2 Corinthians 10
Paul talks tough
Paul promises to punish his critics1I, Paul, want to speak for myself now. I’ll keep my words gentle and measured, to reflect the Messiah. I’m the one who’s spineless when I’m with you but who turns bold when I’m far away—and that’s when I talk tough. 
2Well, I’m afraid I may have to get bold with you during my next visit. I’m asking you not to make me do that. But if I need to, I will get tough when I confront those critics who say I’m in the ministry for secular reasons—for what I can get out of it. 3We live in this world and we walk around in bodies of flesh and blood and bone. But I can assure you we don’t fight our battles like secular folks do.
4We don’t fight our battles by using weapons that people in this world use. God himself gives us the power to tear down the defenses of others and to destroy the logic they use to attack us. 5We decimate every snooty idea that clashes with what we know about God. We take them captive, and we make them obey the Messiah. 6I want you to know this. Once you folks get back in line and start obeying us again, we’re going to punish those people who refuse to obey.
How not to judge people7You judge others on the basis of what you see on the outside, not on the inside. That’s shallow. If any of you think you’re the only people of the Messiah, you’ve got another thing coming. I belong to the Messiah just as much as you do. 8I’m not ashamed to brag about this or about the authority the Lord gave us. That’s because this power is intended to build you up, not tear you down. 9I don’t want you to read my letters and come away thinking I was trying to terrorize you.
Paul promises to give critics what for10I know that some people are saying, “His letters pack a heavy wallop, but in person he’s a wimp. When he opens his mouth, nothing worthwhile comes out.” 11I’m putting those folks on notice. When we get there in person, we’re going to show them all the intensity they say they see in our letters. 12I wouldn’t dare to put myself in the same category as those people. When asked for a recommendation, they recommend themselves. They evaluate themselves by themselves. They compare themselves with themselves. That’s not what you would call smart.
Paul defends his ministry turf13We’re not going to step over the line by bragging about what we have no right to brag about. But we are going to brag about the work God assigned to us. You are part of that work. 14We’re not stepping on someone else’s turf. We’re the ones who traveled long-distance to bring you the good news of the Messiah. 15We’re not going to cross the line and take credit for work others have done. But we do hope that as you grow in your faith you’ll let us play an even bigger role in ministry there. 16Then, we’ll hit the road again, taking with us our ministry about the good news. We have no intention of bragging about work other ministers have done in territories they’ve already covered. 17The Bible says,
brag about the Lord.” 
This chapter begins what many Bible experts speculate was a different letter than the one preserved as 2 Corinthians 1—9. Many say chapters 10 to 13 may have been the letter—or at least part of the letter—that some Bible experts call the “Severe Letter” or the “Letter of Tears.” Other scholars say this painful letter, which Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 2:3-4 and 7:8, is lost.
What best represents your feeling about what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10?
- Turf protecting, plain and simple.
- Paul, as the founding pastor of the church in Corinth, is trying to protect it from would-be church leaders who aren’t acting like Christians.
- This looks like the typical power struggle you would expect after the founding pastor moves on and leaves a power vacuum behind.
- Paul needs to dial down his control freak and select someone to pastor the church.
What do you think Paul means when he says, “We don’t fight our battles by using weapons that people in this world use” (2 Corinthians 10:4)?
First, Paul says, “I’ll keep my words gentle and measured, to reflect the Messiah” (2 Corinthians 10:1). A few sentences later he writes, “We decimate every snooty idea that clashes with what we know about God. We take them captive, and we make them obey the Messiah” (2 Corinthians 10:5). How do you think people reading the Bible for the first time would react after comparing these two statements?
Paul produces a list of what he is not going to do (2 Corinthians 10:4, 13-15). It reads like a list of what his critics are actually doing. If you could put together a single, direct statement Paul could have used to tell his critics what he was hinting at in this list, what would you say? Feel free to use words that are not “gentle and measured, to reflect the Messiah” (2 Corinthians 10:1). You can also use words that are bold and devastating. Jesus to his critics: “You are like unmarked graves. You contaminate people because they trust the ground they walk on, but it’s polluted” (Luke 11:44).
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul told the people of Corinth, “You judge others on the basis of what you see on the outside, not on the inside. That’s shallow” (2 Corinthians 10:7). When we size people up as we get to know them—perhaps looking for a friend or coworker or pastor—what are some of the characteristics we tend to look for?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul quotes the prophet Jeremiah, who lived 600 years earlier: “Let braggers brag about the Lord” (2 Corinthians 10:17). Go ahead, brag about the Lord. It would be nice to see a short list of bragging points.