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2 Corinthians 10:1–2

“I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.”

Today we return to 2 Corinthians and resume our study in chapter 10. Verses 1–2 begin a lengthy response from Paul to critics who questioned his Apostolic credentials and note his plans to visit the Corinthian church again. This would be his third visit to the church, the first being when he planted the congregation (Acts 18:1–17) and the second visit occurring just after his writing of 1 Corinthians when it became clear he needed to address the church’s problems in person. As we have seen, Paul refers to this second encounter with the Corinthians as a “painful visit” because some in the church opposed him and the church did not stand with the Apostle (2 Cor. 2:1). Then, Paul wrote a letter to Corinth that we no longer possess in which he rebuked the Corinthians, prompting their repentance (7:2–16). Yet, as problems remained in Corinth, Paul knew that he would need to come again, and the Apostle wrote 2 Corinthians to prepare them for his third visit (13:1). Second Corinthians 10:1–13:10 shows us that one of these ongoing problems consisted of individuals who rejected Paul’s Apostolic authority and wanted the rest of the church in Corinth to do the same.

In 10:1–2, Paul alludes to some of the accusations that his opponents levied against him. The Apostle notes that he is “humble” when “face to face” with the Corinthians but bold when he is away from them (v. 1). Commentators believe that Paul is repeating the charges of his critics, which are found also in verse 10. “Humble” in verse 1 is a reference not to a virtue but to the vice of timidity. Apparently, Paul’s critics—false apostles trying to undermine his position—were accusing the Apostle of being two-faced. They said he was one thing (reticent, fearful, cowardly) in the presence of the Corinthians and another thing (strong, bold, courageous) when he was away from Corinth. Perhaps they pointed to Paul’s strong words in his epistles, such as in 1 Corinthians 5 and in the letter immediately following his “painful visit” (2 Cor. 7:8), to prove their claims.

As we will see, Paul was anything but two-faced. The Apostle had not been as harsh with the Corinthians in person as he could have been, but that was due to meekness, not weakness. He preferred to gently persuade, not to utter commands. Still, he would command if he had to. He was going to have to be harsh with the false apostles when he came, and he hoped that he would not have to be as hard on the rest of the church (10:2).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Paul’s choice to not be as harsh with the Corinthians as he could be is a function of meekness and wisdom, reflecting Christ’s own meekness and wisdom. Jesus did not speak harsh words to all but tailored His response to the individual. He was harder on some than on others. Similarly, we should take the person and the nature of the offense into account when we have to offer correction. Some people need harder words than others.

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 25:11–12
  • Jude 22–23

Wise Investment

Trust to Obey

Keep Reading The Kingdom of God

From the November 2021 Issue
Nov 2021 Issue