Notes on 2 Corinthians 10:13-18

2 Corinthians 10:13‑18  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Another thing forgotten by his adversaries the apostle here introduces. The sphere of work is not a question of human choice or judgment, but of the divine will. There were those who slighted the labors of Paul, and their fruit at Corinth; but as he had not entered on that field of his own will, so he had toiled in the face of difficulty and with signal blessing guaranteed for his encouragement from the first.
“We however will not boast as to things1 unmeasured, but according to the measure of the rule which God distributed to us, a measure to reach as far even as you. For we do not,2 as though not reaching unto you, overstretch ourselves, for even as far as you we advanced in the gospel of Christ, not boasting as to things unmeasured in another's toils, but having hope while your faith increaseth, to be enlarged among you according to our rule unto abundance, to preach the gospel unto the [quarters] beyond you, not to boast in another's rule as to things made ready. But he that boasteth, in the Lord let him boast; for not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” ( Vers. 13-18.)
The saving grace of God widely as it goes forth, even to all, falls nevertheless under the ordering hand of God who has His will about the sphere as well as the character of His service.
Others might boast immoderately. This is natural to the flesh, especially in vain minds. But the apostle labored as he lived in the fear of God. Not a thought crossed him of displaying abilities; he was a servant, a bondman, of Jesus Christ; and so to him it was no question of liking or disliking, but of doing the work assigned to him, “according to the measure of the rule which God distributed to us, a measure to reach even to you.”
In truth as all the Christian life is meant to be a matter of obedience, so in particular the work of the Lord; else will it speedily degenerate into vain glory or slighting others, and often better men than ourselves. So certainly it was here. The Lord had not called them as he did Paul to Corinth. They at their ease had followed where Paul had wrought with constant self-denial, and not outward labors only but deep exercise of soul; a labor in which grace alone could sustain by the Holy Ghost in continual dependence on the Lord. And the Lord had rejoiced his heart with much people, even in that corrupt city, brought to the knowledge of Himself. This was: a work of divine power and goodness, but some had risen up or entered in since the apostle's departure, whose worldly spirit depreciated the work, and claimed superior power. If Paul had begun, they were the men to finish. Was he not indeed too ready to begin and leave his work incomplete as he roved from place to place? For their part they preferred the chiefs who stayed and reared a statelier edifice, as in Jerusalem. This they now strove to do at Corinth.
Such vaporing the apostle simply and thoroughly disposes of by the great truth that God apportions the sphere of labor. Those who venture on an enterprise of the sort without God, must not wonder if their service be without His honor and blessing. Happy the man who is wont to look to God, not only for his soul and in his walk, but also in his work. Nor does God fail to vouchsafe His guidance in this as in all things where His servants wait on Him. It was a new language doubtless to the self-exalting men of Corinth, jealous of the power and authority of the apostle. Power belongs to God, but He loves to use it in and by those who walk by faith, and now was the fitting time and place to make known the secret to the saints. It was “according to the measure of the rule which God dealt to us, a measure to reach as far even as you.” There was no overstraining in the apostolic word or work, as though not reaching to the Corinthians; “for even as far as you we advanced in the gospel of Christ.” None could deny this. The apostle had traversed many lands, planting the standard and proclaiming the good news of Christ in them all. He had done so as far as Corinth to the joy of many hearth. Let others boast then of lengths without measure; he and those like-minded would not boast of anything of the sort, more especially if it were taking advantage of other men's toils, which he was careful to avoid. “But having hope, while your faith increaseth, to be enlarged among you according to our rule unto abundance.”
Thus admirably does the apostle rise above the pettiness of human conceit or pride in divine things, nowhere more offensive than there, on the one hand laying bare those cheap pretensions which turned to selfish account the toil of others; on the other, cherishing confidence in the grace of God that the faith He had given would grow and thus afford him an opportunity of being enlarged as he says among them, instead of being chilled and straitened by having to deal with serious and growing evils. For thus would he be set free in fact and in spirit to preach the gospel unto the quarters beyond them, instead of boasting in another's rule as to things made ready. This his adversaries were doing, as we have seen, and as the apostle here says quietly, but none the less cuttingly.
But the Christian has a just ground of boasting. There is One in whom we may and ought to boast, not self, but the Lord. So said the prophet of old, when the Jews were either glorying in idols or distrustful in Jehovah, who was laying bare their vanity and punishing their departure from Himself. So repeats the apostle now to the saints at Corinth. To glory in the Lord is due to Him and good for us; to glory else where is a danger as well as a delusion. It connects more or less immediately with self; and not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.