"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought into the obedience of Messiah...." - 2 Corinthians 10:5
In 2 Corinthians 10-13, Paul sternly responds to the the threat of "super-apostles" who are trying to dissuade the Corinthian church from following Paul and his teaching. In chapter 10, Paul asserts his authority as an apostle of Jesus and explains that the Corinthian church is his rightful "area of influence." Here's 10 takeaways from this chapter we can apply to our lives today.
1. When resolving church conflict, we are to appeal to one another by the humility and gentleness of Jesus (v. 1). To entreat (παρακαλέω) means “to urge strongly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage." When emotions are running high, as they almost always do in conflict situations, it is very difficult to be gentle. But through Jesus we must strive to be gentle. "The person who is most like Jesus first, wins." As Peter says, "[A]ll of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble" (1 Pe 5:5).
2. Sometimes church leaders have to show boldness with confidence (v. 2). Punishing disobedience in the church is sometimes necessary (v. 6). As leaders, we must have the strength to exercise discipline upon church members who have come to require it. Our loyalty is not to any particular person in the church but to the church as a whole (1 Co 5:4-5, 12).
3. We should be very careful about accusing church leaders of walking according to the flesh (v. 2). Church leaders have a difficult job, and we should always give them the benefit of the doubt. The most productive thing we can do is to pray for them. Someone wise once said, "Pray 20 times for your pastor before you share any complaint with him." This is wise counsel. Don't be quick to accuse a church leader (1 Th 5:19).
4. We are to wage spiritual warfare by destroying arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God (vv. 3-5). Spiritual warfare is fought in the hearts and minds of people. That is why developing a biblical worldview in every area of life is so important. As believers, we need to become really competent at responding to the arguments put forward by secular humanism, marxism, postmodernism, and the new spirituality. The next generation of Christians needs to see us destroying arguments raised against the knowledge of God. One day it will be their turn.
5. We are to keep taking captive every thought into the obedience of Jesus (v. 5). Because "we are what we think," we must learn, by the Spirit, to discipline our thought life and bring all our mental self-talk into submission to what God has revealed in Scripture. We must not listen to the lies of Satan or allow him to establish thought-strongholds in our soul. As Paul says, "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Php 4:8).
6. Jesus gives authority to certain believers for building up the church (v. 8). Every believer is a full member of the body of Messiah. We are all equal in Jesus. However, Jesus does give authority to some believers for the edification of the church. The purpose of this authority is not self-aggrandisement or for one to build a personal empire, but to build up the church body. Are we seeing believers under our authority advancing to spiritual maturity? If not, we need to examine how well we are exercising our authority.
7. We are not to be ashamed of the spiritual authority Jesus has given us (v. 8). As an American who serves as an elder in an Open Brethren church in New Zealand, I struggle to know how exactly to lead. Authority works differently in New Zealand than it does in the United States. However, spiritual authority is not an American or Kiwi idea, but God's idea. There must be authority in the church, and those who are given authority by Jesus must not be ashamed to exercise their authority with confidence. The plural eldership model followed by the Open Brethren churches in New Zealand provides checks and balances on any particular elder who may stray off track. But as a team, elders must and should exercise their authority for the good of the church (1 Pe 5:1-4).
8. We are not to commend ourselves by classifying, comparing, or measuring ourselves by other believers or church leaders (v. 12). "Comparison kills contentment." It is so wrong for us to compare ourselves with other Christians, pastors, missionaries, etc. We are not in competition with one another. The only commendation that matters is Jesus' commendation (v. 18). We have an "Audience of One." As Paul says in Romans (which was written about the same time as 2 Corinthians), "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls" (Ro 14:4). We need to keep our eyes on our master, Jesus.
9. It is legitimate for us to "boast" with regard to the area of influence God has assigned to us (v. 13). The word “boast” occurs 29 times in 2 Corinthians, so it is obviously a major theme of Paul's letter. Boasting is not always evil. We may legitimately boast in the area of ministry over which God has assigned us, if that boasting is backed up by real evidence of faithfulness. My area of ministry influence is my family, my eldership at Caversham Community Church, and my role with Firm Foundation New Zealand. How am I doing in my area of influence? It is true to say that every believer has an area of influence over which they are called to be faithful. Moreover, we should always want our area of influence to be enlarged (v. 15). Paul is always looking for new areas in which to go. He doesn’t tread upon others’ area of influence (Ro 15:18-21).
10. If we boast at all, we are to boast in Jesus (v. 17). This point at first seems to contradict point 9, but it doesn't have to. We can both boast in our area of influence and in Jesus because it is Jesus in us who carries out our ministry. In other words, if we are faithful in our designated area of influence, it is not because we are great but because the Jesus who is in us is great. "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Co 1:31).
2 Corinthians 10 contains some important life lessons for us. For me, the biggest takeaway has to do with authority. Each of us has been given an area of ministry influence over which we have legitimate spiritual authority. We are to exercise our authority for the building up of the believers around us. Thank you, Father, for these life lessons from 2 Corinthians 10. Help us to apply these truths.
- Jeff Coleman