‘Do you look at things according to their outward appearances? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, for just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s.’ 2 Corinthians 10:7
[ Being ‘Christ’s’ here means being a servant or disciple of Christ – NKJV Study Bible]
Paul wrote these words in a section of his Second Corinthians letter in which he was defending his ministry. Some critics in the Church at Corinth had accused Paul of being weak when present and bold only in his letters. They had also accused him of ‘walking in the flesh.’ Paul responded to these criticisms in verses 1-6:
‘Now I, Paul, myself, am pleading with you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – who in presence was lowly among you, but being absent am bold towards you. But I beg you you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not walk according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.’
Paul wrote here about both ‘the meekness and the gentleness of Christ’ and about ‘boldness.’ He seemed to suggest that boldness was appropriate with some people but that he would have preferred it if boldness from him were not necessary. NKJV Study Bible has an interesting comment about this: ‘Paul was gently asking the Corinthians to deal with his critics before he came so that he would not have to be stern with them.’
In the excerpt above, Paul also used the imagery of ‘strongholds’ , ‘every high thing’ and ‘captives’.and NKJV Study Bible gives some good background information on this:
‘Overlooking ancient Corinth was a hill 1,857 feet* high. On top of it was a fortress. Paul used that imagery as an illustration of the spiritual warfare he waged. He destroyed strongholds, cast down towers and took captives. The fortress, towers and captives represent arguments, thoughts and plans that Paul was opposing. Paul cast down all rationalizations.He took captive to the obedience of Christ every perception and intention of the heart that was against God… Paul did not walk according to the flesh of his worldly desires.’
[* ‘1,857 feet high’ – I do wonder how the commentator was able to quote the height of the ancient fortress with such precision… but there you go!]
Having defended himself against his critics, Paul has some criticisms of his own to make:
‘But 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. We however, will not boast beyond measure but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us – a sphere which especially includes you. For we are nor overextending ourselves… not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labours…’ ( verses 12-17)
NKJV Study Bible makes a discerning comment about this:
”By implication Paul’s critics were boasting about what they had not worked at or cultivated, perhaps the results of Paul’s ministry in Corinth.’
I will now make a personal comment.
When I read verses 12 – 17 and the NKJV Study Bible comments on it I was reminded of a lady at our church who occasionally came up to me after the service and said, ‘You played the keyboard really well today. I knew you would – I prayed that you would!’ I was thankful for her prayers and pleased that she liked the way I played the keyboard, but I got the impression that she thought that the fact that I played well (if indeed I did) was all down to her prayers and nothing to do with the hours I had spent practising during the week and my own prayers that God would empower me and be in my heart, mind, spirit and hands as i played the keyboard. I always thanked her for her prayers and her encouragement but I also found myself thinking ‘ I am a Christian, too.’ ( This lady rather prided herself on her ‘spirituality’!) After an encounter with this lady, I found myself wondering if I, too, underestimated the gifts and labours of others – Heaven forbid!