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2 Corinthians 10:15–16

“We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.”

We do not have writings or other records from Paul’s opponents in Corinth that give us the full explanation of why they criticized the Apostle. Thus, we must endeavor to figure out what they were saying or doing based on the way that Paul responds to them. As we have seen, part of their criticism seems to have involved charges that Paul had an ineffective ministry due to his being two-faced, having an unimpressive physical appearance, and lacking rhetorical skill. Paul, of course, was not two-faced, and it was inappropriate to judge the effectiveness of his work based on his stature and rhetorical proficiency. Instead, the Apostle had to be evaluated based on his faithfulness to the call the Lord had given him, and in that respect he passed the test with flying colors (2 Cor. 10:1–14).

In today’s passage we find Paul alluding to other problematic elements of the false apostles’ behavior. The Apostle argues that he and his partners in ministry “do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others” and refrain from “boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence” (vv. 15–16). Paul here seems to be implicitly leveling charges of his own against his opponents that in addition to leading the Corinthians astray and undermining his authority, his critics also had no business doing any work in Corinth in the first place. It may even be that they were somehow taking credit for the fruit of Paul’s labors in that city. This was contrary to righteousness and particularly ironic since they verbally questioned the effectiveness of Paul’s work.

Unlike Paul’s opponents, the Apostle did not do his work to advance himself, and he did not take credit for the success of others. He labored instead to see the Corinthians increase in faith so that his influence in the Corinthian church would grow and he would be able to preach the gospel in lands beyond Corinth (vv. 15–16). The city of Corinth stood in a strategic place geographically in terms of reaching the rest of the Roman Empire, and a strong Corinthian church that was growing in love and holiness would enable gospel witness far beyond the city’s walls. The Apostle Paul loved the Corinthians, certainly, but as he was called to reach the gentiles (Acts 9:15), he desired to get the Corinthian church to a place of Christian maturity so he could focus his attention elsewhere. Reaching the lost with the gospel was foremost in his mind.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Strong churches that are growing in Christian love and maturity are able to support missionaries, testify to Christ effectively in their communities, and otherwise extend the witness of the gospel. One reason we should prize our spiritual growth and the growth of others is so that our churches can support greater gospel outreach. Let us strive to grow in Christ and encourage others in our churches to do the same.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 22:27
  • Isaiah 52:10
  • Jeremiah 16:19–21
  • Acts 13:13–52

The Satisfied Child of God

Whom the Lord Commends

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From the November 2021 Issue
Nov 2021 Issue