Let’s turn in our Bibles to 2 Corinthians, chapter ten.
Now as a background for chapters ten, eleven, and twelve, when Paul had established the church in Corinth, after it was well established and going strong, once Paul left, wolves moved in. They started subverting the gospel that Paul preached. They began to put Paul down. They were saying many things against Paul as they were trying to raise their own stock in the minds of the people.
So as we go through chapter ten, eleven and twelve, we will find Paul making reference to some of the things that they were saying about him. That he was going to be returning to Corinth and he would face these fellows face to face and see if they were as forward before his face as they were in his absence. So he is going to be coming to Corinth. But he is asking them to repent before he gets there because he doesn’t really want this kind of a showdown and he doesn’t want, actually, for there to be sorrow when he comes as God will deal with those false prophets. So he begins this section and begins in chapter ten as he deals with the vindication of his ministry and his apostleship and as he deals with those who have been seeking to subvert him in the minds of the people.
Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, A beautiful way to put it. He isn’t coming, you know, with the great bombastic power or whatever, he just is saying, “I beg you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”
who in presence (when I am there) am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: Now this was one of the things that people, those false prophets, were saying about Paul. When he is here, he is very mild and meek, but when he writes, you know, he thunders at you. He has all kinds of power, but you know, he was just very meek and all among you. But you know, the true nature comes in his letters. So he is taking the thing that they were saying about him, which in their presence he was base among them. He didn’t exalt himself. He didn’t come to lord over them. He came to minister, to serve them. And yet when he had to write to them concerning some problems that existed in the church, he was very firm. He was very straight-forward. He was very strong in his first letter.
2But I beseech you, (again begging 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. Now, I beg you. I don’t want to have to deal firmly and harshly with this problem when I get there. I don’t want to be bold among you.
Now Paul had a very interesting ministry. He ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts (Acts 13:6-11) it tells us of an occasion when Paul was ministering to the governor of a particular island. There was this man whose name was Bar-Jesus or Elymas, by interpretation, and he sought to subvert the teachings of Paul before this governor, who was open to the gospel. So as he was sort of contradicting Paul, Paul turned and said, you servant of Satan, you will be blind for a season. And the guy went blind. So Paul has power.
He says I don’t want to exercise that kind of power when I am there. I don’t want to have a face-off kind of a thing. I don’t want to have to be bold in your presence with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some.
Now there were those who were saying these things and Paul is going to be dealing with them when he arrives because one of the accusations of Paul is that he was walking according to the flesh. As if we walked, he said, according to the flesh, which was the accusation. This is a very fleshly letter. Look at the way he writes and so forth.
3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: The Bible, Paul writing to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:12), actually said, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood.” We don’t war after the flesh. The real battles that we have are Spiritual battles. Oh yes, our flesh is involved. We live in the flesh. We have problems with our flesh. But the real battle is in the realm of the Spirit and that’s where the real victories are won.
Our problem is that often we get entangled in the flesh and in the fleshly conflicts. We begin to cast insults back and forth. We get in the flesh. And there we are defeated. Satan has an advantage over us when warring against him in the flesh. But if we confine the war to the Spirit and to the spirit realm, then we have a definite advantage over Satan. Now Satan will always seek to draw you into the fleshly arena. He is wise. He is subtle. He is wise and he knows if he can get you in the flesh, he has you!
But if you are wise, though we walk in the flesh, you will realize that our true warfare is not after the flesh but it is in the realm of the Spirit. If you keep it in the realm of the Spirit, then you have more than a decided advantage, you have the victory! For in the realm of the Spirit, Christ has defeated those forces of darkness that are against us. Through the cross He made an open display of His victory. So in the Spiritual warfare we enter in as victors. So though we walk in the flesh, Paul said, we do not war after the flesh.
4(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (fleshly), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Paul when he was taking about, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, he told us to put on the whole armor of God. As you put on that armor of God, the things that he mentioned, you notice, they are Spiritual things. They are the armor by which we fight the Spiritual battles. As he lists the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit and these other things, these Spiritual defenses that we have, he then said, praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. One of the strongest weapons and most powerful weapons that God has given to us is the weapon of prayer.
I think the mystery among the angels, the thing that they have the hardest time understanding is that when God has given to us such a powerful weapon, by which we can obtain the victory over the enemy, I think the angels marvel at the fact that we don’t use that weapon more than we do, that we so often wait so long to pray about a situation. In fact, it is sort of the last resort, many times.
I read of a ship at sea that was going through a very violent storm. The woman on board saw the captain of the ship. She said, sir, how are things going? He said well, mam, he said we are going to have to pray, it’s in the hands of the Lord. And she went hysterical. Oh no, is it that bad, you know? And with so many, prayer is sort, you know, and even I think I heard a motto, when everything else fails, pray. Well, if you pray first, every thing else won’t fail. You know, why do we wait until everything else fails before we pray?
The Bible says (Luke 18:1), we ought to pray and not to faint. I’m sure the angels watch us going through our problems and going through all of these mental gyrations that we so often go through when faced with great difficulty. And they watch us as we are going down, down, down. And I think they sort of scratch their heads and say, I wonder how long before they pray? What’s the matter with them? Why don’t they pray? They see us as we are frantically going around, trying to mend things. Why don’t they pray? This is a powerful weapon that God has made available to us. It’s a glorious weapon. It is mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
Now Satan has a strong hold on this world. Satan has a strong hold on the lives of many of your friends. But God has given us weapons whereby we can take down the strongholds of the enemy. And the most powerful is that of prayer!
So, Paul said that, we don’t war after the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly. They are not carnal, but they are mighty through God, to the pulling down of the strongholds..
5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; That is through Spiritual weapons that we have, the weapons of our warfare, prayer and all, we can cast down the imaginations of every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.
Today there are many high places that are seeking to exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. For the most part, our universities are atheistic, totally secular, for the most part. A young person sent to the university is going to be exposed to those who are going to exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. And if you send your child off to the university and you don’t cover him with prayer, and keep him covered with prayer, his chances of surviving are very slim as they are exposed to that godless education. So it is so important that we cover them with prayer, by which we can cast down the imaginations and those high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, as we bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Jesus Christ. Now this is not only in others, this is in ourselves.
The thoughts and imaginations of man’s heart in the days of Noah was only evil continually. And today there are all kinds of opportunities to pollute your mind, to bring filth into your mind. In fact it’s awfully hard not to, with the billboards and magazines and of course so many opportunities for mind pollution. And it’s important that we bring every thought into captivity unto the obedience of Jesus Christ. You dare not let your mind run with those things. You dare not fantasize on those things because it is only a matter of time until you seek to make your fantasy a reality. So you dare not allow your mind to play with those things.
(James 1:13-15) Let no man say when he is tempted, he is tempted of God. God doesn’t tempt men with evil. A man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. And lust when it is finished or complete, leads to sin.
So you start thinking about it. You play with it in your mind. It draws you into a trap. You’ve got to bring every thought into captivity unto the obedience of Jesus Christ. And God has given us the Spiritual weapons to do that. They are not carnal but they are mighty through God, but we can have victory even within the realm of our own minds.
6And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Paul said that when I get there, I’m going to care of things. All of this disobedience, I am going to take care of it, when your obedience is fulfilled.
7Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? Now they were making fun of Paul’s outward appearance. There have been a few descriptions of Paul, not in the Bible, but in extra Biblical sources. According to these extra Biblical sources, he was a very short fellow, angular face, a hooked nose and an eye problem that caused his eyes to run constantly. So there was always matter coming out of his eyes. So that he had a hard time seeing. He sort of squinted. And so they were making fun of Paul’s physical stature. So he asks, do you look on things after the outward appearance?
If any man trust to 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. Making fun of Paul’s appearance, and you know, saying, you know, well we’re of Christ, Paul said, if they are of Christ, let them put it down that I am of Christ’s too.
8For 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: Paul said my gift is really to encourage, to strenghten, to build you up. But the same power that God has given me to build you up, I can used to destroy. I don’t want to. I can come in meekness and in love and minister to you. Or I can come in boldness and use the sword of the Spirit against you. So the gift of edification, that is the one that Paul wanted to exercise. These other fellows were destroying them, these fellows that had come in. They were destroying them, turning them away from the Lord. Paul will mention some of the things that they were doing in the next chapter. Paul said, I don’t understand how you receive them when they do these things. I’m there to not take from you. These people come in and they were fleecing the people. They were taking advantage of them, financially and in every other way. Paul declares that, you know, I didn’t take anything from you. These fellows that come in and abuse you, I don’t understand why you receive them.
9That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. Now they are making the accusation, well, he terrifies us with his letters.
10For his letters, say they, (You see, this is what they saying, now.) are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. They are saying these horrible things about Paul. His bodily presence is weak. He’s just a short little Jew. And his words are contemptible.
Addressing them that were making these charges, Paul said, 11Let such an 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. We’ll get there. We’ll show them. And the same kind of force and power that we use in our letters, we will exercise against these fellows when we get there. They’ll see!
12For 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. I, in my early years, was involved in a denomination. One of the things that bugged me was how the leadership would always build up each other. When they would introduce one another, they would introduce with flowery words and flowery phrases and you know, would puff the guy up. Then he would get up and puff the guy up that puffed him up, you know. It was one of these things where they were comparing themselves and commending themselves to themselves and comparing themselves with themselves. Paul is saying that isn’t wise. You can get very deceived when you compare yourself with yourselves or with others. And so often we are prone to do that. We are so often prone to try to escape the reality of what I am, because I say, well, I know I’m not what I should be but I’m sure better than he is. And we are always picking on someone down the ladder a bit to compare ourselves with, so it makes us feel better. But I am not the standard. You are not the standard that God accepts. If you want to make comparisons and be honest in making comparisons, then you’ve got to compare yourselves with Jesus Christ, because He is the standard for righteousness that God has established. And anything less than Him and His righteousness, anything less than that will not get you entrance into the Kingdom of God.
Jesus, taking to His disciples (Matthew 5:20), “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you’re not going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” That must have been a total shock to them because the scribes and the Pharisees spent their whole time trying to keep every little aspect of the law! They practiced religion and being religious. Everybody thought that they were the most religious people in the world. They made a big show of how they were giving and how they were fasting and how they were praying. It was all a big show, everybody was impressed by them. And Jesus said this shocking thing, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, you’re not going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus said (John 14:16-18; 15:26; 16:7-11) to His disciples just before He was crucified that the Holy Spirit was going to come. That He was going to teach them of sin. He would convict them of sin, of righteousness and of the judgment to come. Of sin, He said, because they don’t believe in me. Of righteousness, He said, because I ascend to the Father. Now, that an interesting statement. The Holy Spirit is going to convict the world of righteousness, Jesus said, because I ascend to the Father. What does his ascension into heaven have to do with the Holy Spirit testifying to us of righteousness? What’s the relationship? The ascension of Jesus into heaven was God’s declaration to the world that this is the righteousness and this is the standard of righteousness that I will receive into heaven. Anything less than that cannot get you an entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees can’t get you into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is only the righteousness of Christ. You have to be as righteous as He, in order to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, don’t throw up your hands and say, well, it’s no use, because God has given to us and accounted to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ by our faith in Jesus. That’s what the gospel is all about! Though you cannot attain it yourself with all of your efforts though you gave your life in trying to attain to it, you can’t! You’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. But Jesus fulfills the righteousness of God. And now the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to us or accounted to us in God’s book of records. It’s accounted to us, the righteousness of Christ, through our faith in Jesus Christ.
So, they were comparing themselves with themselves. Well, we’re pretty good. You can get an inflated opinion of yourself if you go down to skid-row and say well, I’m better off than he is. But that is not the standard of comparison. So they are not wise, comparing themselves or measuring themselves by themselves.
13But we will not boast of things without our measure, That is, things that are more than what we have done. There are a lot of people who are boasting of things that are not really true. Things that they have heard others say, happened and they are applying it to themselves. They are boasting above measure. They exaggerate when they tell the story. And there is a lot of that that is going on.
Quite often you will hear them say, well there were hundreds and thousands of people coming. Now you think a hundred thousand, wow! No, there is a hundred and thousand, but they say it like it is, so it sounds like, a hundred thousand or several hundred thousand. Hundreds and thousands of people receiving Jesus, and it is well, sometimes they call it “evangelistically speaking”. What they mean by that there is a stretching of the truth. It’s really “elastically speaking”. It is stretching it.
So Paul says we are not going to do that. We are not going to boast above what we actually have done or above the measure. We stretch not ourselves beyond our measure. We’re not going to boast of things that are beyond our measure.
but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. Now Paul is saying that God has given me a place of ministry. I’m not going to boast beyond that or try to go beyond that. And the measure that God gave to me has brought me as afar as Achaia, as far as Corinth there. He has preached throughout Asia and now on over into Europe. He has brought the gospel to Macedonia, then to Greece, down to Achaia. Achaia was as far as Paul had gone, at that point. He had not yet gone to Rome, though he had a desire to do so, nor yet had he gone to Spain and we don’t know if he ever did. But he wanted to go beyond.
He was always desiring to preach Christ in unreached areas, where they had never heard the gospel. He didn’t want to build on another man’s foundation. Now that is such a common thing, of building on another man’s foundation.
That’s what these false teachers were seeking to do in Corinth. Paul was there. He founded the church. And not they are coming in. They are trying to build on the work that Paul established, but they tried to alienate the hearts of the people from Paul. And they were there boasting beyond their measure. God had not really called them to Corinth. They were going there and living off of the people, enriching themselves by taking advantage of the people.
14For 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: We’ve come all the way to Corinth.
15Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; Now, he is repeating this, not boasting of things that we haven’t done. That is, of other men’s labors. I’m not boasting about what other people have done.
but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, 16To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand. We’re ready to go to uncharted territories. We’re not going to try and come in and rip off what someone else has started or begun. We will go out and reach the lost.
You know, it’s interesting to me how that so many groups try to attract other believers or other Christians to their fellowship. They are not really evangelistic. That is, they are not really reaching the lost but they come and plaster the windshields of the cars here at Calvary Chapel, with invitations to their churches. Of course, whenever they come through and start plastering the windshields with their flyers and so forth, the security guards go around and take them off and they will bring us one in, and we’ll call them and say, wait a minute. Why would you send them to the church? Why not send them to the beach and to the cars parked at the beach, or to the malls? Why would you try to draw from the church here over to your church? I don’t understand that, but yet it’s being done all the time. They are not really evangelistic in that they are not really reaching the lost, they are trying to draw from the church.
And so many of the movements lack in evangelism. The movements are raised up but they are just trying to allure and draw Christians to an excited state of emotion, an emotionalism, but they don’t really seek to reach growth. Why? Because the worldly person would laugh at the things that they are doing. And thus, they are only real market is to try and market their goods to the Christian body.
So Paul talks about his desires to preach Christ in the regions beyond. I don’t want to go around and build on another man’s foundation. I want to just take the gospel where people haven’t heard. I want to take it out to the streets. I want to take it out to the beaches and so forth to catch the sinner. That was Paul. His heart was always to reach the lost for Jesus Christ.
And not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand, that is a ready made kind of a congregation. You know, come in and say, well you know, I have this large group. It’s a ready-made congregation. Paul said I don’t want that.
17But he that glorieth, These guys were glorying in their ministry. They were glorying in their accomplishments. They were glorying and puffing themselves up before the people. Paul say, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. To the Galatians (Galatians 6:14), he said, God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of Jesus Christ! He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. We shouldn’t glory in the works of man.
Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:23-24) said, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the mighty man glory in his might. Nor let the rich man glory in his riches. But he that glorieth, let him glory that he knows and understands Me, God said. God forbid that I should glory, except in the work of Jesus Christ and in the cross of Jesus Christ!
18For not he that commendeth himself is approved, (that is approved by God) but whom the Lord commendeth. My boasting, you know of what I am and what I’ve done, that doesn’t cut anything with the Lord. A person that exalts himself and is trying to draw all kinds of attention and all to himself, that’s not where it’s at. It’s not a person who commends himself, who talks about himself and his ministry. It’s who the Lord commends. That should be the primary concern of everyone of our hearts. Is my life acceptable to Him? It’s not what I think about myself or what I say about myself, it’s what does the Lord think about me? It’s not what I think about my ministry or say about my ministry. What is the Lord thinking about my ministry, about my life, about my commitment to Him? I need to be very concerned with what the Lord has to think about me. Not worried about what men might think about me, but I’m deeply concerned about what the Lord might think about me and my ministry, because ultimately, I won’t to answer to men, but I will answer to Him. Therefore let no man thinks more highly of himself than he ought. But to think soberly (Romans 12:3), for what do you have but what has given to you? And (1 Corinthians 4:7) if it has been given to you, why then do you boast as though it wasn’t given to you, as though it was something of yourself, some talent or ability or something that you possessed, when it was God who did it? Therefore to God be the glory. Great things He has done! And he that glorieth let him glory in the Lord, rather than, you know, that praising himself and exalting himself, humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up (James 4:10).
The Scripture said (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14,11), he that exalts himself shall be abased, but he that humbles himself shall be exalted. Therefore humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. God help us.
Paul is going to go on. In fact, he is going to get a little tougher on these guys as we get into chapter eleven. He’s going to, you know, just tell them exactly what they are and open the eyes of the people to these false prophets that have come in among the church in Corinth.
Father, we thank You for what You have done and what You are doing. We wish to acknowledge Lord, the recognition that we have of Your glorious work. Lord, we pray that we might ever realize that except You build the house we labor in vain. That our efforts, Lord, are worthless, but Lord, we see what You have done and what You can do. Our hearts rejoice. We glory Lord, in Your wonderful work. And Lord, we thank You that in Your wisdom, You choose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the simple things to just, cause the men of wisdom to scratch their heads and not understand what is going on. Because they don’t understand Your Spirit and the work of Your Spirit. And so Lord, we rejoice in the work of Your Holy Spirit. We glory in You, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Transcribed from “The Word For Today”, Pastor Chuck Smith, Tape #8161