Setting

Paul devotes the remainder of his epistle to defending his ministry. In the face of harsh criticisms from his opponents and the negative influence of self-proclaimed apostles, Paul urges the Corinthian believers to be discerning and to recognize the source of Paul’s apostolic authority. Unlike those who commend themselves, Paul’s commendation and approval are from the Lord. The divine power demonstrated in his ministry fully testifies to the authenticity of his apostolic authority.

Key Verse

(10:18)

Did You Know...?

  1. Meekness (10:1): The Greek word for “meekness,” also translated “gentleness,” denotes the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance. [ref]
  2. Gentleness (10:1): The word denotes the quality of making allowances despite facts that might suggest reason for a different reaction. [ref]
  3. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (10:17): These words may be based on Jeremiah 9:23–24.

Outline

  • Readiness to Punish Disobedience
    (10:1–6)
  • Authority for Building up
    (10:7–11)
  • Boasting in the Lord
    (10:12–18)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    What criticisms, explicit or implicit, are laid against Paul?

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    1.He is walking according to the flesh (v. 2).

    2.The claim of some that they are Christ’s (v. 7) may be an implicit charge that Paul is not Christ’s.

    3.“His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (v. 10)

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Segment Analysis

  • 10:1–6

    1.

    What does Paul mean by entreating by the meekness and gentleness of Christ (v. 1)?

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    The Lord Jesus says that He is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:29). The word for “gentle” here in Matthew is the same word for “meekness” in 2 Corinthians 2:1. In the context of Matthew 11, the Lord Jesus invites us to imitate His willing submission to the heavenly Father. The word is also used for the attitude with which the Lord’s servant is to correct his opponents (2 Tim 2:25). The word translated “gentless” in 2 Corinthians 2:1 is used in 1 Timothy 3:3 in contrast to being violent. The adjective form of the word is associated with being peaceable and merciful in James 3:17. The only other verse in the NT where both words “meekness” and “gentleness” are used together in the same verse is Titus 3:2, where the terms are placed in opposition to speaking evil of others and quarreling.

    From how the two words are used in the Bible, we may understand the meekness and gentleness of Christ as a reference to Christ’s lowly submission to the heavenly Father and his peaceable attitude in embracing all people, including even His adversaries. Paul is now making a plea with the Corinthians with the same manner as Christ’s, hoping that he would not have to resort to harsh words or actions when he comes to Corinth.

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  • 2.

    What does it mean to walk in the flesh but not wage war according to the flesh (v. 3)?

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    From its use in the NT, the phrase “in the flesh” can have a negative connotation, meaning yielding to the sinful desire (e.g. Rom 7:5; 8:8) or being confident based on secular qualifications (e.g. Php 3:3–4). However, the same phrase can also have the neutral sense of being in the body and in this world (e.g. Gal 2:20). It is the latter meaning that is in view here when Paul writes “for though we walk in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 10:3.

    Similarly, “according to the flesh” can either carry a negative connotation (e.g. Jn 8:5; Rom 8:4) or have a neutral sense (e.g Rom 1:3; 9:3). In 2 Corinthians 10:3, by waging war according to the flesh Paul means waging war with physical weapons or in a worldly manner such as resorting to bitter anger or retaliation.

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  • 3.

    Explain the warfare that Paul is describing.

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    The objective of this warfare is to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and to punish every disobedience. The result is to take every thought captive to obey Christ (vv. 4–6). In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul instructs them to rebuke those who sin and those who spread wrong teachings (1 Tim 5:20; Tit 1:10–14). These ministers are to exercise their authority as God’s servants to exhort and rebuke through longsuffering and teaching (2 Tim 4:2; Tit 2:15). In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns those arrogant people in their church that he he may come with a rod—a figure of speech that may refer to disciplinary action. From these other references in Paul’s writings, we may assume that the warfare Paul describes has to do with correcting the errors and oppositions in the church with God’s word and through discipline. The analogy of warfare may also be extended to the preaching of the gospel in which unbelievers are brought to submission to Christ through preaching, signs, and power of the Spirit (cf. Rom 15:18–19).

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  • 4.

    When is it necessary for us to be bold? When should we be meek and gentle?

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    While discussing the warfare against arguments, opinions, and thoughts contrary to Christ, Paul adds “being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (v. 6). What Paul seems to be saying is that he is being meek and gentle towards the Corinthian believers (cf. vv. 1–2) and would only resort to rebuke and discipline if anyone persists in disobedience. Applying this principle, we ought to always be meek and gentle with everyone while guiding them to obey the teachings of the Lord. But if certain individuals refuse to listen even after exhortation and admonition, we are to warn them and even stop associating with them (cf. Tit 3:10).

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  • 10:7–11

    5.

    In what sense are Paul’s opponents and Paul himself claiming to be Christ’s?

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    In 2 Corinthians 11:23, Paul asks rhetorically about his opponents, “Are they servants of Christ?” It appears that those who deny Paul’s apostolic authority have been trying to convince believers that they are the genuine servants of Christ and that Paul is not. Here, Paul is objecting to the claims of these opponents and arguing that he and his fellow ministers are servants of Christ as much as his opponents claim to be.

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  • 6.

    What kind of authority is Paul speaking about?

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    Paul is speaking about his authority as a preacher, apostle, and teacher appointed by God and by the church (cf. 1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11). When Paul was correcting the Galatian believers who had turned away from the gospel, he spoke of God’s revelation to him and God’s calling him to be an apostle (Gal 1:11–17). In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul keeps emphasizing his authority as an apostle and minister of Christ so that the believers would not fall for the false claims of those who were trying to alienate the believers from the true preachers of the gospel. If necessary, Paul would exert his authority as a minister appointed by God to correct those who do wrong. However, Paul also wants his readers to understand that the purpose of the God-given authority is to build up rather than tear down the believers. By preaching, teaching, and patient exhortation with God’s word, ministers faithfully carry out their God-given duty for believers’ edification.

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  • 7.

    How does Paul reveal his sensitivity in using his authority?

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    Even as Paul is warning the Corinthians of possible disciplinary actions against the disobedient, he is careful to assure them that his intention is not to frighten them with his letters (v. 9). He has heard what his critics say about how weighty and strong his letters are, so he wants the believers to know that he would only be stern with those who are not submissive.

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  • 10:12–18

    8.

    According to Paul in this segment, in what ways is he different from his opponents?

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    1.Unlike his opponents, who commend themselves and measure themselves by one another, Paul receives his commendation from the Lord (v. 12, 18).

    2.Paul and his fellow ministers were the first to preach the gospel to the Corinthians (v. 14). The implication is that they are true messengers of the gospel whom God has sent to establish His church in Corinth. In contrast, Paul’s opponents could not make such a claim.

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  • 9.

    What is the basis of Paul’s boasting?

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    Paul would boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to him. What Paul means by “area of influence” is the extent of one’s ministry. Paul would only boast about the work that God does through him rather than about his own merit.

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  • 10.

    What is the goal of Paul’s ministry?

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    Paul’s has made it his goal to preach the gospel in places where Christ has not been named yet so that he would not be building on someone else’s foundation (Rom 15:20). It is with this same spirit that Paul does not want to take any credit for the work that other people have done (2 Cor 10:15). He simply wants to make use of the gift that God has given him to serve in areas where the need is not yet met.

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  • 11.

    How do we boast in the Lord?

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    We boast in the Lord by acknowledging what God has done. The growth of the believers and the conversion of unbelievers to the faith are the result of God’s own work. We are only God’s fellow workers that carry out God’s will (cf. 1 Cor 3:5–9). Our ministry should direct people to God and not to ourselves.

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