Paul, the Bold2 Corinthians 10:1-18Theme: Strength under pressure.This week’s lessons teach us how to handle criticism in a God-honoring way.
LessonYesterday we began to look at some of the ways these “super apostles” criticized Paul. They also criticized Paul’s lack of eloquence. That does not mean that Paul did not know how to speak. Obviously he did. He was a preacher. He had a very keen mind.
The Greeks had a certain standard of eloquence that came from a tradition of oratory going way back to the Greek golden age. Then along had come the public lecturers and the politicians who won their way by having the right word and the dramatic flair. Paul’s critics were assessing him by those high Greek standards. They said Paul was a weak figure, and that even though he came across strong in his letters, in person he was not of leadership caliber. It was in the face of all this that Paul goes on to demonstrate how to handle criticism.
First of all, Paul begins, as we must always begin, in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It did not make any difference whether they praised him or criticized him, whether they were harsh or gentle, whether they were extreme or overstating in their case. Paul said, “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you – I, Paul, who am ‘timid’ when face to face with you, but ‘bold’ when away!” (2 Cor. 10:1).
Meekness and gentleness are interesting terms. They certainly characterize Jesus. Meekness has to do with one’s stance before men, but it is also related to one’s stance before God. If you look to that word in the Scriptures, you find that Moses is described as the meekest man who ever lived. He was meek above all the men of his day. And yet Moses was the man who was able to march into the presence of the mightiest monarch and thunder out in the name of God Almighty, “Let my people go.” So, meekness is not lying down and doing nothing. Meekness, rather, is bowing so low before God in his service that one is able to stand high before men in the strength of God. That is what meekness is.
Gentleness is primarily a characteristic that has to do with the way we handle others. You can do the right thing but do it in a very ungentle manner. Jesus, though he certainly knew how to be bold and act boldly even in his meekness, was at the same time the most gentle of men. And Paul said that he wanted to be like Jesus. Jesus marched into the temple and drove out the moneychangers because they were sullying the area where worship was to take place, and yet Jesus was a gentle man. When people came to him as God was working in their hearts, he could minister to them in that kindness which flowed from the fullness of his divine nature That is how Paul wanted to operate in all he said and did. He wanted to act as Jesus would have acted in their midst.
Secondly, Paul was aware that this battle in which he found himself was not really a personal battle. It was also not a temporal thing in the sense that he had to fight for his own success. Rather, Paul was aware that he was fighting a spiritual battle. He knew that if a spiritual battle is to be won, it must of necessity be won by spiritual methods. That is what he addresses in verses 4 and 5.
It is a powerful military image. Paul was pointing out that we are engaged in warfare and, more than that, it is offensive warfare. There is a citadel to be captured. There are walls to be knocked down. There are prisoners to be taken. What Paul is doing here is carrying on that great warfare which is the warfare of history, the warfare between good and evil. He is trying to win it in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ and with the armaments that he provides.
The greatest commentary on this passage is that description of Christian warfare that we find in the last chapter of Ephesians. Paul writes there about Christian armor, and he mentions the one offensive weapon that we are given–the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. That is what Paul has in mind here in 2 Corinthians when he refers to arguments and pretensions that are set up against the knowledge of God.
In today’s lesson, what else was Paul criticized for?
How is meekness different from weakness?
With what mindset did Paul battle his critics?
Further StudyMeditate on Ephesians 6:10-18. Then, using a Bible concordance, do a word study on all the weapons Paul highlights in the Christian’s spiritual arsenal.