Paul’s defense of his apostolic authority.
This is a very practical portion we can learn much from the unpleasant experiences of Paul, and his attitude regarding them. There were those who were challenging his apostolic authority.
Paul lived in Corinth for 18 months.
He worked, prayed and labored with his own hands to support himself. When free from work he preached publicly and from house to house. His passion for souls was inexhaustible, it was also his desire to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. The assembly had grown numerically and spiritually under his ministry. Men of ability were raised up among them, others who could build them up visited them frequently. As a true missionary he then left them to carry the Gospel to the regions beyond.
In his absence certain opponents to the doctrine of the race of God, came to Corinth and denounced Paul and his teaching.
Consequently Paul had to come to the defense of his apostleship and his teaching. No doubt they presented him as nothing more than a lowly tentmaker, with grimy hands and dirty work cloths. One with no divine authority. Maybe they compared him to the other apostles, who did not act like this. Then they would throw out the challenge “Is he really an apostle?”
Notice how Paul responds to this serious charge. “I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” In effect Paul was saying, “What do you think of Christ?” He was a carpenter – he used the tools of his trade – He took a lowly place on earth – this did not keep Him from being God the Son and did not hinder Him from being the Savior of the world.
Paul’s spiritual opponents also accused him of writing strong and stern letters to Corinth, but was afraid to face them personally with the issue.
His letters were strong because there were serious errors in the Church. There were divisions – I am of Paul – Apollos – Cephas – Christ. There were also brethren going to law with brethren. Then there was also gross immorality. In trying to correct these errors his letter were sharp and strong.
Paul wrote so firmly and pointedly hoping that they would correct the errors so that when he came to them he would not have to exhort them with strong words.
V. 3-“For though we live in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.” Paul refuses to fight his earnest opponents with fleshly weapons. In this he respects the meekness and gentleness of Christ.
V. 4-“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal; fleshly; but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Paul is saying here that he does not oppose flesh with fleshly means. His weapons of warfare are those given him by the Holy Spirit.
They are mighty through God They pull down the strongholds of the flesh and Satan. They defeat fleshly reasonings and arguments. They bring to naught those who oppose the truth of God. They bring every thought into subjection and obedience to Christ. Every true servant of God should be both conversant and equipped with these spiritual weapons.
V. 6-“And having in a readiness to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” In other words: If you are not ready to obey the Word of God as I have written it to you, then remember that when I do come I must punish your disobedience.
Next he warns them against looking on the outward appearance. Paul’s physical appearance was not that of a great statesman or leader. The Greeks particularly admired splendid physique. Whereas Paul was probably a small man “Paul means small.” His outward appearance was weak and his speech contemptible.
Paul’s appearance was a little grotesque and his speech possibly was affected after being stoned at Lystra. This gave ground for his enemies to despise him. But though little of stature and physically weak, praise God, he was filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and through their power had done wonderful things for Christ.
V. 7-“If my opponents think they alone have authority from Christ, they should think again, for we are Christ’s servants also.” He has used me despite my physical defects. He has invested in me apostolic authority.
V. 8-“I should boast more of this authority.” Authority which is not for your punishment, but for your blessing.
V. 9-To those who say that I terrify you with my letters, and that I would be afraid to personally communicate these stern truths to you.
V. 11-Let those persons think so, but wait until I get there in person.
V. 12-It is a very foolish thing for any servant of God to compare or contrast himself with other servants of God.
To every man his work. Every servant of God has some special gift. Whitfield said, “Other men may preach the Gospel better than I can, but no man can preach a better Gospel.”
V. 13-16-Paul is saying here that he is not interested in building on other new foundations or works. As a missionary, he has not too interested so much with churches already established, but to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond, where Christ’s name has not been mentioned or preached.
It is not wrong to build on other men’s foundations. But as a missionary it was his objective to break new ground and labor where no other man had preached.
Paul was a foundation layer. He went from country to country, from city to city, from village to village, carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He sought to lead souls to Christ, then gather them together by the Spirit’s power into little groups.
They in turn became “indigenous churches”. Paul’s life and method of expanding the Christian church is the pattern for our day and age.
V. 17-We have not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hands. “He that glorieth, let in glory in the Lord.”
Whether we are building on another man’s work or laying the foundation in virgin soul, it is all the same. “He that glorieth, let in glory in the Lord.”
V. 18-It is not he who commends himself that is approved. The man who is approved is commended by the Lord.
Here then is the ideal servant of God displaying the proper attitude. He sought at all times to follow his master. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.