Skip to content
Back to New Testament
Previous Next
November 9, 2023

Second Corinthians Part 5


Second Corinthians


Second Corinthians 10:1-13:14

This morning we’re wrapping up our study of 2 Cor. Have you ever gone away on vacation to some place really nice? And it seemed as though no sooner had you got there and were enjoying yourself it was time to go back home? That’s how I feel about our study of 2 Cor. There’s just so much good, sound doctrine and practical application for us in this book and no sooner did we start then --- it’s over. But take heart, we still have 4 chapters to cover, so we’ll savor our time here a little bit longer.

In the first 9 chapters Paul shares his heart as a pastor. He has been addressing to the majority of believers in the church at Corinth – those who had repented (from sinful behavior Paul had addressed with them in 1 Cor). Paul received great news from Titus that the Corinthian believers had repented and this spiritual turnaround encouraged Paul. This paved the way for Paul to be able share some personal words from his heart. To this point the tone of 2 Cor has been positive and encouraging. But then you come to Ch 10 and there’s an abrupt change in Paul’s tone. He seems to revert back to the harsh tone of 1 Cor. The reason? He addresses one final issue that has been weighing heavy on his heart. In these last few chapters Paul’s message focuses on his authority as an apostle. Early on in our study we saw that Paul’s apostolic authority had come under attack by his critics. There is a small contingent of Paul’s detractors who are still active in the church at Corinth. They haven’t gone away. And some of the people are still following them. Those individuals who are leading the opposition against Paul are false teachers, false apostles, false prophets, however you want to label them. I just call them “the liars” because what they’ve done is gone into the church at Corinth and spread lies about Paul. They’ve falsely accused him, slandered his character, and even vilified him. And these liars are still there causing friction and disunity in the church. It’s a big problem that Paul is compelled to deal with. So, in the chapters we’ll be looking at this morning, Paul contrasts himself as a true apostle with these false apostles.

Earlier in this letter Paul mentioned some of the accusations against him (3:1, 3:7-18; 4:2-4; 5:12, 5:16; 6:14). But now those leading the movement against Paul and their followers become the focus of his writing. We don’t know the names or the exact nature of the false apostles in Corinth. However, what is clear is that they, like Paul, had their roots in Judaism (11:22). They themselves claimed to be apostles (10:7; 11:23), even “super apostles” (11:5; 12:11). They claimed to bring a message of righteousness (11:14), although it was actually a message of legalism (3:7-15). In any event, their motives are selfish – to make themselves look good, to gain power and prestige in the church, even profit financially. They certainly don’t have the best interests of the Corinthian church in mind. So Paul confronts them head on. 

Chapter 10

READ 2 Corinthians 10:1-6

The criticism of Paul and his ministry team, v 2, is that they are walking “according to the flesh.” In other words, they are doing what they want and not being led by God. Paul acknowledges that he walks “in the flesh,” in the sense that he is a physical being, flesh and blood, human. But the war that’s being waged is not a physical war. It’s a spiritual war. Paul recognizes that he is not battling a bunch of men in some sort of political or social debate, or power struggle. He’s in a spiritual battle against a greater enemy. Who are the combatants in spiritual warfare? (A) The forces of God, “divine power,” v 4, and (B) The forces of Satan, “strongholds,” v 4, the forces of hell. What are they battling over? What’s the issue at stake? Who we will believe, who we will follow. This is an age old spiritual battle. It’s the same one that took place back in the Garden of Eden. The bottom line is who will you follow? Whose voice will you listen to? Who will you obey? Paul encourages the Corinthian believers (and us) “to take every thought captive to obey Christ.” This is a willful choice that we make. When we first got saved we followed Christ by faith. Now that we’re saved we must choose to walk with Christ in obedience every day the exact same way, by faith. V 5 is a key verse. It contrasts the wisdom of this world, conventional wisdom, what our society says is OK, with “the knowledge of God,” in other words, what God has revealed to us, His truth in His word. In v 6 Paul basically says that when you acknowledge that he, Paul, is right and that what he is saying falls right in line with the truth of God, then they will be forced to deal with those individuals who teach something different. Those false apostles and those who follow them will need to be punished – how? By removing them from the church body. The time for repentance is now. And if you don’t Paul says “I will deal with you when I come.”

Beginning in v 7 Paul launches his attack against the false apostles. He says, “Look at what is before your eyes.” In other words, “consider the evidence.” The Corinthian believers knew Paul from their firsthand experience. How then could some of them possibly believe that Paul is a false apostle and that these “liars” were true apostles? Paul says, “People, look at the evidence! Those false apostles haven’t founded any churches. They haven’t suffered persecution for the cause of Christ. When have they ever encountered the risen glorified Christ? [show next slide, Paul’s Damascus Rd encounter]

They claim to belong to Christ. Well, so do I. So who are you going to believe?” We can’t both be right.

V 8-18, One of the criticisms that has been levied against Paul is that he is weak and unimpressive as a speaker. They said that Paul really writes well, that he’s bold and forceful in his letters, but he lacks the charisma and personality to be a great leader. Paul denies these claims.

READ 2 Corinthians 10:10-12.

Paul basically says, “I am the same person whether I am present with you or whether I am away from you communicating in letters. Paul refuses to compare himself to others or to boast of his own accomplishments. He will only speak about what Christ has done thru him.

READ 2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Compared to the false apostles who commend or praise themselves, Paul has been commended and approved by the Lord. He won’t praise himself nor does he seek the approval of men.

Looking at the broad scope of Ch 10 Paul has 3 primary criticisms of these false apostles. First, they have an inadequate human standard for measuring themselves (they compare themselves to other people, always a bad idea). Second, Paul was the divinely commissioned apostle to the Gentiles, not them. They do not have apostolic authority. Third, they’ve exaggerated their accomplishments. Fact is they haven’t done anything. And those in this church who follow after them are shallow and superficial looking only at the surface (how a person looks and sounds) rather than who they really are.

Who will you follow? You must choose.

Chapter 11

Paul defends his apostleship by reminding the Corinthians that it was he, Paul, who had “betrothed” them to Christ to begin with

READ 2 Corinthians 11:2

Remember we, the church, saints of God, we are the bride of Christ. In Ephesians 5:22-24 Paul uses the husband - wife relationship as an analogy with the relationship between Christ and the church.

In v 3-4 Paul revisits his discussion of spiritual warfare.

READ 2 Corinthians 11:3-4

Just like the serpent in the Garden of Eden deceived Eve – how did he do that? By countering what God said or meant and by lying to her. That’s exactly what these false apostles have done in the church at Corinth and he says, “You have accepted it readily, fallen for their lies too easily.”

Paul goes on in v 5 to refute the claims by the false apostles that he, Paul, is inferior to them, so-called “super-apostles” (that’s what they called themselves). READ 2 Corinthians 11:5.

As for his public speaking deficiencies, so what?

READ 2 Corinthians 11:6.

Paul says, “Have you heard what I have actually said – I have knowledge (which I received from the Lord) and I have effectively and clearly communicated that to you.”

In v 7-11 Paul reminds the Corinthian believers that he sacrificially served them without taking any financial support from them. He didn’t want to be a burden to them so he raised his own support. And why did Paul do this? He says in v 11, “Because I love you!”

Paul then describes the false apostles to the Corinthians. He doesn’t mince any words either… READ 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

 These liars are not true apostles of Christ. They’re merely pretenders, “disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” They are emissaries of Satan. “Their end will correspond to their deeds,” v 15. They will not escape God’s judgment. When I read this I immediately thought of Jesus’ disturbing words in Matthew 7. READ Matthew 7:21-23. To me one of the scariest passages in all of the Bible! They looked good on the outside. They did all the religious activity. They said all the right words. But they were not truly saved! I think that’s at the heart of what Paul is saying in 2 Cor Ch 11.

Beginning in v 16 Paul lays out his apostolic credentials. Having shown negatively that the false teachers were not really apostles, Paul focuses on his own apostolic credentials. The false apostles who had opposed Paul used their own boasting and self-inflation to gain status with those in the church. And because of the Corinthian believers’ lack of spiritual perception and their immaturity, these false apostles had been able to deceive them. Paul explains, by sharing his own experiences, that divine accreditation comes from human weakness not from human greatness.

In v 16-33 Paul sarcastically rebukes the minority of Corinthian believers who continue to follow the false apostles. Proverbs 26:5 talks about answering “a fool according to his own folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes,” and that’s exactly what Paul does here. V 18, “Many boast according to the flesh,” a direct reference to the false apostles. So Paul says, “I too will boast.” Now his boasting is not done out of his own choice but out of necessity. Boasting is what these people seem to respond favorably to. However, Paul says that he will boast in his weakness not in any of his accomplishments. The words “weak” and “weakness” appear eight times from 11:16 thru 12:10. Paul chronicles his divine qualifications as an apostle: beatings, stonings, dangers, labor, hardship, hunger, thirst, exposure, emotional pressure in dealing with the churches, and escape from Damascus in a basket (11:22-33; cf. Acts 9:25).

READ 2 Corinthians 11:30-31

Paul’s weakness magnified God’s power in his life. Back in Ch 4 Paul referred to his own frail human flesh as “jars of clay,” which showed “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (5:7)

Chapter 12

V 1-6 describe a time when Paul was “caught up to the third heaven, v 2, to paradise, v 3. This is where he received an incredible revelation of the Lord. Now why would Paul discuss visions here? This seems like a strange thing to bring up in a section devoted to one’s weaknesses. Well, the purpose of this section is to show why it was necessary for Paul to receive the “thorn in the flesh” (which he discusses beginning in v 7)

READ 2 Corinthians 12:7

We are never told exactly what this “thorn in the flesh” is. Some say it was Paul’s bad eyesight or perhaps it was a person who made Paul’s life difficult (last part of v 7). Another real possibility (based on what he says in Galatians 4:14) is that it was probably some serious physical malady that Paul endured and which kept Paul humble. As he says in v 7, “to keep me from becoming conceited.”

READ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.

What was the Lord’s answer to Paul’s entreaty to remove it? No. If indeed Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was some kind of illness then what would this say regarding God’s will for us when we become sick? Sometimes it may be God’s will for us to experience sickness. God may choose to allow this for His own purposes in our life, which we may or may not ever understand.

What happened to Paul when it became clear that God was not going to take [whatever] away? It changed Paul, for the better. He became more and more reliant upon God and less on himself. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

From 12:11–13:10 Paul wraps up this section of the letter with a recommended response. Those who still follow after those false apostles need to repent! He expresses his desire that when he comes to Corinth he will see repentance and a renewed affirmation of allegiance to himself as an authenticated apostle of Christ. In v 12 he says that the signs and wonders that he performed served to authenticate him as a true apostle.

READ 2 Corinthians 12:19-21.

Paul spent most of this letter responding to the examination of the Corinthians. “Everything I’ve just said to you I said for a reason – not so much to defend myself to you and to my critics (as though you were somehow my judges). No, it’s to force you to see the error of your ways in following these liars and their false teachings and to repent. At the heart of any good pastor is the strong desire to see people come to Christ and then to live holy lives pleasing to God. Here in these verses Paul is mentioning some specific sinful behavior that some in the church need to turn away from.

Chapter 13

This strong admonition for these believers to repent is continued on into the first 4 verses of Ch 13. Paul is very concerned about sin in the church as we know from 1 Cor. And even though the majority of the believers in Corinth apparently had repented (as we noted before), there was still a small group who had not. Paul warns that, when he comes to Corinth, unrepentant sin will be dealt with thru church discipline. That’s what Paul’s referring to with his reference to “two or three witnesses,” v 1 – this is based on the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18:16.

13:5-7 Paul concludes by challenging them to examine and test their own lives.

READ 2 Corinthians 13:8-10

“I am praying for your restoration!”

“The authority the Lord has given me (as an apostle) is for building up the body of Christ, not for tearing it down!” Paul, ever the concerned and caring pastor, is concerned about the spiritual condition of the Corinthian church, their spiritual well-being.

In v 11-14 Paul concludes this most personal, emotional letter with a closing exhortation to the Corinthians to rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, and live in peace. He sends greetings to the Corinthians from all the saints in Macedonia.

Paul gives one of his most beautiful benedictions, one that is most fitting for the church at Corinth

READ 2 Corinthians 13:14.

From the beginning of this letter right on thru the benediction we see Paul’s desire for these Corinthian believers (and for us as well) to believe the right doctrine, to live the right way and to experience God’s blessings. He has a pastor’s heart, he speaks the truth in love, and we can learn a lot from his example.

Back to New Testament

Second Corinthians 10:1-13:14

Table of contents