Verse 1 – Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.
There were still some among the Corinthians who had spoken with contempt of Paul’s authority and his claims of being an apostle.
Verse 2 – But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intended to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.
Some thought that Paul was guided by personal interests and worldly views.
Verse 3 – For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
Though Paul dwelt in a mortal body like the others, and must take care of temporary needs, the battles he faced were not with others.
Verse 4 – For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
The weapons of our battles we face; the weapons used for victory. Our weapons are not carnal – meaning, we don’t fight Satan with emotions, skills, wealth, beauty, or anything external.
Verse 5 – casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing everything into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
False teachings and error have to be denounced and thrown out because God’s word is true and that only is our guidance. As we study God’s word, we are less likely to err in our obedience to Christ.
Verse 6 – and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Verse 7 – Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s , even so we are Christ’s.
Paul is still talking about the false teachers which had come into the church. They laid claim to special honor in the work of ministry, because they were superior in personal appearance, in rank, manners, or eloquence compared to Paul.
Verse 8 – For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed –
Verse 9 – lest I seem to terrify you by letters.
Verse 10 – “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, and his speech contemptible.”
Paul’s enemies were saying that his letters were powerful, but what he said was despised. Many times people will not be so concerned with how eloquent a message is given, but what the content is about. Those who refuse to come to Christ don’t like criticism of how they are living their life!
Verse 11 – Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.
If the situation required it, Paul would not hesitate to exercise his god – given authority. That doesn’t mean to humiliate the members or beat them up every Sunday either.
Verse 12 – For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Do you compare yourself with others? That’s what these false teachers were doing. They thought because they spoke more eloquently than Paul did, their message was better than his. Compare yourself to Christ only and you will see how short we fail, and that without Christ’s strength, we couldn’t’ teach anything.
Verse 13 – We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within limits of the sphere which God appointed us – a sphere which especially includes you.
Verse 14 – For we are not extending ourselves beyond our sphere (thus not reaching you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ;
Verse 15 – not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere,
Verse 16 – to preach the gospel in regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishments.
Paul understood his ministry as essentially that of a pioneer church planter. He didn’t boast on what another apostle had built.
Verse 17 – But “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:24)
Verse 18 – For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.
If we as Christians have anything to brag about, it’s what the Lord has done for us or through us but the focus is always on the Lord receiving the credit.