Lesson 50: "But They, Measuring Themselves By Themselves. . .Are Not Wise." (II Corinthians 10:12)
II Corinthians 10:1-18
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #50. Welcome to the last section of II Corinthians. Some think that chapters 10-11-12-13, the last four chapters of II Corinthians are out of place; that two different letters have been blended together. Most commentators do not buy that and it is my feeling for whatever thafs worth that ch. 10-11-12-13 were written at the same time and were part of the original letter we call Second Corinthians and are thus correctly placed in your Bible. But, you don't have to be an expert to recognize that the tone of this letter changes very suddenly and very drastically in this section. We learned in the first verse of this book that Paul wrote this letter "unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia." But, we discovered already that a majority of the Corinthians upon reading Fkst Corinthians and upon being taught and counseled by Titus had feared, trembled and obeyed (7:15); and sorrowed to repentance (7:9). However, this was not unanimous, we noted. Some questioned Paul's authority, ridiculed Paul and defied his teaching. In writing this book of Second Corinthians; Paul did not say he wrote this section to this faction and that section is to that faction, etc. He very wisely let those reading the book decide what was said to whom and what each should do to correct the errors and problems at Corinth. The whole book was written for the benefit of all. It's obvious the first nine chapters were primarily to the majority of Christians who tried to turn their life around, obey the apostle and get on with it. However, it is also just as obvious that the last four chapters here (10-11-12-13) were written more directly to the faction opposing Paul. That, I am convinced, accounts for the change in tone and content of this section. You must keep in mind in this case as well as in almost every case; in the camp of one's opponents there are some that are leaders and some that are followers. Some of the followers of that sect, if properly taught and persuaded would likely change; but, the ring-leaders probably would not. Thus, it was for the benefit of the former group; that Paul hesitated. We don't have time to do this in this study; but, I would like to encourage you to read ch. 10-11-12-13 and observe the pronouns very critically. For example, look at 10:10 a moment. "For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible." Focus in on die two words: "say they." Who are "they?" Well skip down to v.12 and read that verse. In the second part of the verse, Paul said: "but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." Who are they? Do you get my point? Now, skip down to 13:2! Starting in the middle of the verse; Paul said: "I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that if I come again, I will not spare..." Who was Paul writing to? "Them!" Who was them? Well, there's more to it and we could use numerous other examples; but, take the time to read all four chapters privately and watch out for the pronouns. By so doing, you can begin to pick up on some of their characteristics and learn some of the things about them. Paul does not refer to these people by name. They knew who they were and the Christians at Corinth knew who they were. Paul was not trying to embarrass them; Paul was trying to teach them. Not only was Paul trying to teach them; Paul was trying to make everyone else aware of their sins and their errors (re-read 5:12). I have referred to some of these already as Judiazing teachers. That's not my term; but that's not a Bible term either. However, once you get it lodged in your craw, it's a pretty descriptive term. I don't want to get off on a tangent here and waste a lot of time; but, let's put together a little composite on these people; whoever they were.
O.K.? Have you read about how a good detective can take a description from several people and develop a composite portrait of a criminal? One person described the chin; another describes the nose; another many remember the eyes, another a scar, etc.? We don't know a lot about these Judiazing teachers; but, let's play detective and try to put together a little doctrinal resume on these people, O.K.? Now we won't try to exhaust the list and I wouldn't even take the time to do this if this was the only reference to these people in the new Testament, but, once you become aware of these people and their doctrine; you discover them in other chapters and other places in the N.T. So, why don't you take out a sheet of paper and put a heading at the top: THE JUDIAZERS. I think it's spelled J-U-D-I-A-Z-E-R-S. You got it? Or call'em Paul's enemies at Corinth if you like that better. You may have to step on that pause button a moment; but, try to get these things down. Are you ready? I should have taken the time to make you a work sheet on this; but, I didn't. So, hold on to these notes. We'll need them in the book of Galatians and the book of Romans. O.K., here we go! #1. They were outsiders. Do you remember, they needed letters of commendation, i.e., they were not Corinthians. #2. They must have emphasized their Jewish ancestry. In II Cor. 11:22, Paul said: “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I." Thus, I infer from that: these people claimed to be of pure seed, the stock of Abraham. And, #3, from what Paul said back in II Cor. 3:15 about "the veil is upon their heart" when Moses is read and the verses that surround that; I infer they were teaching and pushing the Mosaic law. Then, #4, it very well may be (this is my concept of 5:16), some bragged that they had known Christ in the flesh; something Paul could not say. That's where Paul said,"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: oldthings are passed away; behold, all things are become new." The spiritual relationship was what made them Christians. To have seen Christ or heard Jesus somewhere along the way in Galilee during his earthly ministry really didn't prove anything spiritually. O.K., #5, in n Cor. 11:13 Paul said "such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.: So, I infer they were claiming apostolic authority and saying Paul was not an apostle. #6. In 10:7, Paul said, "Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?" They gloried in appearance, Paul had made this point before, back in 5:12. Thus, they put a lot of emphasis upon speech and bodily presence; again they criticized Paul on these same points and implied he could not therefore be an apostle of Christ. Well, I'm sure we could find several other points if we took the time to search. Now, if you'll take the list you have in your hand and lay it down beside Acts 15:1, 5, and the little letter (beginning in Acts 15:23) we find it all fits together. Alright, hold on to that list. You might want to add a few verses or this old tape recorder will be kicking off before I get started.
Let's read II Cor. ch. 10! We'll read all 18 verses. Please read as I read. You may read silently, or you may read aloud; but read! Here we go! "Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Do you look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust in himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. Let such a one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labors; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready in our hand. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth."
Alright, now you may want to re-read those 18 verses another time or two to get a little better handle on this; but, right now, lefs get back to the beginning of ch. 10. Paul starts off, "I myself beseech you..." You will remember that in the first verse of this book; Paul mentions the letter was from Timothy also. So, Paul here excludes Timothy and all others. I myself beg you! How Paul? "By the meekness and gentleness of Christ," i.e., in the tenderest and most scriptural way possible. Paul was not seeking a quarrel with these people; Paul simply wanted them to get things right, repent as the others had done, save their souls and help them dedicate their life to the Lord Jesus and begin work for the Lord. Then, the last part of v.l is undoubtedly Paul's replay and reply to the things that Paul had heard that they had said about Paul: "who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you..." This is what they were saying about Paul. "Base" means morally low; mean; selfish and cowardly. His letters were weighty and powerful, they said (v.10), i.e., when Paul was not there he made strong statements but when Paul came to Corinth they said he was a little pip-squeak, "say they!" (v.10), get it? In v.2 Paul said hi essence, I sure hope I don't have to be bold toward you when I come to Corinth because you "think of us as if we walked according to the flesh." Paul implied, thafs a great mistake. We read before down in ch. 13:2, where Paul said he wrote to those that sinned and "If I come again, I will not spare..." Down hi v.8, here in ch. 10, Paul reminded them that the authority, the Lord had given the apostles, was for their edification; i.e., for their up-building, education and encouragement. It was not intended for their destruction. Then hi v.3, Paul reminded them this was not some political game, "we do not war after the flesh." Then hi v. 4 & 5, Paul said hi essence; please don't misjudge the powers of the Lord; please don't challenge the Holy Spirit because he has hi readiness (v.6), "to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled," i.e., when your obedience is brought to conclusion. Immediately, you think of - I thrust you think of - the fact that all miracles were not positive. Do you remember Elymus the sorcerer that challenged the Holy Spirit by withstanding Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13-8)? What happened? He was cast blind, "not seeing the sun for a season." (Acts 13:11). Do you remember the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:14? So, Paul is saying here at the beginning of II Cor. ch. 10; please don't challenge or speak evil of the Holy Spirit. I hope it doesn't happen; but, the ball is in your court. Paul was soon coming to Corinth (13:1) and Paul said in the next verse, "if I come again, I will not spare." So, Paul was trying to give the Corinthians plenty of time to work out their own problems and for the Judiazers to be convinced and converted; but, Paul did plan to come to Corinth as he had promised back in I Cor. 16:5. Then in v.8 and v.9 here, Paul is saying: you, i.e., the Judiazers, you misunderstand the authority the Lord has given to his apostles. You are looking on the outward appearance, v.7. Then in v.l 1 Paul unloaded his warning: "Let such a one thin this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.." That excuse was going to melt away when the time came. Then v. 12 the point is; some think only in terms of human wisdom and that is not wise. The authority given the apostles reached even unto the Judiazing teachers (end of v.l3). These slanderers had come to Corinth and taken over a church that Paul and his co-workers had established and were trying now to undermine Paul's authority and poison that congregation against the apostle himself. They were boasting "Of other men's labors" (v.15). But, "not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth" he is approved.
Now, hi the moment or two we have left; let's try to bring this down home. Chances are; not many miles from where you live; you can find almost any standard you can think up for measuring the ministry of a congregation. Some today think of the church as a welfare institution in their community that serves the poor and relieves suffering; beyond that it has no real reason to exist. Others think of it as an educational institution, a kind of community motivator and mixer to keep things moral. On this question there are many differences of opinion. Thus, many simply conclude by selecting the one that fits your philosophy best. Make it a personal thing. What are the immediate benefits to me? What if we could go back to Corinth and interview the Judiazing teachers at the time of Paul? What was their standard for the church's ministry at Corinth? Obviously, it was far removed from Paul's thinking, the standard of the Holy Spirit or that of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). We may need to take another look at that 'rock" In Luke 19:10, Jesus said: "the Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost."
There's a great tendency today to focus upon present programs and ministries and ask what's in it for me? What will it do for me, now? Should we re-ask Paul's question here in v.7, "Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?" What about the eternal aspect of the church that Jesus emphasized? Well, almost nobody seems to be interested in that. Let's face it. have things really changed from conditions at Corinth? There are leaders and there are followers of every philosophy hi your community, even today. Have you faced the question squarely? "Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth." Think about it! And, try to have a good day.