2 Corinthians 10:1
Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you…
The Epistle has until now been addressed to those who at least acknowledged the apostle's authority. But now we have St. Paul's reply to his enemies. Note —
I. THE IMPUGNERS OF HIS AUTHORITY.
1. We must distinguish these into two classes — the deceivers and the deceived; else we cannot understand the difference of tone, sometimes meek, and sometimes stern, which pervades the vindication; e.g., comp. ver. 2 with ver. 1. His enemies charged him with insincerity (2 Corinthians 1:12, 13, 18, 19); with being only powerful in writing (2 Corinthians 10:10); of mercenary motives; of a lack of apostolic gifts; and of not preaching the gospel. They charged him with artifice. His Christian prudence and charity were regarded as devices whereby he deceived his followers.
2. We must also bear in mind that the apostle had to deal with a strong party spirit (1 Corinthians 1:12), and of all these parties his chief difficulty lay with that which called itself Christ's.
(1) Though these persons called themselves Christ's they are nevertheless blamed in the same list with others. And yet what could seem to be more right than for men to say, "We will bear no name but Christ's; we throw ourselves on Christ's own words; we throw aside all intellectual philosophy; we will have no servitude to ritualism"? Nevertheless, these persons were just as bigoted and as blameable as the others. They did not mean to say only, "We are Christ's," but also, "You are not Christ's." This is a feeling which is as much to be avoided now as then. Sectarianism falsifies the very principle of our religion, and therefore falsifies its forms. It falsifies the Lord's Prayer. It substitutes for "our Father," the Father of me, of my Church or party. It falsifies the creed: "I believe in Jesus Christ our Lord." It falsifies both the sacraments.
(2) However Christian this expression may sound, the spirit which prompts it is wrong. This Christ-party separated themselves from God's order when they rejected the teaching of St. Paul and the apostles. For the phase of truth presented by St. Paul was just as necessary as that taught by Christ. Not that Christ did not teach all truth, but that the hidden meaning of His teaching was developed still further by the inspired apostles. We cannot, at this time, cut ourselves off from the teaching of eighteen centuries. We cannot do without the different phases of knowledge which God's various instruments have delivered to us. For God's system is mediatorial — that is, truth communicated to men through men.
II. His VINDICATION.
1. St. Paul based his authority on the power of meekness, and it was a spiritual power in respect of that meekness. The weapons of his warfare were not carnal.
(1) This was one of the root principles of St. Paul's ministry. If he reproved, it was done in the spirit of meekness (Galatians 5:1); or if he defended his own authority, it was still with the same spirit (2 Corinthians 10:1). He closes his summary of the character of ministerial work by showing the need of a gentle spirit (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
(2) Here, again, according to his custom, the apostle refers to the example of Christ. He vindicated his authority, because he had been meek, as Christ was meek. So it ever is: humility, after all, is the best defence. Do not let insult harden you, nor cruelty rob you of tenderness. You will conquer as Christ conquered, and bless as He blessed. But remember, fine words about gentleness, self-sacrifice, meekness, are worth very little. Would you believe in the Cross and its victory? then live in its spirit — act upon it.
2. St. Paul rested his authority not on carnal weapons, but on the spiritual power of truth. The strongholds which the apostle had to pull down were the old habits which still clung to the Christianised heathen. There was the pride of intellect in the arrogant Greek philosophers, the pride of the flesh in the Jewish love of signs, and most difficult of all — the pride of ignorance. For this work St. Paul's weapon was Truth, not authority, craft, or personal influence. He felt that truth must prevail. A grand, silent lesson for us now! when the noises of a hundred controversies stun the Church. Let us teach as Christ and His apostles taught. Force no one to God, but convince all by the might of truth. Should any of you have to bear attacks on your character, or life, or doctrine, defend yourself with meekness, or if defence should make matters worse, then commit yourself fully to the truth. Outpray, outpreach, outlive the calumny.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: