The last four chapters of this epistle are mainly concerned with
matters of a more personal sort, that lay between Paul and the
Corinthians. To write so much of such matters may appear to be egotism
on the part of Paul. Paul himself speaks of it as his "folly" (2 Cor.
11: 1). Still what he wrote is as much inspired as the rest of the
epistle, and as full of profit also. Much that is of deep importance
for all saints, and for all time, is embedded in these chapters; and we
gain immensely by having it presented to us, not from a theoretical
standpoint, but as a matter of actual practice, worked out as between
the Apostle and some of his fellow-believers.
During Paul's absence from them, the Corinthians had been influenced
and sadly misled by other workers who had visited them. Some of these
may have been true but ill-instructed believers of Judaizing
tendencies; but others were "deceitful workers" (2 Cor. 11: 13), real
agents of Satan. Anyway they had done their best to discredit Paul,
making all kinds of charges and insinuations against him. They said,
for instance, that though he might be able to write "weighty and
powerful" letters, when he appeared on the scene he was weak and
insignificant in appearance and his speech was uncultured and
contemptible. From this they deduced that he possessed no particular
authority, and his instructions might be disregarded. This particular
insinuation Paul takes up and meets at the beginning of Chapter 10.
He pleads guilty, with the utmost frankness, to being "base" or
"mean" in his outward appearance. He was quite undistinguished to look
at: when converted he took the name Paul, which means "Little." Now he
was absent from them, and he was bold toward them. But further he
expected presently to visit them, and he besought them so to carry
themselves that he need not come amongst them with bold and powerful
discipline which might be to their discomfiture. This he besought them
by "the meekness and gentleness of Christ"-a very delicate yet powerful
Meekness is not weakness, neither is gentleness that pliable
softness that can be twisted in any direction. Meekness and
self-assertiveness stand in contrast to each other: so do gentleness
and harshness. Meekness is a matter of character-the Lord Jesus said, "I am meek and lowly in heart" -and so it comes first. Gentleness is more a question of one's manner. He
who is meek in character will be gentle in manner. He who is
self-assertive in character will be harsh in manner. Supreme meekness
and supreme gentleness were found in Christ; and yet no one was bolder
than He, when it was a question of maintaining the right or opposing
the evil. In a very large measure the Apostle was following His steps,
and hence boldness as well as meekness and gentleness were found in him.
True to this character, Paul beseeches the Corinthians rather than
issuing peremptory commands to them. There were some however who
thought of him as though he were a man who walked according to the
flesh. This led him to give us the important statement that follows as
to the character of both his walk and warfare. Verse 3 is instructive,
inasmuch as both senses in which the word flesh is used are brought together in it. We walk in the flesh; that is, in the bodies of flesh which we have derived from Adam. But we do not war after the flesh; that is, according to the Adamic nature which is connected with our bodies.
In so saying Paul of course referred to himself and his co-workers,
and also he stated what normally should be true of every Christian. But
is it true of us? Do we recognize the true character of the flesh-that
is, of the Adamic nature-and treat it as a condemned thing? It is
normal for Christians to walk "after the Spirit" (Rom. 8: 4), but that
is not mentioned here, only inferred.
The point here is not exactly our walk, but rather our warfare. Is
the believer then called to warfare? He is: and to warfare of a very
aggressive sort. His weapons however like the warfare are not fleshly
Every servant of Christ gets involved in warfare. All evangelistic
labour has that character, for the Gospel is preached that it may
overthrow human pride and bring men to the feet of Christ. All the
teaching imparted within the assembly has to overthrow merely human
thoughts. And, evil teaching having invaded the Christian profession,
there must of necessity be contention for the faith, which partakes of
the character of warfare. All warfare however tests us, for it is very
easy to slip into the use of purely natural and fleshly weapons. The
practiced political speaker, who wants to swing men round to his point
of view, has many weapons in his armoury- argument, ridicule, graphic
exaggeration, and the like. But he contends merely with other human
beings, and upon equal terms.
Our warfare is upon another plane altogether. With us there are
"strongholds" to be overthrown. Who holds these strongholds? The great
adversary himself. He it is who has entrenched himself in human hearts,
so that they are filled with "imaginations" or "reasonings," so that
they exalt themselves on high against the knowledge of God, and are
filled with lawlessness. All these lofty thoughts have to be brought
low into captivity to Christ, so that lawlessness is exchanged for
obedience to Him. What weapons are sufficient to produce that result?
Merely human weapons must be perfectly futile. Fleshly weapons can
no more subdue flesh than Satan can cast out Satan. Spiritual weapons
alone can prevail; and they must be used in a way that is according to
God, if they are to be effectual.
What spiritual weapons are at our disposal? In this passage the
Apostle does not pause to specify, though the succeeding verses seem to
show that he was specially thinking of those powers of discipline which
were vested in him as an Apostle, powers peculiar to himself. There are
however, spiritual weapons which all may use: those for instance, which
were mentioned by the Apostles in Jerusalem when they said, "We will
give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word"
(Acts 6: 4). Every saint can pray, and every saint can in some way
speak forth the Word.
The Apostles recognised the extreme value of both these weapons, and
refused to allow anything, however good in itself, to divert them from
wielding them. Again and again have servants of God found themselves
face to face with some human fortress of pride and unbelief like unto
Jericho. And yet when encircled by prayers of faith a moment has come
when the Word of God has been sounded out as from a ram's horn, and the
walls of unbelief have crashed, the stronghold has been overthrown. The
Lord Himself indicated another spiritual weapon when He spoke of a
certain kind of demon which only could be cast out by prayer and
fasting. Fasting is a weapon but very little used in these days.
Would to God that we all were alive to these things! Take for
instance the preaching of the Gospel. Do we recognize that the work
involves conflict of this order? If we did we should simply flock to
the prayer meetings for the Gospel-that is, if we have any heart for
the glory of Christ, any love for the perishing souls of men. As things
are, a tiny group of two or three, or perhaps half a dozen, usually
turn up for the prayer meeting, and the majority of those who attend
the preaching do so in the spirit of those who have come to hear a nice
address, which they expect to "enjoy," as if the enjoyment of saints
were the chief end of the Gospel service. If once we caught the spirit
that breathes in the verses before us, our prayer meetings, our Gospel
meetings, and many other meetings, would speedily be transformed.
The Apostle made a very personal application of these things to the
Corinthians. The discipline that he was empowered to exercise was, as
we have said, a spiritual weapon, and they might very soon be feeling
its sharp edge. The word translated, "destruction" in verse 8, is the
same as that translated "pulling down" in verse 4. The word
"overthrowing" is possibly better in both places. There is the power of
God to overthrow strongholds of unbelief, and the same power can, if
the sad necessity arises, overthrow carnal and disobedient believers.
Yet the normal and proper use of that power is for the edification, or
building up of the saints.
The Apostle had authority, given to him of the Lord, and power in
keeping with that authority. The Corinthians, not being very spiritual
were inclined to concern themselves a good deal with outward appearance
(see verse 1, margin). Paul might be mean to look at, but let them
remember that he was Christ's, and that at least as much as those who
were his opponents and detractors, and he had an authority which they
had not. Let them know too that when present amongst them they would
find him to be just what his letters evidently were-weighty and
powerful. Here we have, thrown in by the way, a tribute to the effect
that his inspired writings had upon the people of his own day. They
were the Word of God, and they authenticated themselves to be such in
the hearts of those who had any spiritual sensibilities. They do just
the same today. We recognize them as far too weighty and powerful to be
the mere word of man.
In speaking thus of his authority Paul was not for one moment
entering into a kind of competition with those who opposed him. They
were anxious to commend themselves, and so get a footing with the
Corinthians; and in doing this a spirit of competition got among them,
and they began "measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing
themselves among themselves," which was a very unwise proceeding. In so
doing they got no higher than themselves. It was all self. One man
might be distinguished by this feature, another by that; but in
comparing themselves with one another they never rose up to God, and to
the measure which He had ordained.
In verse 13 Paul continues to use the word, "measure," but with a
rather different significance, coupling it with the word "rule" which
occurs again in verse 15, and also in verse 16, where it is translated
"line." It almost looks as if he were alluding to God's work in
creation, as stated in Job 38: 5, where God Himself asks, of the earth,
"Who laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched
the line upon it?" He is a God who works by measure and by line,
whether in creation or in the administration connected with His grace.
Now God had measured things out and appointed a line or rule in
connection with Paul's apostolic service.
From other scriptures we know what the measure and rule of Paul's
service was. He could say, "I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle .
. . a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity" (1 Tim. 2: 7). The
line allotted to him was a very extensive one. The whole Gentile world
was within the circumference of his measure. Of course then he had not
stretched beyond his measure in coming to the Corinthians; his measure
reached even to them. They came well within the scope of his apostolic
Indeed, Paul's eye of evangelistic zeal looked beyond Corinth to
more distant regions beyond them, where he expected yet more abundantly
to preach the Gospel. In the epistle to the Romans he speaks of having
fully preached the Gospel of Christ from Jerusalem round about unto
Illyricum, the district we now know as Albania, on the shores of the
Adriatic; and ultimately he went to Rome. The true evangelist always
has his eye on "the regions beyond."
We must not fail to notice the short clause in verse 15, "when your
faith is increased." There was a connection between the increasing of
their faith and the enlargement of Paul's own service, at all events as
regards the geographical spread of it. As long as they were feeble in
faith their whole state would be feeble, and this would have its effect
upon Paul's activities and service. When he saw them strong in faith he
would be the more free to push on from them into the regions beyond. In
this way the state of the saints affects the activities of the servant
of God. We are members one of another, and not even an apostle can be
wholly unaffected by the state of others. This fully applies to us
today, of course. God help us each to diligently and conscientiously
enquire as in His presence whether we are helping to enlarge or to
contract the work of His servants. One or the other it must be.
Several of the remarks which the Apostle makes in these verses were
intended to point out that the men opposing him, and endeavouring to
turn the Corinthians from him, were working on very different lines.
They were boasting of things without their measure. They held no
commission from the risen Lord, as he did. They were not pushing out
into the regions beyond, and suffering the privations and persecutions
that were involved in such labour. They were "boasting . . . of other
men's labours" for they were meddling with his work; or as he puts it
in verse 16, "boasting in another man's line of things made ready" to
It is very noticeable how false religious cults often have this
feature strongly marking them. They find their happy hunting ground
amongst other people's converts. They boast in that which after all is
the work of others.
The boasting of the Apostle was not in man, nor even in work. As in
the first epistle, so here he declares, "He that glorieth, let him
glory in the Lord." If the Lord gives the measure and the rule it is
well. If the Lord prospers the work so that men are brought to faith in
Christ, and in due course their faith is increased, again it is well.
But even so our only boasting must be in the Lord, whose servants we
And, on the other hand, the commendation which comes from the Lord
is the only commendation worth having. Men may push themselves forward,
and commend themselves, as Paul's opponents were doing, but it is all
worthless. It is very natural for us to "receive honour one of another,
and seek not the honour that cometh from God only" (John 5: 44), but it
is very fatal. To have the Lord's commendation when the great day of
the judgment seat arrives, is worth everything. Let us live our lives
as those who have their eyes upon that day.