TRUE AND FALSE MINISTRY
In you Lord, my rock, and my fortress, do I place my trust. What a blessed assurance I have.
Read 2 CORINTHIANS 10:1-6
Paul’s Defense of His Ministry
10 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! 2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Pray today, ‘Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make your way straight before me.’1
Paul’s letter makes another abrupt turn. On his list of ‘matters to be dealt with’ is a clash of interests with a group of what he calls ‘super-apostles’.2 After he had laid the foundations of the church,3 other ministers had come on the scene.
Apollos was a glamorous and eloquent preacher whose influence was beneficial.4 However, his ‘great fervor’5 may just have overexcited the church, such that when a band of triumphalist, Jewish-heritage6 super-apostles then appeared it was taken in by their big talk and subtly turned against Paul. Here is the source of some of the undermining comments Paul endured, including the demand for letters of reference7 and the suggestion here that his presence was less impressive than his written warnings (v 1).
Paul is anticipating conflict with this group. Perhaps he is warning himself not to go over the top! He appeals first to the humility and gentleness of Christ and then renounces worldly methods. The weapons available to him in combating falsehood and ‘strongholds’ (v 4) that resist God are spiritual: prayer, faith, the statement of the truth, the Holy Spirit. Christ is the lens through which all arguments are to be viewed and brought into line (v 5). Every thought needs to be in harmony with him. Paul clearly prefers to come ‘in love and with a gentle spirit’ rather than with the rod of discipline,8 but if he has to get tough he will do so (v 6).
Still it is not clear what ‘getting tough’ means. At most it would mean excluding troublemakers from the community. Christians do not pursue godly ends by ungodly means. What is evil, delusional, or deceptive is not resisted by returning like for like: this is just recycling. Evil has to be overcome by its opposite.
‘Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’9
Lord, sometimes relationships amongst believers can become strained. Give me wisdom in handling my own relationships so that Christ is honored and uplifted at all times.
1 Ps 5:8 2 2 Cor 11:5 3 1 Cor 3:6 4 Acts 18:24–28 5 Acts 18:25 6 2 Cor 11:5,6 7 2 Cor 3:1–6 8 1 Cor 4:21 9 Rom 12:17,21
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