Notes on 2 Corinthians 10:1-6

2 Corinthians 10:1‑6  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 12
From the exhaustive treatment of giving and receiving according to Christ which filled the two preceding chapters, the apostle turns to vindicate the authority given him in the Lord. This Satan had been bringing into question among the Corinthians, not merely to discredit the servant, but thereby to undermine the testimony and separate the saints from Him whose grace and glory were interwoven with it most intimately.
In the beginning of the epistle, now that they had begun to judge themselves in God's sight truly, if as yet imperfectly, he could open his own heart and speak of his ways and his motive which had been so basely misconstrued; he had just alluded to his authority enough to indicate his possession of it with calmness of spirit with his unwillingness to exercise it with severity. He even appeals to God as a witness upon his soul that it was to spare them, not through fear or levity or any other unworthy reason, he had not come as yet to Corinth, but with marvelous tact and gracious skill he binds up with his explanation of what had been misunderstood, the divine certainty we enjoy in Christ by God's word and the power of the Spirit given to us. And then, just touching on the case of discipline which Satan had used and was still seeking to use to separate the Corinthians from the apostle, not only in judgment but in affection and in the mutual confidence which springs from it, he lets them know how that an evangelistic door even opened to him in the Lord failed to turn his loving heart from themselves at this critical juncture; but spite of all, he thanks God for always leading him in triumph in Christ, as in an ancient procession of victory where sweet spices were being burnt, harbinger of death to some of the captives and of life to others. This gives occasion to the admirable setting forth of the gospel of the glory of Christ, the ministration of the Spirit in an earthen vessel in contrast with that of the law which false teachers would ever mingle with it, and to the manifestation of the superiority of life in Christ over all that can obscure, menace, hinder or destroy, which runs through chapters iii.-vi. 10. Thence he returns to his relations with the Corinthian saints, but not without exhortation to keep them clear of every association of Satan, flesh and world, inconsistent with Christ.
After this to the end of chapter 7 he freely speaks of what had tended to make a practical breach between him and them. Then in the grace and wisdom he who took nothing for himself from the saints at Corinth proves how his heart beat freely toward them by informing them of the grace displayed in Macedonia notwithstanding their well-known and deep poverty in liberally contributing to the poor saints in Judea, and by giving the Corinthians an opportunity of proving the genuineness of their love, especially as they had begun a year ago but had not yet given effect to it; a work in which Titus shared the gracious desires of the apostle, not only as to the help itself for the suffering poor but also that the saints in Corinth should not fall behind their boasting about them. But therein he manifests with equal strength the avoidance of all reproach on the part of those engaged with himself in administering the relief, and the manifold blessing of such liberality, and God's delight in it, whether one thinks of the saints that give or of the saints that receive through His grace who is Himself the unspeakable gift of God.
The apostle did not love to speak of himself or even of his authority, high as it was and most surely conferred by the Lord. But there was a necessity for the Corinthians as for the Galatians; but here he reserves it for and pursues it to the close of the epistle; whereas there he could not but begin with it, the call being yet more urgent.
“But I myself Paul entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of the Christ, [I] who face to face [am] mean among you but absent am bold toward you-but I beseech that present I may not be bold with the confidence with which I think to be daring against some that think of us as walking according to flesh. For walking in flesh we do not war according to flesh. For the arms of our warfare [are] not fleshly but powerful with God to the pulling down of strongholds, pulling down reasonings and every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and leading captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ, and. being ready to avenge every disobedience when your obedience shall have been fulfilled.” (Vers. 1-6.)
It seems that Paul physically had nothing of a showy presence, such as men like generally, most of all perhaps Greeks. But besides his was a lowly and gracious bearing which judged self and set it aside, as in everything, so particularly in the delicate task of dealing with others; which did not suit the Corinthian mind, nor seem in keeping with the apostolic office: especially as the apostle could and did to them write severely now and then in his first epistle. His adversaries accordingly took advantage of all this in seeking to aggrandize themselves and lower the apostle and his teaching. He appears here and elsewhere to take up their words and meet them in the Spirit, as one who had learned the lesson, if ever saint did, of death and resurrection with Christ. He therefore introduces himself, now that they had morally compelled it, with straightforwardness and dignity; and he entreats them by the meekness and gentleness of the Christ, which had as great price in his eyes, as it seemed to have none in theirs. Did detractors tax him with a mean personal appearance, but withal boldness when absent, that is, in his letters? Well, he says, I beseech that I may not when present have to be bold (θαρρῆσαι) with the confidence with which I am (not “reckoned,” but) minded, or think to be daring (τολμῆσαι) against some that think of us as walking according to flesh. Whatever) the energy and fervid zeal and depth of feeling and strength of will found in his natural character, Paul had borne himself among the Corinthians with a self-forgetting humility and the forbearance of active love. It was what he had seen in the Master he served, and this reproduced itself in his adoring heart and in his ways. Let men beware of despising in the servant what was the fruit of the perfection of Christ. But who also so unsparing in his words? Is there the least incongruity? What can be so outspoken as love-the love of Christ? Did Paul find pleasure in blaming his “beloved sons” in the faith?). It was and must be due to their state if he came with a rod, or in love and the spirit of meekness. So far from liking to censure, as enemies insinuated, he beseeches that he may not when present have to exercise his authority with a power withering to those who opposed the Lord and sought to cloak their own carnality under such an imputation against him. Reveling in the grace of God for his own soul, it was his deepest grief to see saints misled by Satan, forsaking their own mercies, grieving the Spirit, and putting the Lord's name to disrepute. It was not of Paul to lord it over the faith of any; he was a workman, and a fellow-workman, of their joy. And it was his joy far more than theirs. But he was servant in all he had received of the Lord Jesus, and responsible to use his authority where requisite. And as he had spoken out in his letter, so he would act when present, but he would rejoice if no such need arose. For he sought not himself, nor his things, nor theirs, but them.
“For walking in the flesh we war not according to flesh.” All who live here below can say the former; how few, the latter-at least as the apostle could. But it was because the weapons of his warfare were not fleshly but mighty “with” God or “according to” Him or “for” Him.1 Flesh prides itself on its own resources within which it entrenches itself against God, who works in His children when dependent, least of all in His own when independent. The enemy was seeking to bring back again fleshly wisdom, which like all that is of the first man attracts nature and exalts itself against the knowledge of God, for this is inseparable from Christ, and from Christ dead and risen. If we war not according to flesh, it must be by pulling down reasonings and every, high thing exalted (or exalting itself thus) and leading captive every thought unto the obedience of the Christ. This is the object and effect of dependence, as wrought by the Spirit of God. For there is nothing harder to man than contentedness with being nothing; nor does aught more hinder the obedience of Christ.
We may see in the first how the apostle employed those arms with God to the overthrowing of strongholds, whatever the reasoning or the high thing that was lifted up against the knowledge of God. Take their fleshly zeal for Paul, Apollos, or Cephas: he brings in Christ and His cross to judge its roots, declaring that the former were but ministering servants through whom they themselves believed and as the Lord gave to each; and in fact all theirs, and they Christ's and Christ God's. It was a carnal corruption of their privileges. Take their worldly ease: he contrasts, with such an unbelieving anticipation of the day when we shall all reign together, the apostles set by God as the last appointed to death, despised, suffering, and become as the world's offscouring until now. Take their appeal to law courts: he confronts the indignity of saints, who are to judge the world and angels, prosecuting suits one against another before the unjust. Take their laxity about temple feasts: he shows that their boasted intelligence about the vanity of idols was exposing them to Satan's snare, and drawing them into communion with demons. Take lastly their denial that the dead rise: he proves that it virtually upsets the resurrection of Christ, and consequently the gospel with all their heavenly privileges and hope. Thus admirably does the former epistle lead captive every thought into the obedience of Christ.
But the apostle adds another word which yet more brings out the grace and wisdom which wrought in and by him. “And being in readiness [or, as we say, being ready] to avenge every disobedience when your obedience shall have been fulfilled.” (Ver. 6.) He loved the saints, and yet more Christ's glory in the church. Therefore he could stay away and be misrepresented, but still wait till the word was brought home by the Spirit. This had been in part at least: the gross evil had been not only got rid of, but the saints in Corinth had been deeply moved in judging their own haughty and insensible state, and were now in danger really of veering to the opposite extreme of judicial hardness toward the one who had not only sinned without shame but ensnared them also. Grace becomes the church as well as righteousness, yea it should characterize us now, as earthly righteousness was looked for in Israel. But grace in the apostle could wait, not with indifference at any time, but in all patience now that conscience was working, till their obedience should be fulfilled, never giving up Christ's title to punish every sort of disobedience, and not merely what was scandalous. He would have them all with himself united for the Lord against every evil thing. The church must renounce Christ if it sit down in quiet acceptance of what denies His name. But grace knows how to hail a little that is of God, and looks for all according to His will in due time, or the solemn judgment of what is repugnant to His nature and word.