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2 Corinthians 10:13–14

“We will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.”

Preparing the Corinthians for his third visit to them, Paul devotes 2 Corinthians 10:1–13:10 to addressing the false charges that his opponents in Corinth levied to undermine his authority over the congregation. Many of their charges seem to have been that his ministry was not very effective, and 10:10 gives us some of the reasons that they considered Paul’s work unsuccessful. They charged that Paul’s “bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”

The Apostle had to correct the Corinthians in an earlier letter for placing too much weight on the rhetorical skills of teachers (1 Cor. 1:10–4:21). Apparently, by the time 2 Corinthians was written, the false apostles opposing Paul were appealing to the Corinthians’ love of eloquent speech, pointing out that the Apostle’s sermons were comparatively less refined. Interestingly, Paul does not argue that his opponents were wrong about his speech or his bodily presence. Apparently, according to the standards of his day, Paul didn’t have an attractive appearance and was not the most gifted speaker. But to evaluate a minister based solely on those qualities is worldly and to look on people with man’s perspective and not God’s (see 1 Sam. 16:7). It is not that appearance and rhetorical skill are wholly unimportant, but to evaluate ministry effectiveness solely by those standards is to miss the point. Paul refused to measure himself by those standards even though the false teachers compared themselves to one another by those measures (2 Cor. 10:12).

But this did not mean that the Apostle refused to judge his own efforts or even to properly boast in what the Lord accomplished through him. He just wanted to use the right standard. In 2 Corinthians 10:13–14, Paul gives part of that standard, which is “the area of influence God assigned” to him and his partners in ministry. The Apostle is saying that one must evaluate a minister by the call given to him, not by measures not given to him. For Paul, this call was to be an Apostle to the gentiles (Gal. 1–2), and any true evaluation of his work had to begin not with his appearance or speaking skill but with whether he had been faithful in taking the gospel to gentiles.

According to that measure, Paul was successful. As he says in 2 Corinthians 10:14, he had not overextended himself in planting the church at Corinth, for Corinth was a gentile city. By bringing them the gospel, he was fulfilling his call from the Lord.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

It is tempting to judge people according to calls not given to them. Some may judge a pastor for not being sufficiently involved in neighborhood events even though his call is to preach, administer the sacraments, and shepherd the flock of God. Some may judge young mothers for not volunteering enough at church when their chief vocation is to care for their children. Let us not judge people according to calls that do not necessarily belong to them.

For Further Study
  • 1 Timothy 2:7
  • 1 Peter 4:10–11

Paul’s Consistency

The Satisfied Child of God

Keep Reading The Kingdom of God

From the November 2021 Issue
Nov 2021 Issue