Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:2 Corinthians 10:1-3. Now, &c. — Hitherto St. Paul’s discourse, in this epistle, was chiefly directed to those at Corinth who acknowledged his apostleship, and who had obeyed his orders, signified to them in his former letter. But in this and the remaining chapters he addresses the false teachers, and such of the faction as adhered to them, speaking to them with great authority, and threatening to punish them by his miraculous power, if they did not immediately repent. The different characters therefore of the two sorts of persons who composed the Corinthian Church, must be carefully attended to, otherwise this part of the epistle will appear a direct contradiction to what goes before. I Paul myself — A strongly emphatical expression; beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — Our lowly and condescending Saviour; that meekness and gentleness which I have learned from his example, and desire to exercise toward the most unreasonable of my enemies; who in presence am base among you — According to the representation of some, and despised for the meanness of my appearance; but being absent am bold toward you — Using great freedom and authority in my letters. The false teachers, it seems, and their party, ridiculing the apostle’s threatenings in his former letter, had said that he was all meekness and humility when present among them; but very assuming and bold by letters, when absent, which they represented as wise carnal policy. To this the apostle here refers, and beseeches them that they would not compel him to be bold, and to exert his apostolical authority against some, who, on account of his meekness when present with them, had calumniated him as a person who walked after the flesh, or acted in a cowardly and crafty manner. For (he says) though he walked in the flesh — Inhabited a mortal body, and consequently was not free from human weakness, yet he assured them he did not war against idolaters and unbelievers, against the world and the devil; after the flesh — By any carnal weapons or worldly methods; but by such as were far more powerful. Though the apostle here, and in several other parts of this epistle, speaks in the plural number, for the sake of modesty and decency, and because he had associated Timothy with himself in this address to the Corinthians, yet he principally means himself. On him were these reflections cast, and it is his own authority which he is vindicating.
But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)2 Corinthians 10:4. For the weapons of our warfare — Those we use in this war; are not carnal — But spiritual. As they were not aided in their endeavours to Christianize the world by human power and authority, so neither did they rely on learning or eloquence, or any thing which could recommend them to human regard: but our weapons are mighty through God — Namely, the word of God and prayer, attended with the influence of the Divine Spirit, in his various gifts and graces, giving efficacy to their preaching in public, their converse in private, and their holy, exemplary, and beneficent lives. The means they used to enlighten, reform, regenerate, and save the world, were effectual, because the Lord wrought with them, and confirmed their word with signs following, Mark 16:20. Pulling down strong holds — Ignorance, prejudice, unbelief, fleshly lusts, worldly affections, desires of wealth, honour, pleasure, errors and vices of all sorts, and whatever was opposed by the wit, or wisdom, or power, or malice, or cruelty of men or devils, against the progress of the gospel in the world, and the influence of divine grace in the souls of men. In the original expression, προς καθαιρεσιν οχυρωματων, the apostle appears to allude to the beating down of fortresses by means of military engines, to which engines he compares their spiritual weapons above mentioned. And as the strong holds of which he speaks were demolished chiefly by preaching the gospel, by plain and simple men, without wisdom of words, or, as he expresses himself, (1 Corinthians 1:21,) by the foolishness of preaching, there is, perhaps, also an allusion to the beating down of the walls of Jericho by the priests blowing their trumpets, and by the people shouting, Joshua 6:20.
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;2 Corinthians 10:5-6. Casting down imaginations — Λογισμους καθαιρουντες, literally, demolishing reasonings, namely, such as were fallacious and sophistical, by which vain men endeavoured to controvert, disprove, or even expose to contempt and ridicule, the doctrine of the gospel, and the whole Christian system. For the reasonings which the apostle speaks of, and says they threw down, were not the candid reasonings of those who attentively considered the evidences of the gospel, but the sophisms of the Greek philosophers, and the false reasonings of the statesmen, and all others who, from bad dispositions, opposed the gospel by argument and sophistry. And these the apostles overturned; not by forbidding men to use their reason, but by opposing to them the most convincing arguments, drawn from the evident accomplishment of the Old Testament prophecies, the miraculous powers and gifts with which the apostles and first preachers of the gospel were endowed, the manifest excellence and salutary tendency and influence of the gospel, the blessed effect produced by it on the hearts and lives of multitudes, Jews and heathen, who had before been vicious and profane, but were now evidently reformed in principle and practice, and from the exemplary, useful, and holy lives of all those who in truth embraced the gospel. And every high thing that exalteth itself — In any way whatever; against the knowledge of God — That divine and spiritual acquaintance with him, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, wherein consisteth eternal life. The apostle, Macknight thinks, alludes to the turrets raised on the top of the walls of a besieged city or fortress, from which the besieged annoyed their enemies. To these high structures the apostle compared the proud imaginations of the enemies of revelation, concerning the sufficiency of men’s natural powers in all matters of religion and morality. And, we may add, all other vain conceits which men are wont to entertain of themselves, with regard to their natural or moral excellences, in consequence of which they disbelieve and disobey, or neglect the gospel, and live without God in the world. These, and such like imaginations, the apostles cast down by the force of the spiritual weapons which they made use of: and similar imaginations have, in all ages, been cast down by the faithful preaching of the true and genuine gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, accompanied by the influence of his Divine Spirit: and bringing into captivity every thought — Every proud and haughty notion of the mind of man; to the obedience of Christ — The true King of his people, and the Captain of our salvation. For, the evil reasonings above mentioned being destroyed, the mind itself is overcome and taken captive, lays down all authority of its own, and entirely gives itself up to perform, for the time to come, to Christ its conqueror, the obedience which he requires: and the various thoughts which arise in it, from that time forth, are made subservient to the will of Christ, as slaves are to the will of their lords. “In this noble passage, the apostle, with great energy, describes the method in which wicked men fortify themselves against the gospel, raising, as it were, one barrier behind another to obstruct its entrance into their minds. But when these are all thrown down, the gospel is received, and Christ is obeyed implicitly; every thought and reasoning taking its direction from him.” And having in readiness to revenge — Say, rather, avenge, or punish; all disobedience — Not only by spiritual censure, but by miraculous chastisements; when your obedience is fulfilled — When the sound part of you have given proof of your obedience, and thereby have distinguished yourselves from the others, that the innocent may not be punished with the guilty. “His love to the Corinthians, whom he desired to spare, and the infirm state of their church at present, made him choose to defer the punishment of these offenders till he had drawn off the affections of the Corinthians from their false apostles, and made them more unanimous in their regards to him. And this is the best excuse that can be made for the neglect of discipline in any church; namely, ‘that there is no place for severe remedies, when a disease hath infected the whole church.” — Whitby. It is to be remembered, it was before this time that the apostle had smitten Elymas with blindness; and it is highly probable, from this text, and others of a like nature, that some other miracles of this awful kind had been wrought by him, though they are not recorded in Scripture.
And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's.2 Corinthians 10:7. Do ye look on the outward appearance of things — Judging of me by my outward person, and the infirmities of my body, (2 Corinthians 10:1-2,) and not from the power of Christ resting on me, and working by me? 2 Corinthians 12:9. If any man trust — Πεποιθεν εαυτω, be confident, in himself; that he is Christ’s minister — And claims authority on that account; let him think this again — Let him consider seriously; that as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s — Nor can any one produce more convincing proofs of Christ’s calling him to the ministry, and approving his discharge of it, than myself. By speaking thus, the apostle did not intend to acknowledge the false teacher referred to to be a true and faithful minister of Christ. That teacher had taken on himself the work of the ministry, and was by profession a servant of Christ. This Paul acknowledged, without entering into the consideration of his integrity or faithfulness. “At the same time, as he pretended to great powers of reasoning, the apostle desired him to reason this from himself: That if he was a minister of Christ merely by professing to be one, the apostle, who, besides laying claim to that character, had exercised miraculous powers among the Corinthians, was thereby shown to be more truly a minister of Christ than he was, who did not possess that proof.” — Macknight. See 2 Corinthians 11:23.
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:2 Corinthians 10:8-10. For though I should boast somewhat more — Than I do, or they can do; of our apostolical authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification — To bring sinners to repentance and faith in Christ, and so to promote holiness; and not for your destruction — To drive any one to despair by excessive severity, or to the injury of any particular person; I should not be ashamed — By my power failing me when I should try it on the disobedient among you. In saying that his power had been given him not for their destruction, the apostle intimated to them, that when he had ordered them to cut off the incestuous person from their communion, he had not done it for the purpose of destroying him, but to preserve them from the contagion of his evil example. That I may not, &c. — That is, I say this that I may not seem as if I would, by any means, terrify you by letters — Threatening more than I can perform. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful — In respect of boasting and threatening: or are convincing and affecting, manifesting great strength of reason, and power of persuasion. It cannot be hence concluded that St. Paul had written more than one epistle to them before this; for nothing is more common than this enallage or change of numbers. Indeed, the Greeks and Romans gave the name of letters to one letter: and that here referred to, and said to be weighty, was his first to the Corinthians, a letter in which he had sharply reproved the offenders, and threatened them in a very firm tone, particularly 2 Corinthians 4:18-18, and through the whole of chap. 5. But his bodily presence is weak — From this it would appear that St. Paul was either a man of small stature, or that there was something in his countenance or address which was ungraceful. Indeed, Chrysostom, Nicephorus, and Lucian, (or rather the author of the Philopatris,) relate of him, not only that his stature was low, but that his body was crooked, and his head bald, which probably are the infirmities here referred to. Some have thought that he had also an impediment in his speech, but of that there does not appear to be any proof from the testimony of any ancient author. And his speech contemptible — Εξουθενημενος, literally, contemned. Here, however, the word seems intended to signify worthy of being contemned, which may refer to his manner of speaking.
That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.
For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.
Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.2 Corinthians 10:11-12. Let such a one, whoever he be, think this — Reckon upon this as a certain fact; that such as we are in word by letters — However weighty and powerful they may be; when we are absent, such — The same also; will we be in deed, or action, when we are present — Our deeds will fully correspond to our words, and we shall do something to vindicate these pretences, if their speedy repentance do not prevent it. For we dare not, &c. — As if he had said, I, whose appearance and speech are so contemptible, cannot presume to make myself of the number, or to equal myself, as a partner of the same office, or to compare myself with some that commend themselves — As a partaker of the same labour! A strong irony. But they, measuring themselves by themselves — That is, by their own opinion of themselves, and making it the only standard whereby to judge of themselves; are not wise — Do not understand themselves, nor see their own inferiority to the apostles, evangelists, and many other extraordinary or even ordinary ministers of Christ. The meaning is, that the false teachers, in their conversations among themselves, measured or estimated themselves not according to their real worth, but according to the opinion which they had formed of themselves. They looked continually on themselves, surveying their own great imaginary qualifications, but not considering the vastly superior abilities of many others; and so formed a disproportionate opinion of themselves. And this is everywhere one of the greatest sources of pride.
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.2 Corinthians 10:13. But we will not, like them, boast of things without measure — Assume the credit of other men’s labours, (2 Corinthians 10:15,) nor meddle with those converted by them; but according to the measure of the rule, or province, which God hath distributed, or allotted, to us — To me, in particular, as the apostle of the Gentiles; a measure which reaches even to you — Here “God is represented as measuring out, or dividing to, the first preachers of the gospel, their several offices, and their several scenes of action, that they might labour each in the parts assigned to them. To the apostles he allotted the charge of converting the world, and endowed them with gifts suited to the greatness of that work. To them, therefore, it belonged to form their converts into churches, and to appoint rules for their government. They had authority to dictate the religious faith and practice of mankind. In short, they had the supreme direction, under Christ, of all religious matters whatever. Yet none of them interfered in the labours of the others, except by common consent. The province assigned by God to the evangelists, and other inferior ministers, was to assist the apostles; to build upon the foundation laid by them; to labour in the gospel under their direction, and in all things to consider themselves as subordinate to the apostles.”
For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:2 Corinthians 10:14-16. We stretch not, &c. — In preaching at Corinth, we do not, like the false teacher, go out of our line, as not reaching to you; but we are come even as far as you — By a gradual, regular process, having taken the intermediate places in our way. The apostles themselves, (unless they received particular direction to that purpose, see Acts 16:6-7,) “were not at liberty to preach in some countries, and pass by others. St. Paul, therefore, following this rule, preached in all the countries of the Lesser Asia, beginning at Jerusalem. From Asia he passed into Macedonia, where he preached in many of the chief cities. Then he preached in Greece, and particularly at Athens; and at last came to Corinth, in a regular course of preaching the gospel, where it had not been preached before.” Not — Like those whom I have had so much reason to complain of; boasting of things without, or beyond, our proper measure — Not intruding into churches planted by other men’s labours — Where we have no natural and proper call. “The apostle justly considered the false teacher’s coming, and establishing himself in the Corinthian church, as one of its ordinary pastors, and his assuming the direction of that church, in opposition to him, as an unlawful intrusion; because that church having been planted by St. Paul, the edification and direction of it belonged only to him, and the bishops and deacons ordained by him. Besides, this intruder, by pretending to more knowledge than the apostle, and by assuming an authority superior to his, endeavoured to draw the Corinthians from following his doctrines and precepts.” — Macknight. But having hope, when your faith is increased — And I can leave you to the care of your ordinary teachers; to be by you enlarged according to our rule — That is, with respect to our line of preaching; abundantly. To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you — The apostle hoped that the believers at Corinth would soon be so well instructed in the doctrines of the gospel, and so confirmed in the faith, as to render it proper for him to leave them to the care of others; and to go and preach the gospel in the countries beyond them, where the gospel had not been preached, namely, in the regions of Italy and Spain, whither we know he intended to go. For in Laconia, Arcadia, and the other countries of Peloponnesus, which composed the Roman province of Achaia, he had already preached the gospel, as is plain from the inscription of both his letters to the Corinthians. And not to boast in another man’s line — Or province, marked out, as it were, by a line; of things made ready to our hand — As some, who are very solicitous about their own case, affect to do, and then pride themselves in sowing the ground which others had cleared. As the apostle here contrasts his own behaviour with that of the false teacher, we may infer, from what he says, that that teacher took to himself great praise for having instructed the Corinthians more perfectly than, he said, Paul had done, and for having regulated the affairs of the church, which he pretended had been left in disorder by the apostle.
Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,
To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.
But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.2 Corinthians 10:17-18. But he that glorieth — Whether it be of planting or watering the churches; let him glory in the Lord — Not in himself, but in the power, love, and faithfulness of the Lord, who only can render any man’s labours successful. Let every minister remember it is to Christ that he owes all his ability for his work, and all his success in it. For not he that commendeth himself — With the greatest confidence, or boasts of any thing done by his power, or has a good opinion of himself, on account of any service he has performed; is approved — As faithful and sincere; but whom the Lord commendeth — By conferring on him the gifts and graces of his Spirit, and by blessing his labours. Let those, therefore, who are so ready to applaud themselves and each other, maturely consider this, and learn to be more solicitous than they are about approving themselves to their great Master, whether they be more or less regarded by their fellow- servants.
For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.