Part 4: Paul’s answer to new trouble (10:1-13:14)
We are in the last three chapters of Paul’s letter. There is now a big change in the way he writes. In chapters 1-9, he comforts the Corinthians. He tells them how pleased he is with their behaviour. But their present behaviour does not please him. A group of Christians has come to Corinth. They oppose Paul. He is strong in his attack against them. This group has entered the church at Corinth. They have turned the people against Paul. This is an attack against Paul. It is an attack against his authority. Again, Paul needs to defend himself. The attack against him is a serious matter to Paul.
Verse 1 Paul refers to the words that Christ spoke of himself (Matthew 11:29). Jesus said that he was gentle and humble in heart. So, Paul now speaks to the Corinthians in the same spirit. Paul did not come as a strong person when he first visited them. His *opponents say that he does not have sufficient authority. He has not the authority that an *apostle ought to have. Paul is strong sometimes, but at other times, he is weak. He is strong when he is far away from them. He is weak when he is close to them.
Verse 2 Christ said that he was gentle and humble in heart. He did not mean that he was weak. He was not afraid of people. Paul can say the same. Paul too will act as a strong man. He will have no fear. He will be strong when it is necessary. Paul’s enemies say that he acts as a weak person. He does not have the authority of an *apostle. He acts as the world acts. That is what they say.
These people said other things. He did not have the help of dreams and *visions (12:1). Neither did he perform great wonders and *miracles (12:11-12). They said too that Christ did not speak through him (13:3). They said that Paul acted in the way of the world. He did not have the leading of the *Holy Spirit. But if it was necessary, Paul could be strong. He could act as a true *apostle. He is coming. He hopes, however, that it will not be necessary to act in that way.
Verse 3 We all do the same things. We eat and we sleep. We work and we play. We all know joy and regret. Paul agrees that we live in the world. The world fights in its own way. Paul will not agree to fight the war as they do. In the world’s way, you fight in your own power. You do not fight in the power of the *Holy Spirit. The world fights in certain ways that would not be right for a Christian.
Verse 4 We use *weapons in the Christian war. The war is against *Satan and *evil. A *stronghold is a castle. The castle is *Satan’s power. With that power, he has control over the lives of people. Paul uses *weapons to win in this battle. But they are not the *weapons of the world. They are not swords or guns. The *weapons that Paul uses have the power of God in them. In this verse the *weapon is the *preaching of the *gospel. God sends his power into the world through this *preaching.
Verse 5 The castle that Paul is thinking about is on a high hill. It has thick walls. No-one can get through them. The castle is in people’s minds. Their minds are against God. The *gospel is about *salvation through Jesus Christ. But people do not want to hear it. The castle describes a certain type of mind. It sets itself against the knowledge of God. It is the castle of human pride. It is the arguments that people make against the *gospel.
Paul will destroy these false arguments. The battle is in the minds of people. Paul will win the battle. He will do it by *preaching the *gospel. He will break false arguments. People’s thoughts will now be under the rule of Jesus Christ. Paul’s every thought is under control to obey Christ. He is that kind of person.
Verse 6 There were ways in which the Corinthians were not obeying Paul. The church at Corinth came as a result of Paul’s work. He was their *apostle. Maybe *Jewish Christians had come to the church. They might have *preached a different *gospel. One person could have started to control the church. Or perhaps it was a group of people. There is another possibility. Maybe the *Jewish Christians were asking the Corinthians to obey *Jewish laws. One of these would be *circumcision. Paul could not tell *Gentile Christians to obey laws like that. That would be to *preach a different *gospel (11:4). Paul even describes people like that as ‘servants of *Satan’ (11:13-15).
Paul wanted complete *obedience. They must obey his (true) *gospel. Paul waits for them to obey him. They must change their minds. They must bring their minds under the control of Christ. Then Paul would be ready to punish the false *apostles. When we *preach the *gospel we are in a battle. It is for the minds of people. These verses remind us of that.
Verse 7 Paul claims that he and his workers are *apostles of Jesus Christ. Their work is to *preach the *gospel. Jesus Christ himself has sent them. The Corinthians should not doubt this. It is true. That ought to be quite clear to them. It is a fact. Moreover, there is a church in Corinth. That should be the proof. Suppose that Paul’s *opponents also belong to Christ. Suppose that they also are his *apostles. That is what they think. But Paul doubts this. Then it is also true that Paul belongs to Christ.
Verse 8 Jesus Christ gave Paul authority to *preach the *gospel. This was when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. For Paul it was a very important meeting. There Christ made him an *apostle. People needed to know this. Maybe he was not speaking with the authority of an *apostle. If this was so, people should know it. Paul was very careful about this. He could be giving just his advice or opinion (11:17). It was a very important matter. The Corinthians must know that he spoke as Christ’s *apostle. As an *apostle, he spoke with power and with authority. For that reason they must obey him. He may have been weak. He was weak as Christ was weak. But the power of God worked through him just the same.
Christ gave Paul this authority. He gave it to build up the Corinthians. His purpose was not to destroy them. Often Paul needs to talk about his authority. But he would rather not talk like that. He does not keep changing his behaviour. They need to know that. He might be present with them. He might be writing a letter (verses 9-11). His behaviour is always the same. So, no-one will be able to cause him to be ashamed.
Verses 9-10 Paul’s *opponents have been speaking to the Corinthians. Paul knows what they have been saying. He now repeats what they say. They say that he sends them letters using severe words. He speaks about an authority that he does not have. When he is present in person, he is weak.
Perhaps Paul had an illness. Perhaps he was small. Maybe he was not a big, strong man. There is a writing about 200 AD. The title is ‘The acts of Paul and Thecla’. It says that Paul was a small man. He was bald. His legs were not straight. He had a big, bent nose. He had thick hairs over his eyes. That may or not be true. This is how people then may have seen Paul. It gives us some idea of what he looked like.
Paul’s *opponents did not like the way that he spoke (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). Paul may not have been a clever speaker. A man who had *sinned spoke against Paul. Paul then wrote a severe letter. He chose not to meet the man in person.
Verse 11 Paul may not have shown his authority on his previous visit. That does not mean that he had no authority. Paul can be as strong when he is present. He can be strong in his letters. Paul will show the Corinthians his strength. This will be on his next visit,