Paul’s Defense: Who Is Paul?
Paul now shifts to the future and his upcoming visit. Elements in Corinth have been attempting to undermine him by casting doubt on his apostleship. This will obviously cause problems when Paul does come and he would rather have the issued settled, if at all possible, before he arrives. We don’t know exactly what was being said, except by derivation from Paul’s defense. We know the detractors were among the Jews (II Corinthians 11:22) and that they had an inflated and undeserved opinion about themselves.
Don’t suppose his meekness and gentleness means a lack of strength (II Corinthians 10:1-6)
Until now Paul has been speaking in the plural. His discussion represented what he, Timothy, and other preachers of the gospel taught. But beginning here, he is addressing issues that concern him personally. Thus, the pronoun shifts from “we” to “I.”
Paul sets the stage by reminding the brethren of the nature of Christ. Jesus was meek and unassuming (Matthew 11:29), yet he was their Lord and Savior (Matthew 28:18). Few would use Jesus’ character as a charge to say he was unable to do the work God called him to do. Yet, Paul points out that this is what is being done to him.
In person, his meekness and gentleness is very apparent. When writing his strength of character comes through. Apparently his detractors are charging that Paul is afraid to rebuke people to their faces and must resort to indirect means to attack those who oppose him. Paul states at the beginning that his preference is to come again in meekness. He doesn’t want to have to come in strength, though he will be reproving those who deserve rebuking. These detractors might think otherwise, but that is because they are thinking of Paul acting as other men. Paul isn’t motivated as worldly people are motivated.
Paul lives in the world, but he doesn’t use worldly tactics. He is engaged in a war for the hearts and minds of people (I Timothy 1:18; II Timothy 2:3-4; Ephesians 6:10-17). This war is not fought with physical weapons, but they are still mighty weapons (Jeremiah 1:10; Proverbs 21:22). They are the weapons of wisdom and reason (II Corinthians 6:7; Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is able to pull down the strong walls people set around their hearts, to cast down their arguments and their pride, and bring them into captivity to Christ (Psalms 18:27; Romans 6:17-18; I Corinthians 1:19; 3:19). Paul is ready to wield his weaponry for the punishment of the disobedient while it at the same time brings the Corinthians into obedience (II Corinthians 2:9; 13:2, 10).
His behavior and teaching is consistent (II Corinthians 10:7-11)
Paul questions whether the Corinthians make judgments solely based on what can be seen (John 7:24). If a person is convinced within himself that he belongs to Christ, he should also be convinced within himself that Paul equally belongs to Christ. Perhaps here Paul is going back to the issue which he started his first letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 1:12). Paul is addressing those who oppose him. They boast of their relationship with Christ and Paul is saying if they were honest, they would admit it doesn’t make a distinction between them and Paul since they know Paul also belongs to Christ (I Corinthians 14:37).
Even though Paul asserts his authority, given to him by Jesus, that authority is there to improve them, not tear them down. He knows he can make a stronger claim than those who oppose him. Therefore, he isn’t embarrassed to state his position. He knows his claim of being an apostle of Christ will not be disproved. Still, he doesn’t want to appear to be threatening them with his letters.
Yet, that is exactly what his opponents charge. They claim that he comes across strongly in his letters, but in person he is weak and not a good speaker (I Corinthians 2:1-4; II Corinthians 11:6). Paul did have some type of physical problem (Galatians 4:13; II Corinthians 12:5, 9), but it did not impact his knowledge or abilities (II Peter 3:15-16). What is ironic is while these people claim that Paul wasn’t a good speaker, others once mistook Paul for the god Hermes, the god of speaking (Acts 14:12). What we see here are people, unable to answer the message, trying to exaggerate weakness to make Paul seem less than he is.
But Paul warns his detractors that as he appears in his letters, he will be the same when present in person when dealing with them (II Corinthians 13:2). They will find out that their claims will be proven false. Paul is not saying that he will be strong just the next time he visits. He is emphasizing that how he appears in his letters is how he is in person.
Paul’s position and behavior doesn’t depend on any other man (II Corinthians 10:12-18)
Paul doesn’t measure himself against other people, especially his opponents who brag about themselves (II Corinthians 3:1; 5:12). He is not bold enough to do so (notice the irony of the statement in comparison to II Corinthians 10:10). People who use themselves or others like them to measure their worth are not using their heads (Proverbs 26:12). If a person or a group makes themselves to be the standard of excellence, then of course they look better to themselves and everyone else looks poor. But the standard being used is feeble men.
Instead of inflating his apparent worth, Paul will stay within the boundaries that God has set for him (Romans 12:3). Inside those limits are the accomplishment he had among the Corinthians. The implication is that Paul’s opponents had been claiming for themselves accomplishments that were actually done by other people, such as Paul himself. “Sphere” here is actually the Greek word for canon, doctrine, or teaching (Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:16). So also here is the claim that Paul will not allow boasting to take him outside of God’s laws.
Paul did not overextend himself by teaching the Gospel in Corinthian. It was a part of his assigned duties in bring the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 26:17-18). Implied is that Paul’s detractors were claiming that Paul wasn’t sent to the Greeks to teach the gospel, a charge that was clearly false (Acts 16:9).
It was always Paul’s preference to teach where others had not (Romans 15:20-21). Thus, a charge that he is only taking credit for what others did before him is also false. It was Paul who started the work in Corinth by preaching there for 18 months (Acts 18:11). It is Paul’s hope that as the Corinthians become established and strong in the faith, they will be able to support Paul’s effort to reach new regions, thus increasing Paul’s sphere (Romans 15:24). Thus it will be Paul’s work and not another. It will be Paul’s teachings, which is from God, and not the teachings of other men. Thus, the glory belongs to God (I Peter 4:11; I Corinthians 3:5-6; Jeremiah 9:23-24; I Corinthians 1:31; Psalms 115:1).
It really doesn’t matter what others think about Paul or any other preacher of the gospel. The true preacher isn’t out to serve himself but the Lord. So all that matters is whether God approves of what is being done (Proverbs 27:2; Romans 2:29; I Corinthians 4:5).