2 Corinthians 10:9-12

In 2 Corinthians 10:9-12 Paul addresses those who were trying to discredit and undermine his ministry. Paul’s critics among the Corinthian Christians felt they had “evidence” against him. The “evidence” was that Paul seemed to be tough in his letters but weak and unimpressive in person. So they used this as “evidence” to despise him as weak and two-faced. “I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters.” Paul’s humility and complete reliance on the power of God instead of the power of his own personality, coupled with his strong letters, were being used against him. They said Paul was like a dog that barks like crazy at a safe distance but is a coward when confronted face to face.

Their mistake was in relying only on outward appearance. These critics focused on only the style and presentation of his sermons, not the message itself. “For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” They didn’t listen to the truth Paul shared with the church – only the way he delivered that truth. Paul may have been quite ill during his time with the Corinthian Christians, and his condition may have made him appear this way. At the same time, whether Paul’s weakness in bodily presence and speaking ability was temporary or permanent, it didn’t bother Paul. He knew that when he was weak, it gave God’s power all the more opportunity to work.

Paul knew that in our weakness God is shown strong. So he continued to write strong letters and speak truth when in person. He didn’t allow anything to derail his preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.” Paul writes to his critics with perfect clarity. Be careful what you ask for, because Paul was ready to bring it. “If you want the ‘tough’ Paul, you will get him. I will come to you with all the authority I have shown in my letters.” Paul was clear that he was ready and able to deliver the same message in person that he did through his letters.

Whoever Paul’s opponents and critics were among the Corinthian Christians, they certainly thought highly of themselves. Paul wasn’t going down that road. He would continue to lead with humility and grace and stay away from the nonsense that a few in the church wanted to pursue. “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” These critics were simply measuring themselves by themselves and only comparing themselves among themselves. This means two things. First, it means making yourself the measure of others. Second, it means making others the measure of yourself.

This was wrong for at least two reasons. First, there did not seem to be a lot of really spiritual people among the Corinthian Christians to give a good comparison to. Comparing to those who were weak as Christ Followers does not give a very  good measure. How much of a compliment could it have been to be the most spiritual person among the Corinthians? Not really much to have pride about there. Secondly, it was wrong because it only measured on a human scale, focused on outward appearance. When we let the Holy Spirit measure us through God’s Word, He measures us on God’s scale, and He looks at the heart. We should only ever compare ourselves to God’s Word (the unmovable measuring stick) and how we are living life compared to God’s plan and expectation for our life. It’s not about comparing ourselves to anyone else ever!

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