is too strong. They imagine, “Just because some of the Corinthians did not receive Paul amiably does not mean they did not love Jesus.” But this is a lot of nonsense, and there is not so much as an element of truth to it. Jesus said, “He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth [rejects NKJV] you despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me” (Luke 10:16).
Those who profess faith in Christ and the love of God, yet reject the ones that have been sent by him, have lied. They do not know or love God or Christ, for it is not possible to love and know the Father and the Son, yet reject the ones They send.
This is precisely why Paul is making such an issue of this matter. He is not dealing with a mere clash of personalities, or legitimate differences of opinion. Such circumstances are not worthy of extended comments. This has to do with a frame of mind that thinks nothing of ridiculing and rejecting a person who is delivering the message of the God of heaven. God makes no provision for such a response.
Behold, now, how Paul chides those who think ill of him, doubt his ministry, and question that He has been sent out by Christ. He taunts them like Elijah did the prophets of Baal, throwing down their aberrant way of thinking, showing how inconsistent it was with the manner of the Kingdom. He confirms fleshly thinking is flawed.
“ 7b 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.”
The first challenge Paul hurls at his critics calls upon them to use the same judgment to determine his legitimacy as they do to determine their own. There are not differing rules of measurement in the kingdom of God.
IF ANY MAN TRUST TO HIMSELF
“If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's . . . ” Other versions read, “If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s,” NKJV “If any man is confident in himself that he is Christ’s,” NASB “If any man is confident that he belongs to Christ,” NIV :If any man seems to himself to be Christ’s,” BBE and “If anyone is sure he belongs to Christ.” IE
It is necessary to boldly confront his opponents with this challenge, because those who walk according to the flesh are not careful to examine themselves to see if they “be in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5). The “flesh” – particularly religious flesh – is fond of evaluating the other person, but not self. However, the Spirit will not allow the insincere to judge the sincere, or the uninvolved to evaluate the involved.
“Trust to himself”
This is an expression denoting confidence – genuine confidence, or being sure of one’s relationship to Jesus Christ. The word translated “trust” comes from a word meaning, “to be persuaded, to be induced to believe a thing,” THAYER “have become convinced, to be sure, confident,” FRIBERG and “to be certain or sure.” UBS This is a person who is personally convinced they belong to Christ. According to Scripture, these are the people who have been given to Christ by the Father (John 6:39; 17:9.11,24), and therefore they “are Christ’s,” NKJV or “belong to Christ.” NRSV Jesus is charged with their care, and they are serving Him. They are among those of whom it is said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
Notice, Paul does not say the person trusts that he is a minister, or a scholar, or a good teacher. He says “If any man trusts to himself that he is Christ’s.” Thus he moves his critics to think of themselves entirely apart from any faction, a particular teaching, or any imagined theological distinction. Do they belong to Christ?
And, upon what basis can this determination be made? Jesus gave at least three of these proofs: (1) They know His voice. (2) He knows them. (3) They follow Him (John 10:27). Elsewhere He said they knew Him (John 10:14). He also said of them, “a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:5). There are other identifying marks of those who belong to Christ – marks that are absolute and unwavering.
☛ “And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal 5:24).
☛ “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).
☛ “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom 8:1).
☛ “He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:47).
☛ “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).
☛ “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).
☛ “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1).
☛ “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
☛ “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor 5:17).
☛ “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb 5:9).
☛ “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).
There are other tests by which a person can confirm the validity of his claim to be “in Christ.” Paul challenges the person who is confident he belongs to Christ to examine the considerations that brought him to that conclusion.
EVEN SO ARE WE CHRIST’S
“ . . . let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's.” Other versions read, “he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he,” NIV “yourself of this, that just as you belong to Christ, so also do we,” NRSV “let him keep in mind that we are as much Christ's as he is,” BBE and “let him keep in mind that we are as much Christ's as he is.” IE
Paul is saying that his critics should apply valid reasoning to himself as well as themselves. They must not set up a special set of criteria for him, then reject him because he does not meet their carnal expectations. Belonging to Christ is not determined by how a person comes across to those who judge according to appearance. The acid test, particularly of a teacher or preacher, is found in his fruit. What does his message produce in those who accept it? Does true spiritual liberty follow in the wake of what he declares? Are the things of God made clearer? Do those who embrace his message come away from this world and draw closer to the Lord. Do they have an appetite for the Word of God, and do they live by it? The effects of what Paul preached within those who have believed it, confirm beyond all question that he belonged to Christ.
THE PURPOSE FOR SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY
“ 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.”
Paul is elaborating on the reason for his humble and unassuming conduct while he was among them, as compared with his aggressive approach in his letters. The difference is not owing to any imagined intimidation that he felt while among them. He was not made acrophobic because of any supposed Corinthian superiority, whether found in impressive leaders or those who were able to move people with eloquent speech. He now accounts for his conduct by stating the nature of his ministry and the Divine empowerment to fulfill it.
BOASTING SOMEWHAT MORE OF MY AUTHORITY
“For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority . . . ” Other versions read, “For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority,” NIV “a little too much,” RSV “somewhat abundantly,” ASV “I may seem to be boasting more than I should about my authority over you,” LIVING and “If, however, I were to boast more loudly of our Apostolic authority.” WEYMOUTH
Every valid ministry, or every spiritual aptitude, is accompanied by the Divine enablement required to perform that ministry. An understanding of this is essential to a faithful stewardship. Flesh and blood cannot empower men for spiritual service. Adam brings no resources to the table for spiritual labor. The world has no resources that can sharpen the ministry of those Jesus chooses to labor with Him; i.e., those God has placed in the body “where it hath pleased Him” (1 Cor 12:18). I understand that this sharply conflicts with the modern notion of ministerial training, and equipping people for service.
In Christ Jesus, there is such a thing as delegated authority – that is, the ability or strength to perform one’s ministry. This is not speaking of the domination of one member of Christ’s body over the other members. We know this is the case because Jesus said that kind of “lordship” is not found among His people (Mk 10:42-43).
As the word “authority” is used here, it pertains to the right to fulfill the commission given to an individual by Jesus. It comes form the Greek word evxousi,aj (ex-oo-see-as), which means “the power of authority, and of right,” THAYER “authority, right liberty,” UBS “The right to control or govern over,” LOUW-NIDA and “license.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
As already indicated, this does not involve lording it over the members of Christ’s body, for such an activity is strictly forbidden (1 Pet 5:3). The “authority” is the right to use spiritual enablements and weaponry for their intended use. It is an introductory phase of reigning together with Christ – being a worker together with Him. For Paul, his ministry was the administration of the insights that he had been given in, as he called them, “visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Cor 12:1). He will now affirm the purpose for which he was given this “authority.”
GIVEN FOR EDIFICATION, NOT FOR DESTRUCTION
“ . . . which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction . . . ” Other versions read, “for building up, and not for destroying you,” NASB “for building you up rather than pulling you down,” NIV “for building you up, not for tearing you down,” NSRV “for building you up, not for casting you down,” ASV “for building up and not for throwing down,” DARBY “for building you up, not for knocking you down,” NJB “to help you, not to hurt you,” LIVING and “for upbuilding, and not for demolishing you.” AMPLIFIED
At first, this may seem to contradict what Paul has just finished stating – namely, that the “weapons of our warfare are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations . . . ” (2 Cor 10:4). Is that not being “destructive?” Indeed, it is! However, it is not the destruction of the saints themselves, but of erroneous manners of thought. The purpose is not to weaken the saints or put them at a disadvantage, but to build them up and make them strong. That was the overriding purpose of Paul’s ministry. However, when the church chooses to entertain the world’s manner of thinking, and to thrust the Word of God and His servants from them, then the man of God must fight, for that is why he has been given weapons.
Adhering to his mission to edify, Paul did not fight with the Corinthians at first, for his authority was not given primarily for that purpose. He was gentle with them, not forcing himself upon them, and refusing to have dominion over their faith. The Corinthians had not properly interpreted Paul’s manner. They saw it as a sign of weakness and inferiority. They therefore viewed his letters as the writings of a blustering coward who was afraid to confront them face to face. Paul will now explain how wrong they were, and what his fundamental mission and desires were.
The apostle is here faced with much the same situation as Jude. Jude preferred to build up the saints by writing to them “of the common salvation” (Jude 1:3). However, a condition existed among the recipients of his letter that required a strong exhortation that they “earnestly contend for the faith,” fighting against the influences that had crept into their presence.
Today, “edification” is a word that is rapidly becoming less and less relevant within the professed church. Remember, this is the purpose for which Paul was given authority – license to employ Divine enablements for Divine purposes. Technically, the word “edify” means to “to build . . . the act of building up . . . the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, happiness,” THAYER “making more able, edifying, building up,” FRIBERG and “upbuilding, strengthening, encouraging.” UBS
This has to do with the promotion of the strength and ability of “the new man” – with making the saints more able to fulfill their own role in the body of Christ. Those in Christ are admonished to engage in edification, seeking the good of their brethren, and assisting them in the holy work of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom 14:19; 15:2; 1 Cor 14:12,26; Eph 4:29; 1 Thess 5:11; 1 Tim, 1:4). Edification, according to God’s revelation, is further affirmed to be the objective of all of the teaching ministries of the church (Eph 4:12,16).
A Critical Distinction
Edification is NOT accomplished by tearing down and destroying. That kind of work is preparatory to edification, but is not edification itself. This is seen in the remarkable ministry of Jeremiah. “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (Jer 1:10). Rooting out, pulling down, destroying, and throwing down was NOT building or planting. It was PREPARING for building and planting. If all that Jeremiah accomplished was pulling down, destroying, and throwing down, the ultimate purpose of God would not have been served.
Likewise, edification is NOT pulling down strongholds and casting down imaginations and every high thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. These are necessary where such things are found, but they do not build up or strengthen the people of God. The saints are not made stronger by what they do NOT have or do NOT do, but what they possess and maintain. Technically, the removal of a cancerous growth does not make a person stronger, but only enables them to recover the strength they once possessed. So the overthrow of erroneous thoughts does not make the saints stronger, but only brings them back to a position where strength can, in fact, be ministered to them.
There is a very serious danger in embracing a message that is primarily negative – one which roots up, tears down, and destroys. Such an action must not be shunned where it is necessary, but it is only preparing men to be strengthened. To be informed about all of the dangers that surround us is good, but it is not the core of spiritual life. It does not make one stronger to know more about what is wrong. Knowing how to recognize and reject counterfeit money does not make one more wealthy. That only happens when good currency is obtained.
Men are not built up and edified by rebuke and correction – even though they are necessary wherever sin has encroached itself among the saints. Those who think they are stronger and better because they have been rebuked and corrected are simply wrong. What really occurs in these necessary activities is that the people get back to the place where they CAN be built up. Wayward Christians are like children that have wandered away from home, and are lost in the desert of sin. If one finds them and brings them home, that does not, of itself, renew the strength of the wandering child or fill his belly. He has been brought back to the place where food, clothing, and shelter can be enjoyed.
So it is with Christians that have to be corrected, like those in Corinth. They have not been made strong by the correction. They are not more thoroughly clothed with Christ because they have been rebuked. They do not have more grace because their folly has been exposed. Rather, they have been brought back to the place where all of this can occur freely and effectively.
Paul affirms that the spiritual authority that he has been given is for the purpose of “edification,” NOT “destruction.” He does have spiritual weaponry that can effectively overthrow wayward thinking – but that is not his primary work. The purpose of God’s “great salvation,” in all of its various aspects, is not to simply get the people out of trouble, but to get them into glory! We know by the example of Israel that there really is no purpose for being delivered from Egypt if you do not get into Canaan. The bonds of Egypt had to be broken, but ONLY in order that the people might get into Canaan!
I SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED
“ . . . I should not be ashamed.” Other versions read, “I shall not be put to shame,” NASB and “it will not be a cause of shame to me.” BBE
This is a continuation of the beginning of the verse: “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority . . . ” That is, Paul will not be ashamed for freely declaring what Christ has given him to do, and that he has gone about to do it. The fact that the Corinthians have judged him to be weak and timid because of his primary ministry will bring no shame to him. He will not be ashamed of pulling down the strongholds of thought that have dominated them, in order that he might build them up in the most holy faith. The fact that he is ultimately targeting their edification will not cause him to blush – even though it does not seem to fit into their perverted agenda.
It ought to be noted that it IS a cause for shame when anyone’s ministry does not finally result in edification. It is also shameful when one has to resort to destruction in the church – casting down imaginations and high thoughts found within the church. That is something that MUST be done, but it is a source of shame that this is the case. This is precisely why Paul wrote, “I speak this to your shame” (1 Cor 6:5; 15:34). It was no shame to Paul, but rather to the Corinthians!
It is shameful for any person or church to have to be rebuked and corrected – particularly since so much has been given to them in Christ Jesus! However, that necessity brings no shame on the one who is required to deliver the rebuke or correction! It brought no shame to Moses when he had to rebuke the Israelites (Deut 9:6; 10:16). The fact that Joshua had to challenge Israel to choose who they were going to serve brought no shame to him personally (Josh 24:15). The fact that Elijah had to chide the Israelites for lingering “between two opinions” brought no shame to him (1 Kgs 18:21). The shame belonged to the people who needed to be rebuked because they had not availed themselves of the resources that were abundantly available to them.
Often I am confounded at the remarkably deficient state of the average American church. It is in no condition to receive freely from the Lord. There are tares scattered within it that are nearly taking over the field. Like noxious weeds, disinterest, lukewarmness, carnality, and ignorance are growing among them. There is an obvious affinity and friendship with the world that is startling. It is a time when “the weapons of our warfare” must be employed to pull down strongholds of thought and cast down imaginations and self-exalting thoughts! Let it be clear that edification will NOT be possible until this is done. It simply is not possible to build someone up in “the most holy faith” that is under the domination of wicked strongholds. Such enslaved souls must be brought back to the point where spiritual construction can take place once again.
SEEMING TO TERRIFY
“ 9 That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.”
When the mind of the flesh dominates the hearers, the servants of God cannot be seen properly, nor can their message be understood. Carnality robs the mind of good sense, and the heart of sensitivity. Now Paul affirms how he does NOT want to be seen and understood. He has been exercising himself to particularly discourage this kind of thinking, and yet it has arisen anyway. Therefore he must lisp to the Corinthians in infant-like words – something that he would not prefer to do. Oh, there is a most severe penalty to be paid when professing Christians insist on living in the flesh! Those who have been called to minister to them are no longer able to speak to them “unto edification,” but must be constantly trying to snatch them out of the fire with which they continue to foolishly flirt.
I MAY NOT SEEM AS IF
“That I may not seem as if . . . ” Other versions read, “I do not wish to seem as if,” NASB “that I may not be thought as if,” DOUAY “I do not want to appear to be,” ESV “into letting you think,” NJB “Now this is not just an attempt,” NLT and “I say this so that you will not think.” LIVING
It is important to see spiritual workers as they really are. That is why Paul admonished the Thessalonians, “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you” (1 Thess 5:12). The Thessalonians were further along in this regard than the Corinthians, having received the word of Paul “as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13). However, this was not the case with “some” in Corinth. Their carnality prohibited them from seeing Paul properly. Therefore he must now introduce himself more fully to them. If they had maintained “the spirit of a sound mind” that was given to them when God put them into Christ (2 Tim 1:7; 1 Cor 1:30), this would not be necessary – if, indeed, the “some” being addressed by Paul are in Christ at all. That is something that remains to be established. Paul will not establish it himself, for that is an area in which God has not licensed him to operate – determining who is in and who is out. He will assist the people in discovering their own condition, and Paul’s ministry as well, by speaking to them wisely.
Paul’s sharp words are not intended to accomplish the following result – even though that result may very well be realized among the wayward. Notwithstanding that circumstance, this was not Paul’s aim.
TERRIFY YOU BY LETTERS
“ . . . I would terrify you by letters.” Other versions read, “frighten you with my letters,” NIV “causing you fear with my letters,” BBE “think I can put fear into you only by letter,” NJB “that I am blustering when I scold you in my letters,” LIVING “Trying to scare you with my letters,” IE and “overawing you with my letters.” MONTGOMERY
If Paul has been given authority to edify, he will not speak primarily to frighten the saints! God does not intend to frighten us into heaven, even though He will frighten us away from hell. The purpose of Paul was not to get the people trembling, even though he might very well have to do that before he can get to his real ministry.
The Example of Jesus
Jesus followed this same procedure, letting people know that He had not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56). Again He said, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Notwithstanding this circumstance, our Lord did have to speak to men about the terrifying result of being found at variance with God Almighty. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28).
Paul’s point is that he did not make it his aim to frighten the people. He did not purpose to terrify the people with his letters. That lends itself to destruction, and his authority was not for that purpose. If, therefore, the people concluded that he letters were written for the purpose of terrifying them, it was only because they did not understand them. Their carnality had so distorted their minds that they could not decipher the truth. It was not simply that they did not see the truth, but that they could not see it, for carnality blinds people. Their conclusions were nothing more than imaginations foisted on them by Satan.
WHAT PAUL’S CRITICS THOUGHT
“ 10 For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”
There comes a time when those who make false charges must be faced with what they have said. Thus Isaiah chided some in Israel by declaring, “Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant” (Isa 56:12). And again Jeremiah said, “How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain” (Jer 8:8). Again Jeremiah said, “And now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence” (Jer 32:36). Ezekiel also upbraided the people for what they said: “Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways” (Ezek 33:20). Malachi also spoke in this manner. “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible” (Mal 1:7).
And who can forget the scathing rebuke of the Lord Jesus to some who were speaking during His earthly ministry. “But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye” (Mark 7:13).
Here is a Divine manner, and all men do well to take heed to it. Men are held responsible for what they say! That is precisely why it is written, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Mat 12:37).
Paul reminded Titus that there were certain “unruly and vain talkers. . . whose mouths must be stopped” (Tit 1:11). This was required because these men subverted, or upset, “whole houses” (Tit 1:12). That is the type of thing that Paul is doing here – stopping the mouths of those who were boldly opposing and maligning him.
HIS LETTERS ARE WEIGHTY AND POWERFUL
“For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful. . . ” Other versions read, ““weighty and strong,” NASB “weighty and forceful,” NIV “sore and strong,” GENEVA “severe and forceful,” NAB “weighty enough and full of strength,” NJB “demanding and forceful,” NLT “He sounds big. But it is all noise,” LIVING “authoritative and forcible,” IE “impressive and forceful,” ISV “mighty and forcible,” MONTGOMERY “weighty and impressive and forceful and telling,” AMPLIFIED and “impressing and moving.” PHILLIPS
What does it mean for writing to be “weighty and powerful?” The word “weighty,” as used in this passage, means “burdensome, severe, stern, imposing, and impressive.” THAYER Other lexical meanings include “heavy,hard, difficult, important, serious,” UBS and “heavy to bear.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
“Powerful” means “forcibly uttered, firm, sure,” THAYER and “strong points, hard.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
Peter spoke similarly of the effect of Paul’s writings upon some. “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Pet 3:16). But, what does all of that mean?
It means that what Paul wrote was not frothy, light, or novel. His words demanded attention, and could not be treated as though they were juvenile and without importance. When you read what he wrote, your mind will be engaged, together with your heart and determination. You will hbe faced with a decision – whether to pursue what he said without distraction, or to brashly dismiss it as though it was of no consequence. Peter says that some people, unwillingly to take up Paul’s words and handle them in faith, twisted them to suit their own purposes. In so doing, however, they sealed their own destruction, having no effect whatsoever upon what Paul had written.
There is a certain gravity in Paul’s writings that suggest their seriousness. There is a profundity in them that does not allow for them to be treated casually. His arguments are strong, and most difficult for his enemies to handle. He was never drawn away from the foundational and eternal aspects of true teaching. There is boldness and confidence in them that cannot be denied. They exhibit a total lack of any tolerance for the flesh, the wisdom of this world, or any form of carnality.
Of course, that is the way the things of God must be addressed. Take, for example, those who choose to place the things of God in a setting of humor. They give all manner of explanation for their approach, yet, when all is said and done, they cannot produce a solitary example in all of Scripture of dealing with truth in such a way.
It is the profoundness of truth that actually engages the heart and the mind. That is why David prayed, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law” (Psa 119:18). Even in those spiritually primitive times, he knew that there was more to God’s Word than appeared on the surface. He knew that even the commands of the Lord were “exceeding broad” (Psa 119:96), to say nothing of His “exceeding great and precious promises,” and the “Gospel of Christ” (2 Pet 1:4; 2 Cor 4:4).
When it came to problems, Paul did not deal with them as a Grecian philosopher, or the grossly inferior American psychiatrist. His approach was challenging, dealing with pivotal issues, the integration of the Gospel of Christ, and the eternal purpose of the Almighty God. What student of Scripture has not seen this to be the case?
One of the great tragedies of our day is the superfluity and juvenility that characterizes much religious writing. It tends to put a person to sleep rather than arouse the intellectual capacities of the soul. This is one of great weaknesses of most of the “youth movements” and “youth ministries.” Rather than bringing young and immature minds to spiritual adulthood, they throw the truth down into the bottom of the pit. They imagine that by so doing, those who are close to the earth can take hold of it. But they are wrong in their approach – totally wrong. Youthful minds must be exposed to the raw and unvarnished truth of God. It may very well be that some extended teaching may have to attend the powerful statements of Scripture, but there must be no attempt to diminish the challenging strength of the statements themselves.
There is, in my judgment, a certain transgression in intellectual frothiness and simplicity. It disarms the soul, so that a person does not see the need for throwing himself into a quest for the truth. It also leads a person into a state where the foam of thought is preferred to its substance. This, in turn, impacts how a person reads the Scripture, prays, and witnesses. A blanket of unprofitableness is thus thrown over the entirety of religious life, so that noble spiritual virtues cannot flourish. In such a case, the heart and mind will eventually be given over to lesser things. I see no way for this outcome to be avoided. A considerable percentage of immorality, false teaching, and falling away has occurred in the church because of its miserable approach to articulating and expounding the truth of God. To put it most precisely, its approach has been too close to the earth, and too far from heaven.
Thus, what certain people in Corinth had said of Paul’s letters only served to reveal their own infant state. It brought no genuine reproach upon Paul, but only served to confirm that their religion provided no place for the things that had been revealed to this faithful apostle. The suggestion, therefore, was that they actually knew more than Jesus, the “Chief Shepherd,” Administrator and Feeder of the church of God (1 Pet 5:4).
When members of the church find Paul’s writings too weighty, choosing rather to major on the Proverbs, various points of the Law, and aspects of human conduct, they have only confessed how far they are from Christ.
HIS BODILY PRESENCE IS WEAK
“ . . . but his bodily presence is weak, . . . ” Other versions read, “his personal appearance is unimpressive,” NASB “but in body he is feeble,” BBE “but when you see him in person, he makes no impression,” NJB and “but his personality and bodily presence are weak,” AMPLIFIED
The world places a great emphasis on the way a dignitary appears. It is not unusual to see special lighting effects and an array of accompaniments that accent one’s appearance.
In this text “weak” does not mean mere unimpressiveness. In appearance Paul seemed to these critics to be feeble, weak, and perhaps even sickly. He was not, what they considered to be, a physical specimen. However, judge for yourself what kind of man could live through 195 stripes, three times being beaten with rods, being stoned once, spending a day and a night in murky ocean waters, and being shipwrecked no less than three times. Ponder the dangers and perils he faced in waters, among robbers, among the Jews, in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea, and among false brethren. Think how often he was weary, in pain, without sleep, hungry and thirsty, without food, and cold and naked (2 Cor 11:24-27).
Does that sound like a weak man? Is there the slightest hint of feebleness in such a record? However, Paul’s critics could make no association between how he appeared in their eyes, and what he had gone through to get the Gospel to the people, and more perfectly instruct those who were floundering in the sea of carnality. To them, he was unimpressive, not having a sculptured body like the Grecian athletes, or the external finery of one of their political rulers. He did not stand out like king Saul, drawing attention to his superior stature.
HIS SPEECH IS CONTEMPTIBLE
“ . . . and his speech contemptible.” Other versions read, “his speaking amounts to nothing,” NIV “his speech is of no account,” RSV “his way of talking has little force,” BBE “his speech naught,” DARBY “his speech is of no value,” GENEVA “his powers of speaking are negligible,” NJB “his speeches are really bad,” NLT “his speech rude,” PNT “the speech despicable,” YLT “you have never heard a worse preacher,” LIVING “he is not a good speaker,” IE “as for eloquence, he has none,” WEYMOUTH “His delivery is perfectly contemptible,” WILLIAMS “his speech and delivery are utterly contemptible (of no account),” AMPLIFIED and “his speaking beneath contempt.” PHILLIPS
This was a miserable assessment, and so far from the truth that it took an extraordinary amount of delusion to accept such a view. How could you be privy to the remarkable dissertations of Paul and think of him as being “contemptible” in speech?
When certain Greeks in Lystra heard Paul speak and saw his works, they said, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” They referred to Barnabas as “Jupiter,” and to Paul as “Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker” (Acts 14:11-12). “Mercurius,” or “Mercury,” was the Greek form of Hermes, NKJV who was the messenger of the Greek deities. They certainly did not think of Paul as being “contemptible” in speech.
What of the time he spoke to his own countrymen on the steps of the castle? He spoke to them in the Hebrew tongue, doing so in such a manner as to capture their total attention (Acts 21:40-22:21). Rather than being “contemptible” in speech, his words so incited the listeners that they shouted out, “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.” In a display of emotional outburst, they threw their cloaks to the ground and hurled dust into the air (Acts 22:22-23).
Felix certainly did not think Paul to be “contemptible” in speech, for he “trembled” when he heard him, asking him to leave for the time, and that he would call for him “when I have a more convenient season” (Acts 24:10-25).
And what of the time Paul powerfully declared the truth to Agrippa. Moved by the speaker, Agrippa said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28). Agrippa would certainly not charge Paul with being “contemptible” in speech.
This charge was neither accurate nor fair. It was the response of a carnal mind that could not handle what Paul had both said and written. Therefore, these critics sought to cast aspersions upon the person of Paul, seeking by that means to neutralize his words – a favorite tactic of the devil. However, their ploy did not work. Today, some two thousand years later, we still have the writings of Paul, and they are still powerful. However, were it not for the testimony of Paul himself, we would not have the faintest idea what his critics had said of him!
THE SAME IN PERSON AS WHEN ABSENT
“ 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.”
Paul will not let this matter go. He does not assume this posture because of personal pride, or any desire to merely vindicate his person. This is spiritual warfare! Just as surely as Goliath defied the armies of Israel, so these carnal judges have defied the messengers of the Lord Jesus. They will not be allowed to parade their notions among the saints as though there was one infinitesimal spec of reality in what they have said. Their mouths, like all who spout untruth, “must be stopped” (Tit 1:11).
“Let such an one think this . . . ” Other versions read, “Let such a person consider this,” NKJV “Such people should realize,” NIV “Let such people understand,” NRSV “Let such an one reckon this,” ASV “Let those who say this keep in mind,” BBE “I should like that sort of person to take note,” NJB “Let him that is such think on this wise,” TNT “Let such people take this into their reckoning,” WEYMOUTH “Someone like this should take note of the following,” ISV and “Let such a man assure himself.” MONTGOMERY
It is as though Paul is pointing his finger in the face of his accusers. It is as though Paul is saying, “You have asked other people to consider your view of me, now I call upon you to consider the way I really am.”
It is certainly not wrong to challenge your critics to embrace sound thought – even though it is not fashionable to do so. Think of the many times that Jesus challenged the sayings of men. A single example will suffice at this point. “If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20).
Those who insist on speaking things that are not true concerning God’s messengers, if they do not repent, are to be confronted with what they have said. When, for example, the Jews said they had found Paul in the temple, profaning it and inciting sedition, Paul boldly answered their charges before the Governor. “And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me” (Acts 24:12-13).
Now Paul appeals to his critics to do some thinking about this matter before he comes to them.
AS WE ARE IN WORD, SO WE ARE IN PRESENCE
“ . . . that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.” Other versions read, “that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present,” NIV “that what we say by letter when absent, we will also do when present,” NRSV “that our deeds when we are present will show the same qualities as our letters when we were at a distance,” NJB “we will be just as demanding and forceful in person as we are in our letters,” NLT and “we can be just as impressive and moving in person as they say we are in our letters.” PHILLIPS
Apparently, when Paul was among them, the traits he has been addressing were not obvious. His critics were apparently not speaking out at that time. Their words had come to Paul’s attention AFTER he had left. This should not surprise us, because the terrible conditions that had developed in Corinth also postdated his presence there. You may remember that those who were “of the house of Chloe” had reported the conditions at Corinth to Paul following his departure (1 Cor 1:11). Their moral decline had also been “reported commonly” (1 Cor 5:1), so that the Corinthian church had become the topic of conversation among many.
This indicates that some had taken advantage of Paul’s absence to promote their own interests – interests that allowed for conditions to exist that were contrary to the revealed will of the Lord. Paul once told the Ephesians what would happen after his departure from them. “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
That is exactly what had happened in Corinth. Those who were not bold to assert themselves in Paul’s presence would do so in his absence, even challenging his authority and publically questioning his temperament and ability.
Paul now assures these pretenders that his written word reflects his very nature. He will not speak boldly of the Corinthian faults while he is away from them, and cower in their presence, remaining silent about them. He will do in person precisely what he has done in writing. He will show no tolerance for sin when he is in the presence of it, just as he showed it no quarter when he was absent.
The Absence of This Kind of Boldness
There is a certain artificiality afoot in the modern church. It lacks boldness in both speaking and writing. Often, the only kind of boldness that is ever seen is institutional hardihood that speaks out for the organization, even though in so doing one tramples upon the sheep of the Lord’s pasture. There is a reason for this. You cannot teach people to be bold and daring by regime or worldly routine. Kingdom boldness comes from discernment and confidence in the Lord, not by learning debating techniques or ways to rhetorically make a point and issue a rebuttal.
It has ever been true that when the church and its leaders have nothing to say, they become timid and backward concerning the proclamation and exposition of the Gospel – and it is solemnly charged with doing both (1 Tim 3:15). This will not, however, be the manner in which Paul conducts himself.
The truth of the Gospel had been woven into the very fabric of Paul’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. Because of this he, like David, hated “every false way” (Psa 119:104,128). Like the Lord Himself, he really did “love righteousness” (Heb 1:9). In Paul the Psalm was fulfilled, “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Psa 97:10). It was his apprehension of the truth and consequent walk in the light that produced this kind of reaction. Because light is always superior to darkness, and righteousness is always superior to unrighteousness, it will not go well with the Corinthian critics when Paul is once again with them.
All Confrontations Are Not So
Paul did not minister among men as always being obviously superior in every confrontation of his critics. There were times when he appeared inferior.
☛ When opposed by the Jews in Damascus, he had to escape by means of a basket being let down over the wall (Acts 9:23-24).
☛ Certain merchants in Macedonia opposed Paul, having him beaten and thrown into prison (Acts 16:19-25).
☛ Certain Jews opposed Paul in Lystra, which opposition resulted in him being stoned (Acts 14:19).
☛ Five times the Jesus had Paul beaten with forty stripes save one (2 Cor 11:24), and three times he was beaten with rods (2 Cor 11:25; Acts 16:22,23,33,37; 22:24).
All of those confrontations involved unconverted Jews or Gentiles. In our text, Paul is not dealing with oppositions from those who are “without,” but from within the church itself. This kind of opposition is treated quite differently by the apostle.
Paul had already instructed the Corinthians on the matter of addressing sin within the church, as compared with that which occurs outside of it. “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Cor 5:11-13). The church is therefore charged with the responsibility of addressing sin among its members, whether liars like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10), the fornicator among them (1 Cor 5:1-5), or other expressions of “the flesh.” In this case, Paul was dealing with “railing” – reviling or slandering, A “railer” is “one who intentionally abuses another with speech, reviler, slanderer, abusive person.” FRIBERG
Since the Corinthians themselves were having no apparent success against such brash souls, Paul would address them personally. Having presented several powerful proofs of their folly in writing, he now affirms that he will not turn away from confronting these audacious criticizers to their face. When he does, there will not be a shred of timidity.
SOMETHING WE DARE NOT DO
“ 12a For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves . . . ”
Although Paul had appeared timid and totally lacking of boldness to some, his critics will find that he is not without boldness. He will not join those who defend their sectarian identity – a practice that is altogether too common in our time. Here he will strike down a practice that is regularly found among many professing Christians. In fact, the kind of judgment to be thrown down is actually required in institutional circles.
WE DARE NOT
“For we dare not . . . ” Other versions read, “we are not bold to,” NASB “we will not make,” BBE “we are not venturing,” NJB “I wouldn’t dare,” NLT “we cannot find in ourselves,” TNT “we have not the courage,” WEYMOUTH “I have indeed not the audacity,” MONTGOMERY and “Not that we [have the audacity to] venture.” AMPLIFIED
There are things that Paul does not dare to do. There are practices that he does not have the audacity to indulge. There are things he does not have the courage to do. However, contending with his critics is not one of them!
In the Spirit, there are things the saints do not dare to do – things they purposefully avoid, knowing that the Lord will not support them in such expressions. For example, they will not allow “the wrath of man” to express itself through them, for they know “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). They will not “avenge themselves,” but will rather “give place to wrath,” knowing that “it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:19).
Now Paul deals with a practice that is not allowed in God’s kingdom, or among God’s people. Although his life is marked with very bold and courageous actions, here is an activity in which he does not dare to involve himself.
MAKE OURSELVES OF THE NUMBER, OR COMPARE OURSELVES
“ . . . make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves . . . ” Other versions read, “class ourselves or compare ourselves,” NKJV “class or compare ourselves,” NASB “make a comparison of ourselves,” BBE “match or compare ourselves,” DOUAY “rank ourselves, or even to compare ourselves,” NJB “count or compare myself,” WILLIAMS and “include ourselves in the same class.” PHILLIPS
God’s people are to judge or evaluate themselves, examining to see whether they are “in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5). They are to make some form of evaluation that will discover to their own hearts whether or not they are a “workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).
In making such a determination, or in defending the message one has delivered, there are certain practices that are unlawful – practices that are not permissible for a servant of the Lord. Here is one of those forbidden practices – forbidden to every child of God..
SOME THAT COMMEND THEMSELVES
“ . . . with some that commend themselves . . . ” Other versions read, “with those who say good things about themselves,” BBE “those who are commending themselves,” ESV “which praise themselves,” GENEVA “who recommend themselves,” NAB “certain people who provide their own commendations,” NJB “other men who tell you how important they are,” NLT “them which praise themselves,” PNT “men who tell you how good they are,” LIVING “people who pat themselves on the back,” IE “persons distinguished by their self-commendation,” WEYMOUTH ‘certain of the self-commenders,” MONTGOMERY “who exalt and furnish testimonials for themselves,” AMPLIFIED and “those who write their own testimonials.” PHILLIPS
Here is something that his critics had apparently done, yet Paul says he himself was not bold enough to do it. These are people who boast of their own attainments. They speak of themselves, pointing to the reservoir of their own accomplishments. They are fond of pointing to their worldly credentials, which are nothing more than their worldly accomplishments.
Although such a practice is quite common, and even respected by some, Jesus said, “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory” (John 7:18). Such a person is totally unlike the Lord Jesus, to whose image God is conforming His children. Jesus emphatically said, “I seek not Mine own glory” (John 8:48). He did not promote Himself as a man, but only as the One who had been sent by His Father. The words He spoke were the Father’s words (John 8:28,38; 12:49-50). The deeds He did were the Father’s works (John 5:36; 10:32,37; 14:10). He lived, spoke, and worked in strict accordance with the agenda of the God of heaven, and therefore He did not promote Himself as other men did. His aim was not to be greeted in the market place, and called “Rabbi, Rabbi,” as the scribes and the Pharisees (Matt 23:5-7).
There are people, religious people, who do everything “to be seen of men” (Matt 23:5). Their driving compulsion is to be recognized and honored by their peers. That is why they speak about themselves and what they have done. David said they went so far as to “call their lands after their own names” (Psa 49:11). Cain, you may remember, named a city after the name of his own son (Gen 4:17). King Saul came to Carmel and “set up a monument for himself” NKJV (1 Sam 15:12). Absalom, David’s wayward son, “had taken and reared up for himself a pillar [monument NIV], which is in the king’s dale” (2 Sam 18:18).
Paul refused to promote himself or the recollection of himself, in such a wicked way. Solemnly he will remind the Corinthians, “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Cor 10:18). Valid approval is not the result of self-promotion. Therefore Paul did not commend himself, but rather pointed to those who had embraced his message as the proof that he was, in truth, the ambassador of Christ (2 Cor 3:1-3).
There are those who are heralds of their own excellence, which manner has been taught to them by the world. However, if someone is to speak well of us, let it be those who know us, and not we ourselves. As Solomon well said, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips” (Prov 27:2). Who does not see the comeliness of such an approach? If it is your practice to speak often of what you have done, then rid yourself of such a dreadful habit. Be like Paul who was not bold enough to indulge in such vanity.
AN INACCURATE STANDARD
“ 12b. . . but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
Now Paul gets to the root of the practice of commending oneself. Such people have a point of reference that allows, yea demands, such a practice. Those who stand before the God of heaven indulge in no such vanity. When Moses was consciously standing before the Lord, he did not speak of his accomplishments, or promote his skills – even though he was once as Stephen said, “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22). However, when he stands before the Lord, Moses does not refer to any mighty words he has ever spoken, or to any great deeds he has ever done. Instead he says, “I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Ex 4:10). What are oratorical skills or impressive accomplishments, as men count things, when you stand before the Lord of glory!
When Saul was first made king over Israel, he was not a boastful man. Samuel once reminded him hat was a time “When thou wast little in thine own sight” (1 Sam 15:17).
Solomon, though no doubt a gifted young man, did not speak before God as one who had great natural potential. Rather he confessed, “And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in” (1 Kgs 3:7).
When the Lord called Jeremiah, declaring that He had formed him in his mother’s belly, knew him, and sanctified him to be “a prophet unto the nations,” Jeremiah did not cite his abilities and accomplishments as justifying his call. He rather said, “Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jer 1:6).
Why did these men speak in such a manner? What was it that dried up human pride and made them feel so personally inadequate for their calling? It was that they were seeing themselves in comparison to the Living God! When they considered themselves in that light, they could not think of a single thing that commended them.
How is it, then, that other men can speak so freely of themselves, boasting of their accomplishments, and of their own superiority? It is simply because they are comparing themselves with their peers, and not with God. They are man-conscious, not God-conscious.
MEASURING THEMSELVES BY THEMSELVES
“ . . . but they measuring themselves by themselves . . . ” Other versions read, “measure themselves by one another,” NIV “Measuring themselves against their own little ideas,” LIVING “they use themselves to measure by,” IE and “measure themselves by their own standards.” PHILLIPS
It is not difficult to make yourself seem very large if you use a very small ruler! We would count a man a fool who said he was very tall, while holding a two-inch ruler in his hand that had a “One foot” label clumsily pasted on it. And what would we think of a builder who used a tape measure that was only 12 inches long, yet on which each section was identified as one yard instead of one inch. Would we consider such a man good and honest? Would we employ him to build us a house, or a place of commerce?
If we are going to call something “good,” or “successful,” or “valuable,” are we not obligated to use a Divine standard? Dare we to call a religious work “great” that is not so defined by the Head of the church? Can we use human measurements to access Kingdom laborers? Is it really proper to use our own ideas to justify what we do, rank our works, and establish our value before God?
This is regularly done in church circles, and few people consider how seriously wrong it is to do such a thing. Is it any more right for man with a theological education to prefer to be called “doctor,” that it was for the scribes to want to be called “Rabbi?” Is it now permissible to measure ourselves by strictly human standards? If God Himself has not validated who we are and what we do, how can we possibly seek such validation laying ourselves along side any human standard, much less our own? Sometimes it seems to me that the professional politicians, entertainers, and religious men have all gone to the same school. They all use the same standard, measuring themselves by themselves. Such a measurement will invariably come up short when standing before God!
My Own Experience
Some of my greatest disappointments are related to this practice – of being compared to human standards. How well I remember the dampening effects of group cliques into which I never seemed to fit. I found such exclusive groups in grade school, highschool, and college. They were prominent in athletics, and the business world as well. These groups were found in every community, every kind of social gathering, and in every area of business. They were groups that accepted their own, using their own peculiar area of interest as the ultimate measurement.
It was quite possible for an intellectual clique to totally reject someone who was intellectual. An athletic clique could refuse to receive a real athlete who did not meet their peculiar criteria. A person with astute business acumen could easily be shunned by a business clique. Who has not experienced these influences?
I found early in my life that the clique mentality was also found in the church, and within church organizations. A person with a working knowledge of the Scriptures, an impeccably holy life, and a great zeal for Christ could easily be rejected by these religious cliques. Some would even be considered to be odd, eccentric, and socially maladjusted.
See, these “Christian” cliques loved to wear the name of Christ, and claim identity with Him – yet, they had some additional criteria that required more than God required, and ruled out some whom God had accepted. They “compared themselves with themselves.” It was not enough to be learned in the ways of the Lord, you had to have a “higher education.” And, even that was not enough. You had to be educated in their schools. And still, that was not enough. You had to be a staunch supporter and promoter of their schools.
Ah, but enough of this depressing diversion. The point is that this is a luxury that is not allowed among the saints of the most high God. Perhaps you might be bold enough to submit to such comparisons, but Paul was not that bold. He refused to indulge in such unlawful judgments. He did not even allow a comparison between himself and the other Apostles, nor did the other Apostles insist on being compared with him.
The only proper standard of conduct or accomplishment is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is “THE MAN” – the solitary standard by which any of us are to be measured. If we are speaking of the mind, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). If we are considering our walk, or manner of life, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). If we are addressing the matter of suffering, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” (1 Pet 2:21). If we want to ponder the entirety of our lives in this world, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).
Remember that one of the distinguishing characteristics of Jesus was that He was NOT like other teachers. “For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mat 7:29). The disciples never did make an association of their Master with the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, or lawyers – never!
What can be said, then, of those who “measure themselves by themselves?” Is there a person of sound mind who dares to indulge in such folly? Does it really make any difference if the whole world pursues such vanity? See to it that you free yourself from the grip of this kind of assessment: “comparing themselves with themselves.”
COMPARING THEMSELVES AMONG THEMSELVES
“ . . . and comparing themselves among themselves . . . ” Other versions read, “compare themselves with themselves,” NASB “compare themselves with one another,” NRSV “making comparison of themselves with themselves,” BBE and “comparisons within their own circle.” PHILLIPS
Some versions make this read almost identical to the preceding clause: “measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves.” NASB/NIV This, however, misses the point of the text. This is not a redundant statement. The KJV and NKJV versions capture the meaning. In the first instance (measuring themselves by themselves), the meaning is that their own standards are the ones used to measure the worth of a person or work. In the second expression (comparing themselves among themselves) the standard of measurement is not the point, but the place where the measurement is made: “among themselves.” That is, the thrust of the first statement is that “you must be like us.” The thrust of the second is that “you must be with us.”
Not only is the validity of what a person does involved in this matter, but the acceptance of the person. He must be “among” those who are doing the measuring. The pressure of such an approach is seen in two notable incidents.
First, the parents of the blind man whom Jesus healed, anointing his eyes with clay, and telling him to wash in pool of Siloam. When his parents were questioned about the identity of man who was healed, they refused to answer, saying, “But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself” (John 9:21). Actually, they were very aware of the means by which their son was healed. However, John adds, “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:22). They were afraid because they knew they would be expelled from the local synagogue if they in any way condoned Jesus Christ. The agreement of the Jews was simply this, to “compare themselves AMONG themselves.”
Second, toward the close of Christ’s earthly ministry, it is noted that a number of the synagogues “chief rulers” believed on Christ. However, like the parents of the blind man, they did not acknowledge this publicly. It is written, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42). Those Pharisees had agreed to “measure themselves AMONG themselves.” John adds this cryptic note concerning those chief rulers that believed, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).
Jesus spoke directly to this issue, affirming that such a stance impacted directly on a person’s ability to believe. His words were addressed to those who were measuring themselves with themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves. “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).
What, therefore, may be said of those who measure themselves by their peers, and compare themselves while among themselves? Does the fact that the practice is so common in any way make it right? Does popularity sanctify what we do? Judging from modern church trends, you might be tempted to think this is true. However, before we form a permanent view of the matter, let us consider how a man who was chosen be an apostle, given insight into the purpose of God, and was considered faithful, spoke on the subject.
ARE NOT WISE
“ . . . are not wise.” Other versions read, “they are without understanding,” NASB “they do not show good sense,” NRSV “are not intelligent,” DARBY “they understand not,” GENEVA “they only show their folly,” NJB “What foolishness!” NLT “they understand nought,” TNT “What stupidity!” LIVING “they are foolish,” IE “they show how foolish they are,” ISV “they are without understanding and behave unwisely,” AMPLIFIED and “and that doesn't make for accurate estimation, you may be sure.” PHILLIPS
In other words, there is no possible way to dignify or sanction such thinking. It is a form of spiritual insanity, and those who think or speak in such a manner have, like the ostrich, been “deprived” of “wisdom” (Job 39:17). They are in the same class as drunkards who, because they have been deceived by strong drink, are “not wise” (Prov 20:1). They are like the idiots of the church, who do not have the ability to think soundly or reason correctly. As the Greek words indicate, they do not “have the knowledge of those things which pertain to salvation.” STRONG’S The word “wise” comes from a word that means, “perceive, join together in the mind, understand,” THAYER “to comprehend . . . perceive clearly, gain insight into,” FRIBERG “to arrive at insight,” LOUW-NIDA and “to understand . . . be intelligent.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
Thus, a person who is “not wise,” has no real knowledge of the things of salvation, does not perceive, cannot put things together in his mind, does not comprehend, have insight, or possess true intelligence. From the standpoint of language alone, that is what “not wise” means, and there is no way to get around it. Looking at it from the spiritual point of view, such persons are unlearned in the ways of God. They do not understand God, what He is doing, or what He has said. They cannot consider a matter pertaining to life and godliness and come up with the right conclusion.
When a person – any person – chooses to seek the approbation of men above the approval of God, the mind is shut down so far as apprehending the things of God is concerned. The valid quest for approval is at such a foundational level that it determines if a person can believe, understand, or make any sense at all out of the word of God. Jesus asked, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God ?” NIV (John 5:44). Will the sophist take it upon himself to answer that question? Is there any soul who imagines they have found a satisfactory explanation they can offer to the Lord, that will allow for them to continue to seek the approbation of men, and still remain in His favor?
The Absurdity of the Situation
I am aware that this appears too strong, and that all kinds of explanations can be offered for the propensity to use purely human standards of measure. But all such explanations are driven wholly by a desire to be in good standing with men. The earnest quest for Divine approval and commendation will never lead a person to measure themselves by themselves, or compare themselves among themselves. Wherever such an approach is found, there is a profound and staggering lack of wisdom! This condition exists in spite of the fact that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” are in Jesus, into whom we have been “baptized,” and into whose “fellowship” God Himself has “called us” (Col 2:3; Gal 3:27; 1 Cor 1:9).
Whatever, therefore, may be said of these people, who measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves, their condition is the direct result of being in some way separated from Jesus Christ. It may be countered that they had really been put into Christ by God (1 Cor 1:30), and had really been washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Cor 6:11). Therefore, this condition, it is surmised, is only a weakness, and has in no way impacted upon their identity with Christ.
However, this kind of reasoning is as insane as measuring ourselves by ourselves and comparing ourselves among ourselves. Does salvation allow men to remain in the treasure house while they take no advantage of the treasures? Is it really possible to remain in a state where we have access to the “treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” have free access to and fellowship with Christ, and yet comport our lives after the manner of the world? Can we return to the environment from which we were delivered, and it have no impact upon our standing in Christ? If so, then what was the purpose of the deliverance in the first place? How is it that living in the flesh mandated our condemnation before we were in Christ (Rom 7:5), yet has no such effect if we return to it? How can it be that when we were in a state of “ignorance” prior to being in Christ, it caused us to be “alienated from the life of God” (Eph 4:18). Yet if we choose to return to that manner of living after we were “enlightened” (Heb 6:4), we remain accepted? Who is the author of that kind of reasoning? Who dares to represent God as being so intolerant with sin that death and condemnation were passed upon all men because of it (Rom 5:12,16,18), yet after we come into Christ living in sin no longer has such an effect? Has the death of Christ somehow changed God’s view toward sin, so that He no longer hates it? Has the Divine nature, so consistently represented in Scripture, been altered by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ?
These suppositions sound foolish because that is what they are. Yet, it is not possible for anyone to measure themselves by themselves and not imagine that this is the case. It is not possible for men to compare themselves among themselves without forgetting that God judged such folly when He “condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3).
Precisely what is there in either the nature of salvation, or the abundant revelation of its reality and objectives, that would lead a person into the practice of measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves. Understand that denominationalism – or, more precisely, “divisions” and “heresies” – cannot exist without pursuing this course. Institutionalized religion can ONLY exist if men measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves.
The sectarian may, however, suggest that we do not all see God alike, do not see Jesus the same, and do not have the same understanding of the Gospel. Notwithstanding, we can all be accepted because of the integrity of our hearts. However, this introduces another situation. It suggests that we can “walk in the light as He is in the light,” and yet remain fundamentally wrong in our concepts of God, Christ, and the Gospel. The Spirit has spoken to this issue: “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Jesus further said of walking in the light, “If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (John 11:10).
Let no one suppose for a moment that a person can “work out” his “own salvation” while in darkness (Phil 2:12). Such a thing is simply not possible. Abiding in the Vine, which is an absolute requirement, cannot be facilitated while one remains in a state of perpetual ignorance, choosing to adopt the manners of the world rather than obtaining wisdom and understanding from the Lord. There is a reason why the people of God are admonished, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17). Those who remain “unwise,” as evidenced by measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, have contradicted that exhortation. Do not imagine that such a contradiction is without consequences.
THIS IS WHY
This is why Paul is writing long to his critics. He knows the reaction of heaven to their reasoning, and the impact that it will have upon their identity with the Lord. Their imaginations must be thrown down, or they will have disastrous consequences. One of the crying needs of our hour is for spiritual leaders with understanding, who can use spiritual weaponry with effectiveness. We are living in a time when the enemy has come in unawares and is promoting with seeming success, a form of reasoning that is condemned by God. Further, it is not possible to willingly entertain what God condemns without experiencing His condemnation. God will not change His character to receive us. It is our character that must be changed. The Lord’s thinking will not be changed. It is the thinking of men that must be changed. The Lord’s view of things will not change. There must be a new thing in us for Him to see – a new creation, a new man, a new heart, and a new spirit! We, and we alone, are the ones who are changed.
BOASTING HAS A LIMIT
“ 13a But we will not boast of things without our measure . . . ”
For those who imagine that Paul is boasting too much, opposing those who speak ill of him, and freely declaring the reality of what has been given to him, Paul now acknowledges that he is, in fact, boasting, or glorying. But it is not after the manner of men. He is not measuring himself by His peers, or comparing himself among any other group of people. He knows that there is a boundary to legitimate boasting, and he has determined to stay within that border. There is a limit to what a man can say about himself. Paul will identify that limit, and affirm that he is staying within it.
WE WILL NOT BOAST
“But we will not boast . . . ” Other versions read, “we will not glory,” ASV “we will not give glory to ourselves,” BBE “we will not rejoice of things,” GENEVA and “we will not indulge in undue boasting.” MONTGOMERY
God has so created man that he will boast in something. The word “boast” is one with significant meaning, and it is well that we become acquainted with it. It comes from the Greek word kauchso,meqa (kow-khahs-o-mee-tha). Lexically it means, “to glory on account of a thing,” THAYER “of an attitude of confidence in God concerning achievements through Divine help,” FRIBERG “take pride in, rejoice, be glad,” UBS and “to express an unusually high degree of confidence in someone or something being especially noteworthy.” LOUW-NIDA
This particular word is used forty times in the New Covenant Scriptures. The way in which it is employed accents its meaning for us. I have highlighted the words translated from the Greek word employed in our text.
☛ Boasting in being a Jew (Rom 2:17).
☛ Boasting in having the Law (Rom 2:23).
☛ Rejoicing in hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:2).
☛ Glorying in tribulation (Rom 5:3).
☛ Joying in God (Rom 5:11).
☛ No flesh will glory in God’s presence (1 Cor 1:29).
☛ He that glories, let him glory in the Lord (1 Cor 1:31; 1 Cor 10:17).
☛ Do not glory in men (1 Cor 3:21).
☛ Glorying in gifts as though we did not receive them (1 Cor 4:7).
☛ Glorying in truth, and not in appearance (2 Cor 5:12).
☛ Boasting of the comely qualities of believers (2 Cor 7:14; 9:2).
☛ Boasting properly of the authority that has been given by God (2 Cor 10:8).
☛ Not boasting of things outside of the area in which we have been given to minister (2 Cor 10:13,15).
☛ Not boasting in things that have been accomplished by some other brother (2 Cor 10:16).
☛ Inordinate boasting in what a person has done (2 Cor 11:12).
☛ Boasting in faith concerning what the Lord has done in a person (2 Cor 11:16; 12:1,5,6,11).
☛ Boasting in external evidences of the grace of God (2 Cor 11:18).
☛ Glorying in infirmities (2 Cor 11:30; 2 Cor 12:9).
☛ Glorying sinfully in fleshly religion (Gal 6:13).
☛ Glorying in the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14).
☛ Not boasting in works (Eph 2:9).
☛ Rejoicing in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:3).
☛ Glorying in faithful and progressing believers (2 Thess 1:4).
☛ Rejoicing when God exalts us (James 1:9).
☛ Rejoicing in carnal pride (James 4:16).
“Boasting” involves at least three things, and can be either for good or for evil. First, there is “glorying” – that is, taking pride in something, perceiving it as an advantage and worthy of attention. Second, there is “rejoicing” – a joy that comes upon the person because of the things in which the boast is made. Third, there is a “confidence” that is gendered, or brought about, because of the object of glorying. If the thing in which a person glories is wrong, the rejoicing and confidence produced by it are also wrong.
In this text, Paul affirms his refusal to boast, or glory, in the wrong thing. This is a determination that has been made by faith, and is brought to pass by his “wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col 1:9). I will go so far as to say that every believer must come to this conclusion – not to boast in what is wrong! That godly ambition can be fully worked out within the context of spiritual light and fellowship with Christ. It cannot be accomplished while walking in the flesh, and drawing upon worldly resources.
THINGS WITHOUT OUR MEASURE
“ . . . of things without our measure . . . ” Other versions read, “beyond our measure,” NASB “beyond our limits,” NIV “in over-great measure,” BBE “out of measure,” DARBY “which are not within our measure,” GENEVA “beyond proper limits,” NIB “of authority we do not have,” NLT “beyond what God allows,” IE “exceed due limits,” WEYMOUTH “what cannot be evaluated,” ISV “go too far,”WILLIAMS “will not boast beyond our legitimate province and proper limit,” AMPLIFIED and “No, we shall not make any wild claims.” PHILLIPS
What is the “measure” beyond which Paul will not boast? In order to comprehend this, there are several things that must be understood.
☛ God has placed every member of the body of Christ precisely where it has pleased Him. In forming the body of Christ precise Divine control is made known. Masses are not converted and thrown into a sort of melting pot where everyone is identical and every person shifts for himself. Nor, indeed, does God allow for His people to pick and choose their role in the body of His Son. The case is stated most precisely in First Corinthians. “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him” (1 Cor 12:18). Other versions say He has placed the members “just as He desired,” NASB “just as He wanted them to be,” NIV “as He chose,” NRSV “at His own pleasure,” GENEVA “as He intended,” NAB “as He wanted them to be,” NIB “according as He willed,” YLT “as He has seen fit,” WEYMOUTH and “just as He wished and saw fit and with the best adaptation.” AMPLIFIED As you can see, the meaning of the verse is so obvious that even the translators, often found in disagreement with themselves, are in perfect accord. This reality, then, is made especially clear, leaving no room for doubt or some variant opinion. In this case, the boundary, or limit, is the particular position where God has placed us.
☛ Everyone in Christ Jesus is given a “measure of faith.” From one point of view, faith is “common” (Tit 1:4). It is given to every child of God “to believe” (Phil 1:29), possessing a faith that is “in God” and “in Christ” (Mk 11:22; Acts 24:24; Gal 3:26; Eph 1:15; Col 1:4; 2:5). The Object of faith is consistent in all who possess it. However, the outworking of that faith is not the same. Therefore the Spirit says, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom 12:3). “Every man,” in this case, is not every one of Adam’s offspring, for it is not the race of man that is under consideration, but only those who are in Christ Jesus. Elsewhere it is made clear that “all men have not faith” (2 Thess 3:2). It is the “grace of God” that brings faith to us, not the nature of Adam (1 Tim 1:14). The faith that each of the saved receives is tailored for a particular function within Christ’s body. That is why the next verse in Romans twelve reads, “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office” (Rom 12:4). Faith has to do with functioning in that “office,” or Divinely appointed role. Therefore it is written, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith” (Rom 12:6). Each one is enabled to perceive certain things with great clarity – things that are essential to the operation of the body of Christ. Here, the boundary, or limit, is ones “measure of faith.”
☛ Each member of the body of Christ is given an ability. From yet another perspective, each person who is in Christ is given an ability to do something effectively that is pertinent to salvation. Peter spoke of this as being stewards of the “manifold grace of God.” He affirmed that the burden of our activities must be confined to that realm. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet 4:11). We see here that God is “glorified” when we do what He has positioned and empowered us to do. He is not glorified when men attempt to do things for which they have received no Divine enablement. This is one reason why Paul admonished Timothy, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be ABLE to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). Here, ones ability is the boundary, or limit, within which God has placed him.
Paul, therefore, affirms that he will not attempt to do something for which God has not adapted him. He will not engage in efforts that extend beyond his measure of faith. He will not engage in a work that requires spiritual aptitudes that God has not given to him.
A POINT TO BE MADE
Within the institutional church, a great deal of confusion has been introduced, and is being zealously maintained. Men are attempting to train people to do things for which they have not been gifted by God. They are populating various ministries with people whom God has not placed there. They are also excluding men from ministries for which God has adapted them. This proves to be a very frustrating circumstance for those who know the One in whom they have believed, and are persuaded that He is able to keep what they have committed to Him (2 Tim 1:12). Thus we have the dishonoring situation of preachers who cannot preach, teachers who cannot teach, and leaders who cannot lead. Because of this, the church has been thrown into a state of disarray.
Paul would not boast of things outside of the role God had appointed for him – in something he was not intended to do. He would not glory in matters that had nothing to do with His appointment.
THE PROPER MEASURE
“ 13b. . . but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us . . .”
ACCORDING TO THE MEASURE OF THE RULE
“ . . . but according to the measure of the rule . . . ” Other versions read, “but within the limits of the sphere,” NKJV “within the measure of the sphere,” NASB “confine our boasting to the field,” NIV “will keep to the limits,” NRSV “but after the measure of the rule,” BBE “the area of influence,” ESV “but will confine our boasting to the field,” NIB “by the standard,” NJB “stay within the boundaries,” NLT “we will stay within the limit,” IE “we will stay within the field,” ISV “but will keep within the limits,” AMPLIFIED and “that line of duty.” PHILLIPS
Paul said there were those who measured themselves by themselves, and compared themselves among themselves. He also confirmed that he did not belong to that number. He did not make assessments of himself in that manner. He refused to evaluate himself or his work according to standards developed by the world.
With holy obstinance, Paul stayed within a certain boundary, refusing to venture beyond its borders. Like the twelve apostles, if God had given him grace to be an apostle, he would not conduct his ministry as though he was a
deacon, chosen to “serve tables” (Acts 6:2).
There are at least two different “rules” in Christ Jesus. One has to do with Divine acceptance, and is fully applicable to all saints. All of the saints walk according to this rule, and there is to be no deviation from itr. Thus it is written, “Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Phil 3:16). This is not the rule of which Paul now speaks.
Paul is speaking of the rule for service or ministry – the “ability” that God gives, or the “measure of faith” that is dispensed, or the area in which God has placed us.
WHICH GOD HAS DISTRIBUTED TO US
“ . . . which God hath distributed to us . . .” Other versions read, “God has assigned to us,” NIV “God has apportioned to us,” NRSV “which God has given us,” BBE “God laid down for us,” NJB “God’s plan for us,” NLT “God has set for us,” IE “but will keep within the limits [of our commission which] God has allotted us as our measuring line,” AMPLIFIED and “which God has marked out for us.” PHILLIPS
On this matter, the “Spirit speaketh expressly” (1 Tim 4:1). When it comes to measuring, comparing, or boasting, Paul confines his assessments and expressions to the ministry in which God has placed him. He writes and ministers as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1). He comes to them as one who has been commissioned to “open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in” Christ Jesus (Acts 26:18). It would wrong for a person with that ministry to leave men groping in the dark. He is to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light. It would be improper for him to leave them in the grip of the evil one, making no attempt to rescue them. He is turn them from the power of Satan unto God. It would not be right for him to assess his ministry as an administrator of a moral code. He is to bring them to the point where they can receive forgivness of sins. How could he leave them walking as though this world was the main world? He is to turn them so they can receive the inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith. He is, in fact fulfilling his apostolic office.
Paul will not boast in the size of the Corinthian church. God did not commission him to build big and impressive congregations and structures! He will not glory in his ability to speak like a Grecian orator. God did not put him in a position where he could impress the worldly-wise! He will not compare himself with Socrates, Plato, or some of the other dignitaries of Grecian culture. He will confine himself to the area of his received spiritual expertise.
Paul had been given to know “the mystery of His will” in an extraordinary way (Eph 1:9). He had been given an unusual measure of “knowledge in the mystery of Christ,” which had not been made known to men of other ages (Eph 3:3-7). The area of his ministry was confined to making “all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery,” so that high and holy heavenly beings could be tutored in the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:9-10). He would not come down into “the plain of Ono” to caucus with those who minds were nailed to the earth (Neh 6:2-3).
If Paul approached a subject, he will not do so as a Pharisee, but as an Apostle. He will not speak as one who has expertise in the Law, but as one who has been given to comprehend the grace of God. He will not submit to the evaluation of his person or work that does not see him as an “apostle of Jesus by the will of God.” He will not go along with a view of himself that does not see him as a custodian of great spiritual understanding. He will think of himself within the framework of what he has been given to do – within the boundary of where he has been placed within the body of Christ. He will not think within the circle of his education by Gamaliel, but within the border of Christ’s commission and enlightenment.
When Jesus assigns a task to a person, that person is completely out of order to assess himself or what he is to do outside of that task. Being a faithful steward is an unwavering qualification. “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor 4:2). The faithfulness of reference consists of at least two things.
☛ Dispensing what has been given by God to the steward. For Paul, that is stated in this way: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1).
☛ Confining ones assessments to the execution of the task to which he has been called.
Men are responsible for God’s “gifts and calling,” which are “without repentance” (Rom 11:29). If a man, for example, has been given “five talents,” he must conduct himself as a “five-talent-man,” not one who has received “two.” If a person has received “two talents,” he must not set out to work for God as though he had received “five.” If he has received but “one talent,” he must not go about living as though he did not have any talents. Every believer will be judged in strict accord with what he has been given, and where he has been placed (Matt 25:14-30).
Jesus precedes the parable of the “talents” with these words: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Mat 25:13). He follows the parable with these words: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matt 25:31-33). That separation will be based on their faithfulness in doing what they had been given to do, and with handling aright what had been placed in their hand (Matt 25:34-46).
Now, in view of those unalterable circumstances, is it not clear why we must confine ourselves to our calling, and the employment of the gifts and abilities we have been given? Is there any person who can afford to become embroiled in matters that are wholly unrelated to their position in the body of Christ? Can anyone rightfully spend their time pursuing interests that are entirely apart from their “calling,” and where God has placed them in the church?
I understand that this is an intensely personal thing, and one person cannot dictate to another in such matters. However, each person is responsible for not extending themselves beyond the border of their calling. Just as there are “false apostles” who have not been placed in that position (2 Cor 11:13), so there are “false prophets” that have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1), and “false brethren” who are not in Christ at all (2 Cor 11:26). There are “ministers” who are nothing more than vassals of Satan, even though they function as though they were occupying a Divinely designated position (2 Cor 11:15). There are “psalmists” that are not “sweet” like David, and have no genuine ministry to the people of God. There are teachers and elders who are filling a position into which God has not placed them (1 Cor 12:28; Acts 20:28). There are religious administrators that have not been given the gifts pertaining to that function (1 Cor 12:5,28).
In all of these cases, and more, people are extending themselves beyond their “measure.” The only way they can justify their present role is by submitting to purely human measures. The thorny part of such an approach is that God does not accept such measurements, and will not bless them with power, insight, and the graces required to fulfill them.
Spiritual Babylon has thoroughly confused the matter of serving God. It has usurped the position of the King by venturing to train and place men in positions in the body of Christ. Not content to merely attempt to fill valid offices, they have invented a multiplicity of offices themselves. These offices assist them in fulfilling their objectives. It was necessary for them to create these positions because God has not placed them in the church. They have therefore taken it upon themselves to impose them upon the church. They have also created special schools that train people to do these functions.
Today, what God has enabled a person to do, has very little association with what is allowed within the professed church. For example, there are various roles God has placed within the church that are revealed. While there may be some disagreement concerning the validity of these roles for today, they are mentioned in Scripture. It behooves us to make every effort to discern their nature and ministry, for they are a sort of index into the mind of the Lord on these matters.
☛ Prophecy (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:10b, 28b; Eph 4:11b).
☛ Ministry, or serving (Rom 12:7a; 1 Pet 4:11a).
☛ Teaching (Rom 12:b; 1 Cor 12:28c).
☛ Exhorting (Rom 12:7a).
☛ Giving (Rom 12:7b).
☛ Ruling (Rom 12:7c).
☛ Showing mercy (Rom 12:7d).
☛ Word of wisdom (1 Cor 12:8a).
☛ Word of knowledge (1 Cor 12:8b).
☛ Faith (1 Cor 12:9a)
☛ Gifts of healing (1 Cor 12:9b, 28d).
☛ The working of miracles (1 Cor 12:10a, 28d).
☛ Discerning of spirits (1 Cor 12:10c).
☛ Different languages (1 Cor 12:10d, 28g).
☛ Interpreting different languages (1 Cor 12:10e).
☛ Apostles (1 Cor 12:28a; Eph 4:11a).
☛ Helps (1 Cor 12:28e).
☛ Governments (1 Cor 12:28f).
☛ Evangelists (Eph 43:11c)
☛ Pastor/teachers (Acts 20:28; Eph 4:11d).
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. It does, however, provide some insight into the various aptitudes that the Lord has placed within the church.
They emphasize the communication of the truth of God (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor and teachers, the word of wisdom, and the word of knowledge, speaking in divers languages) the administration of mercy (showing mercy), meeting the needs of the disadvantaged (showing mercy, giving, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles), promotion of holy orderliness (governments, ruling), the dissolving of confusion (discerning of spirits, interpreting of languages), and moving the people to holy responses (exhorting).
The Scriptures do not suggest that all of these functions are found in every congregation. However, wherever they are found, God provides the ability to fulfill them. I would further add that it borders on presumption to suggest that there is no contemporary need for these kinds of ministry. If the church stifles these ministries, it has, in fact, quenched the Spirit. If they are formally allowed, but no heed is given to them, the people are not hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
What has happened in spiritual Babylon is this: a new religious agenda has been introduced that does not require these kinds of abilities or ministries. The new offices are actually designed to perpetuate the organization, and possibly vault it into a place of prominence. That, in my judgment, is an extreme case of pushing oneself beyond all valid spiritual boundaries. That is an agenda that is not revealed and will not be supported from heaven. Jesus has not been exalted for such a purpose, nor has the Spirit been given for such an objective.
EVEN UNTO YOU
“ 13c . . . a measure to reach even unto you.” Other versions read, “which especially includes you,” NKJV “to reach even as far as you,” NASB “a field that reaches even to you,” NIV “a measure which comes even to you,” BBE “to reach to you also,” DARBY “to attain even unto you,” GENEVA “namely that of coming all the way to you,” NJB “this plan includes our working there with you,” NLT “a sphere that reaches even to you,” MONTGOMERY “which reaches and includes even you,” AMPLIFIED and “and that line includes our work on your behalf.” PHILLIPS
If a person of Paul’s caliber were to surface within the professed church, what do you suppose it would do with him? Corinth criticized him, questioned his credentials, and corrupted his teaching. Some of them made a religious icon of him, choosing to say, “I am of Paul.” Others chose to ignore him, preferring to say, “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas” (1 Cor 1:12). What do you suppose the modern church would do?
If it received him at all, it would probably place him in a Bible College, reserving his teaching for the more supposedly elite among the churches. It might even make him the administrator of a prestigious seminary, or the developer of an astute Christian training curriculum. That is certainly what they have chosen to do with others whom they imagined showed some promise for advancing the institution.
I have known men who had some grasp of the things of God who were made administrators, fund raisers, or placed in other varied offices that served institutional purposes.
Note what Paul says of his appointed “measure.” It was not reserved for the educated, or given only to those who were outside of Christ. He could employ his sanctified powers among both Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female. He might be found using his measure among some women by a riverside in Macedonia (Acts 16:13-15). He might even be found in the Areopagus in Athens, declaring the rationale behind worshiping and serving the true God (Acts 17:19). Perhaps you could find him with a few disciples in Troaz, preaching until the break of day (Acts 20:7-11). Or, kneeling with some elders on the shore, admonishing them concerning what was on the horizon for them (Acts 20:18-38). His gift enabled him to speak of the purpose of God to governors like Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and those of Caesar’;s household (Acts 24:22-25; 25:11-14, 22-26:28; Phil 4:22). He had no trouble employing it in his words to a Philippian jailor (Acts 16:31-32), or some “barbarous people” on as Island called Melita (Acts 28:1-2). You could find him in synagogues (Acts 9:20), public schools (Acts 19:9), market places (Acts 17:17), and the Temple in Jerusalem (Acts 21:26-27).
However, regardless of where you found Paul, or what he said and did, he did not extend himself beyond where Jesus had placed him. He always conducted himself within the framework of his gifts, abilities, and understanding.
Now Paul says his ministry extended even to them. The boundary of his work included the Corinthians. They were within the framework of what Jesus send him to do. That is why he ministered to them. He was not imposing himself upon them – an outsider, so to speak, trying to become acclimated to a Grecian society. He was God’s servant, doing God’s will, with Divine power.
The point is this: Jesus Christ, according to the will of God, had made Paul one of His ambassadors. He had been dispatched to the people of this world to acquaint them with the purpose of God, and announce the appointed means through which they could become participants in that objective.
The Corinthians should have held Paul in high regard, “esteeming him very highly in love” for his “work’s sake” (1 Thess 5:13). Like the Thessalonians, they had a holy obligation to know the one who had labored among them, was over them in the Lord, and admonished them (1 Thess 5:12). Through Paul, in keeping with his ministry, their eyes had been opened, and they had been turned from darkness to light. Because of his labors, they had been turned from the power of Satan unto God in order that they might receive the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ (Acts 26:18). Some of them did not think in this manner, and now Paul has taken them to task for their indolence, and even insolence. He has been gentle with them and forbearing, because he was not sent to destroy them, but to edify them. His strong words have been delivered so he might employ the graces he was given to edify. If they did not respond, he would have to employ the weapons of his warfare to do battle against them. He took no delight in contemplating such action, but was fully prepared and able to do so if circumstance demanded it. He will reason further on this subject, confirming his determination to “save” them (1 Cor 9:22)
Among other things, this passage of Scripture is teaching us what is involved in loving righteousness and hating iniquity. Some in Corinth were guilty of loving iniquity and hating righteousness, which posture will not be tolerated by the Lord of glory. Jesus did not die, and Paul did not minister, in order that men might call evil good and good evil. That kind of posture reveals hard hearts, corrupt thinking, and a state that is dominated by “the flesh.”
A person who is hasty might jump to the conclusion that Paul should simply write the people off – something that was warranted under certain circumstances (Acts 13:10,46; 18:6). Paul, however, was acutely aware of the times in which he was living. Those times were representative of the human condition between Christ’s entrance into the world
as “Emmanuel, which is being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt 1:23), and his “second” appearing, when He will be fully shown to be “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6:15). The period of time between those two interruptions is called “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18), “a time accepted,” “the day of salvation,” and “the accepted time” (2 Cor 6:2). The time of Divine pardon and acceptance! Of this time Jesus said the following:
☛ “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56).
☛ “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
☛ “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Mat 18:11).
☛ “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
☛ “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
☛ “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47).
To be sure, there is a day coming when destruction and condemnation will take place, and no one can avert its coming. For the wicked it is known as “The great day of His wrath” (Rev 6:17), the time of “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6:16), and “the great and notable day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20). At that time, the resurrection of the wicked will be “the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29) – a time when all of the wicked will “have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimestone” (Rev 21:8).
Notwithstanding the day of wrath and its inevitable arrival, this is not the present day. This is not the time of wrath, but the period when the door of salvation is opened, and the invitation is issued throughout the world, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). This is the time when the call is going out to the world, “be ye reconciled to God!” (2 Cor 5:20).
This is precisely why Paul is laboring with the Corinthians, in order to bring them into accord with God. His patience, like that of the Lord, is not interminable. If driven to do so, he will employ a Divine arsenal against those within the church who refuse to turn around. However, even then, his aim is “for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:5). Even as with the faithful chastening of the Lord, Paul’s somewhat harsh approach is only so they will “not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:32).
It is on the part of wisdom for every one of us to be sensitive to Him who is speaking from heaven (Heb 12:25), never allowing ourselves to get so far from Him that we cannot hear His voice. God is greatly to be praised for bearing patiently with us. However, woe is that person who despises the chastening of the Lord, who, like “some” of the Corinthians chooses to “provoke the Lord to jealousy.” It is well for us to answer the Divine interrogation; “Are we stronger than He?” (1 Cor 10:22). Indeed, we are not! Therefore, let us seek His strength, and not resist His Spirit.