The Gentleness of Christ
The Gentleness of Christ
“Regarding the coherence of II Corinthians, the sequence is as follows: Paul explains that his plan to visit Corinth earlier had been set aside in order to spare them; he had, however, crossed from Troas to Macedonia in his impatience to meet Titus with news from Corinth (1:23-2:13); there follows the great ‘parenthesis’ (2:14-7:4), and then the resumption of the account of his meeting with Titus (7:5-16); next he informs them that he is sending Titus with two brethren to organize the collection to its conclusion (chapters 8 and 9); and now, finally, he is preparing the way for his own coming to Corinth close on the heels of Titus and the two brethren (chapters 10-13)” (2 Corinthians, Hughes, pp. 343-344). “There is a definite break in the Epistle at the end of chapter 9 as the apostle turns to deal with the recalcitrant (disobedient) minority at Corinth who, in contrast to the great majority of the Corinthian Christians, have not been loyal to him but are listening all too eagerly to the specious claims of certain false shepherds who have intruded into the fold of the Corinthian church” (2 Corinthians, Tasker, p. 131).
If you are wondering why God allowed an apostle to be ridiculed, attacked, tested, and questioned, consider the following:
“Late last year Pope Francis said that the line in the Lord’s Prayer translated as, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ should be retranslated to make it clear that ‘it’s Satan who leads us into temptation.’ Francis explained that God acts like a father when we fall: ‘A father helps you to get up immediately.’ John Piper, though, looked more carefully at the Bible. He pointed out Matthew 4:1: ‘Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil’. Piper noted that God does ‘bring us into the presence of many tests and temptations. … Every step we take is a step into the presence of temptation. … That’s what life is: endless choices between belief and unbelief, obedience and disobedience.’ The book of Job shows how God is not Job’s adversary – Satan is – but God is like a trainer who leads his fighter toward the ring. Nineteenth-century theologian Albert Barnes had a key insight into what happens there: The word ‘temptation … means sometimes trial, affliction, anything that tests our virtue.’ As a professor for many years, I certainly saw the importance of testing. Many students implicitly implore their teachers: Lead us not into testing, but if you do, deliver us from evil by grading on a curve, or throwing out our worst score. But good professors will hold firm, for a test that doesn’t have clear consequences will not push students to study hard. Without exams, study lags” (Pulpit Privilege, Marvin Olasky, World Magazine, 5-26-2018). So God is not out to trip me up (James 1:13ff). He will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able (1 Corinthians 10:13). Yet I need to put on the armor that He has provided (Ephesians 6:10ff) and make good use of the resources and opportunities I have for growth. When people are caught in a temptation it is not that God has failed them, rather, they often did not make good use of what He has provided.
Meekness and Gentleness Christ
Paul’s authority as an apostle had been questioned and now he makes a very personal appeal. We should pay close attention to Paul’s attitude here. Even though some of the Corinthians have believed the false accusations of his enemies, he is still giving some of them a wonderful opportunity to correct themselves. Meekness includes the ability or willingness to accept correction without dispute or resistance, to be angry without sinning and to argue without being caustic or ungodly It is the spirit in which a person is willing to learn (James 1:21), and where person can face the truth without resentment. “Gentleness”: “Fairness, forbearance, sympathetic consideration for others, sweet reasonableness” (P.P. Comm., p. 238). ‘The man who does not press for the last farthing of his rights” (Robertson, p. 251). “Of Christ”: The example of Jesus provides the norm which should govern our conduct. I am seeking to appeal to you in the manner that Jesus would appeal to you. I am seeking to reach you like Jesus would try to reach you.
“I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent” (10:1). “This is a quotation. This is what those enemies say regarding Paul: ‘Yes, when he is here with you in Corinth he puts on a lowly face and acts, oh, so humble! Brave? – well, only when he is away at a safe distance from you he becomes brave and sends brave, strong language in his letters! He has not the courage to face you in regard to anything; he struts courageously only when he is far away” (Lenski, p. 1199).
Since Paul's opponents were worldly minded, they thought that Paul was governed by the same hidden motives that governed them. They took Paul's patience and gentleness to be fear and cowardice. They were assuming that what motivated them also motivated him. The world often misjudges the Christian. Paul's opponents are expecting Paul and his fellow-workers to fight with the same type of methods which they have used against Paul, such as, slander, trickery, and false accusations. Paul does not have to resort to such tactics, the power of the gospel, faith, and prayer is far more powerful than human cleverness (Ephesians 6:11-18).
Casting Down Strongholds/Imaginations
The strongholds under consideration are specified in the next verse. Yet basically, all such strongholds are human attempts to hide from God and to deny one's accountability to Him (Romans 1:18-32). Lenski has a fine thought when he says, “Paul lost some whom he could not win or could no hold for Christ. He grieved over these. Jesus shed tears over Jerusalem. But none of these losses, not even the loss of Jerusalem and of the Jews as a nation, constituted a defeat of the gospel. The victories went on and on” (p. 1206). “Imaginations”: “Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy” (Phi). “We are destroying speculations” (NASV). The most important battles have always been waged within the mind of each individual. Who will control your life? To whom will you yield allegiance? What will you believe? And who will you trust with your eternity? (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
His Letters are Weighty
Burdensome, grievous, and heavy. The term here also could mean "oppressive, painful". Often people claim that the Bible is a document that "oppresses" people, yet such is false (1 John 5:3). The Scriptures liberate man (John 8:32). “But his bodily presence is weak”: “But his personal appearance is insignificant” (Gspd). “When he gets here you will see that there is nothing great about him” (Tay). This indicates how Paul interacted with Christians. He did not toss his apostolic weight around or insist that everyone serve him, rather he often was the servant, who was trying to help others. He was not harsh, brash, offensive, caustic or aloof. In fact, this accusation seems to suggest, that Paul was too "kind, merciful, compassionate, tender and gentle" for the tastes of the selfish false teachers. “Like so many who judge things according to the outward display of this world, Paul's opponents interpreted meekness as weakness, forbearance as cowardice, and gentleness as indecision” (Hughes, p. 362). “And his speech of no account”: “His delivery is beneath contempt” (Mof). “And as a speaker he amounts to nothing” (Gspd). “And you have never heard a worse preacher” (Tay). Yet other audiences had a different impression of Paul as a speaker (Acts 14:12).
The False Standard
2 Corinthians 10:12 “For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with certain of them that commend themselves: but they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding”
“Is to measure themselves by their own standards or by comparisons within their own circle” (Phi). “Measuring themselves against their own little ideas” (Tay). “To find in themselves their own standard of comparison” (NEB). “These enemies of the apostle form a mutual admiration society. Their own achievements constitute their standard of excellence” (Erdman, p. 108). This is an easy trap to fall into if we are not regularly meeting with God’s people and reading the Bible. We start thinking that the way “we view things” and our “feelings about something” is an infallible standard.
2 Corinthians 10:18 “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth”
“Commendeth himself”: “For the Lord's approval of a man is not dependent on his opinion of himself” (Bas). “It is not self-commendation that matters; it is winning the approval of God” (Phi). The letters of commendation possessed by these false teachers (2 Corinthians 3:1), did not impress God. Human praise is of very little value. In the end, it cannot save us. The praise, approval, and favor we must always seek is God's (2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 2:29; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5). In another passage Paul said, “For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by t his acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:4). Even if I “think” I am doing well this is not a guarantee of my acceptance before God. Thus, I need to be very familiar with God’s standard of judgment (John 12:48) and be very honest about how I am living in every aspect of my life.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017