Paul continues to work at reconciliation with this beloved but wayward Corinthian congregation. Despite the fact that he had been the one to bring the precious Gospel to them, he had lost stature and influence among them as they compared him to smoother talkers (being Greeks, they really loved rhetorical skill), men who claimed to have a more direct connection to Jesus (some folks who had arrived in Corinth claimed to have physically followed Jesus), and even those who expected to be financially supported (people tend to believe that what you pay for is more valuable). By such outward standards, Paul didn’t compare well; but Paul, loving this congregation and being unwilling to let others with lesser concern for the real spiritual welfare of “his children” usurp his fatherly place among them, found it necessary to point out the reasons they should esteem him over the others.
Speech weak but debate strong — 2 Cor. 10:1-11
Although Paul would never be an Apollos in rhetorical delivery, the incisive logic and power in this letters and his aptitude in personal teaching were well known among the Corinthian brethren: 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” And, 2 Corinthians 10:11 “Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present.” Sometimes a reasonable, calm demeanor is mistaken for weakness, but God (in Jesus and in Paul) approves of boldness, when it is called for. Do they want powerful speeches? Paul could give them more than they had bargained for.
First to come to Corinth vs. Johnny-come-lately — 2 Cor. 10:12-18
Paul had been the first to come to Corinth, do the hard work of starting from scratch. And now the smooth-talkers, name-droppers, and those expecting to be supported had come flooding in to take mess up his hard work and estrange him from the Corinthian church. Go start your own church and foul it up, Paul seems to be saying. There’s a lesson here, too, I think, for liberal theologians who come to work at a long-established church with sound doctrine and united fellowship and take the congregation off in an unsound and divided path. Leave sound churches alone, plant your own churches, don’t destroy someone else’s hard work.
Getting paid doesn’t make you right — 2 Cor. 11:1-11
The principle is called “perceived value”. The widely accepted wisdom is that “you get what you pay for”, and if you paid nothing for it, it’s worth about that much. When I counsel in my ministry, I usually don’t charge. But sometimes, if I think it will make people take my advice, I will charge. Paul didn’t want to charge for tell ing the Gospel, and he sarcastically apologizes for this offense to the Corinthian church. But getting paid doesn’t make you automatically right; in fact, it has been known to tempt the preacher to say what the paying audience wanted to hear.
An apostolic resume that would be hard to match — 2 Cor. 11:21ff
Paul wasn’t “slick” but he had held a doctoral degree in the school of hard knocks. Following Christ had brought him a list of trouble far longer than any of his competitors that he had courageously endured. Again I think there are important things to be learned here — that hard won experience is at least as valuable, if not more so, than fancy credentials. Who do you think would be more qualified to help you through a trial: someone who had gone through such things, or someone who’d only read a lot about it?
Power perfected in weakness — 2 Cor. 12:1-10
If you’ve ever wondered why you weren’t the most beautiful or the smartest, or the richest, or most athletic, or the most skilled in life, Paul has something that he’d like you to consider here. Power is perfected in weakness. As I’ve mentioned in other posts before, your weakness might just be the very things God has been looking for to do something great. From Abraham to David to Mary to Jesus to Paul, God often chooses the weak and unlikely to do great things, so that His power and ability shine through, not our own.
Test yourself — 2 Cor. 13
Paul’s return was going to be be painful for those who were unwilling to change, and before he came to them, he wanted challenge them to test themselves, to see if they were in the faith. It’s not a bad idea for us, too. Because for us, it won’t be Paul’s return we’ll need to beware of; it will be Jesus’
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.