2 Corinthians Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. Now it is I myself, Sha’ul, making an appeal to you with the meekness and forbearance that come from the Messiah, I who am considered timid when face-to-face with you but intimidating from a distance.
2. But I beg you not to force me to be intimidating when I am with you, as I expect to be toward some who regard us as living in a worldly way.
It is I, myself, Sha'ul. Why the emphasis? Because by some he is considered timid (or: "humble") and "weak" (v. 10) in person, so that only distance gives him the courage to be intimidating (or: "bold"). Sha'ul must put an end to such criticisms because they cause people to disrespect him and his authority (v. 8) as the Messiah's emissary and to turn to more glamorous "super-emissaries" (11:5) instead. The problem is not new in Corinth; see 1С 1:25-2:5,4:14-21.
To overcome these attitudes Sha'ul has spent the last two chapters demonstrating how gentle, timid and humble he can be when at a distance — precisely the opposite of what his critics expect. In his appeal to the Corinthians to give generously to the Judeans, he leaned over backwards to show meekness, forbearance and tact; indeed, these qualities have characterized the entire letter up to this point. To those who deprecate such qualities he will explain that such "weakness" is true strength (12:9-10), and that he would rather boast about this kind of "weakness" than about what superficially appears to be strength (11:19-20, 30; compare 5:12, 1С 1:25-2:5).
Even then, he would boast only because these qualities are not natural in him but are evidence of how the Lord has changed him (3:18) — his only boasting will be about the Lord (10:17, 1С 1:31). The New Testament abounds with evidence that for Sha'ul in particular, such meekness and forbearance came only from the Messiah. The aggressive temper he displayed before he was saved (Ac 8:3, 9:1) was not done away with but stayed on in his "old nature" (vv. 3-5N) long afterwards (Ac 15:2, 39; 19:30-31; 23:3-5; Ga 5:12). He is well aware that he is "equal to such a task" as proclaiming the Good News (2:16b) and "competent" to be the Messiah's emissary (3:5) only because God makes him so.
Nevertheless, those who think Sha'ul is capable of being bold only when at a safe distance must be warned that he will not shrink from using his authority as the Messiah's emissary: I beg you not to force me to be intimidating when I am with you, which I expect to be toward some of you who regard us as living in a worldly way. unless you repent and change (compare v. 11; 13:2-4. 10; 1С 4:19—21).
In effect, in these two verses Sha'ul "bites the bullet"; he is now going to deal directly with those who carp at him, and a new element enters the tone of his letter. From here on, he makes use of irony, even sarcasm, as he ridicules his opponents, especially the "super-emissaries" (11:5.12:11) who are actually "pseudo-emissaries" (11:13); and he indicates with increasing sharpness that he will not spare those who continue to sin. He has shown how gentle he can be; now he shows another side of himself, as he does his utmost to turn divisive troublemakers into faithful followers of the Messiah and his appointed emissary Sha'ul (1:1).
The phrase, "as living in a worldly way," is, literally, "as walking according to flesh." The term "flesh" (Greek sarkos) here, and often in Sha'ul's writings, means the "old nature," the emotional, mental and volitional qualities of a person before he has submitted himself to God. letting the Messiah change him. See Sha'ul's explanation of this at Ro 7:18-25a, 8:4b-13; and see Ro 7:5N.
3. For although we do live in the world, we do not wage war in a worldly way;
4. because the weapons we use to wage war are not worldly. On the contrary, they have God’s power for demolishing strongholds. We demolish arguments
5. and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah.
Verse 3 is, literally, "For walking in flesh, we do not war according to flesh," that is, for although we do live in the world, in the body, in the flesh, and we do still have our "old nature" to contend with, nevertheless we do not wage war in a worldly way, the way unbelievers wage war, the way our "old nature" would wage war. See the similar declaration by David to Goliath at 1 Samuel 17:45.
First of all, the object of our warfare is different; as Ep 6:12-13 puts it, "We are not struggling against human beings, but against the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers governing this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm," what Sha'ul here calls strongholds and every arrogance.
And secondly, the weapons we use to wage war are not worldly, they are not the weapons of aggressive hot-temperedness Sha'ul's old nature would be tempted to use; rather, they are the "war equipment God provides" (Ep 6:13) — truth, righteousness, the Good News, trust, salvation, the Spirit and the Word of God (Ep 6:14—17). These have God's power for demolishing demonic forces and the schemes which unredeemed human nature dreams up to prevent people from coming to a genuine knowledge of God; with these spiritual weapons we take every thought captive, even the most antagonistic and worldly, and make it obey the Messiah, forcing even anti-God ideas to "work for good" (Ro 8:28).
6. And when you have become completely obedient, then we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience.
7. You are looking at the surface of things. If anyone is convinced that he belongs to the Messiah, he should remind himself that we belong to the Messiah as much as he does.
8. For even if I boast a little too much about the authority the Lord has given us — authority to build you up, not tear you down — I am not ashamed.
9. My object is not to seem as if I were trying to frighten you with these letters.
10. Someone says, “His letters are weighty and powerful, but when he appears in person he is weak, and as a speaker he is nothing.”
11. Such a person should realize that what we say in our letters when absent, we will do when present.
Sha'ul wants all of the Corinthians to let every rebellious thought be taken captive and made to obey the Messiah (v. 5b), and this means submitting to Sha'ul's authority as the Messiah's emissary. When that has happened, he will consider them to have become completely obedient (v. 6; compare 2:9). Only then will he be ready to punish every individual act of disobedience, because only then will punishment be valuable to them. Until that time, punishment would be counterproductive, since it would not be taken as the Lord's chastening (MJ 12:5-11) which works for good (Ro 8:28), but would be perverted into another grievance against Sha'ul. Grievance-collecting is a favorite pastime of spiritual babies, but Sha'ul wants his charges to grow up (compare 1С 3:1-4, 13:11, 14:20), not to be children or adolescent rebels, but mature adults capable of dealing rationally with those who are entitled to exercise authority (compare Mt 8:8-10, Ro 13:1-7, MJ 13:17).
But it is not as if he were going to wait indefinitely for the Corinthians to mature; he definitely plans to come, and when he does, he will not spare sinners (v. 11, 13:1-2). Meanwhile, because he has the authority (v. 8), he actively shepherds these recalcitrant sheep in the direction of becoming completely obedient (v. 6). He urges them to look deeper and consider that he is a brother in the Messiah (v. 7), whose authority is from the Lord and is intended to build you up, not tear you down (v. 8; compare 1:24; 4:5, 12-15; 11:7; 13:9; 1С 9:19). He deals with their imaginary grievances (v. 9; compare v. lb, 2:3-4, 7:8-12) and counteracts their wrong attitude toward his weakness, starting with v. 10 and continuing to 12:12 (see vv. 1-2&N).
12. We don’t dare class or compare ourselves with some of the people who advertise themselves. In measuring themselves against each other and comparing themselves with each other, they are simply stupid.
13. We will not boast about what lies outside the area of work which God has given us; rather, we will boast within our assigned area, and that area does reach as far as you.
14. We are not overextending our boasting as if we had not reached as far as you; for we did come all the way to you with the Good News of the Messiah.
15. We do not boast about the area in which others labor; but our hope is that as your trust grows, we will be magnified in your midst in relation to our own area of work, so that we can go on to do even more,
16. namely, to proclaim the Good News in regions beyond you. Our hope is not to boast about the work already done by someone else.
17. So, let anyone who wants to boast, boast about Adonai (Jeremiah 9:23(24)),
18. because it is not the one who recommends himself who is worthy of approval, but the one whom the Lord recommends.
Expressing rich irony, Sha'ul does no! dare class or compare himself with the "pseudo-emissaries" (11:13), not because they play this worldly game better than he (perhaps they do), or even because self-advertisement is ungodly (which it is), but because, for the reason given in v. 18, it is simply stupid (v. 12). Instead, knowing how risky boasting of any sort is, he limits his boasting to his own area of work (v. 13,16b) and is guided by the rule of v. 17, which he has quoted to these people before (1С 1:31). Within that framework, he wants to boast only about the growing trust of the Corinthians themselves (v. 15), who are his "letter of recommendation" (3:1-3, 1С 9:1-3) because he led them to the Lord (v. 14, 1С 4:15). This is a difficult passage in the Greek, and other interpretations are possible.
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- chapter 11
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