Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:
But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.
Verse 2. - I beseech you. The "beseech" is here right (deomai). The "you" is not in the Greek, but is rightly supplied. It rests with them to avert the necessity of personal severity, and he entreats them to do so (comp. 2 Corinthians 13:2, 10; 1 Corinthians 4:21). Against some. He leaves these undefined till the vehement outburst of 2 Corinthians 11:13, 14. As if we walked according to the flesh (see note on 2 Corinthians 5:16). To say this of St. Paul was to charge him with being insincere and not disinterested.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
Verse 3. - We walk in the flesh. St. Paul does not disclaim the possession of human infirmities, but maintains that such trials and temptations were not the guiding force of his life. We do not war after the flesh. His campaigns (Luke 3:14) were fought with spiritual weapons. The metaphor is a constant one with St. Paul (2 Corinthians 2:14-16; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Ephesians 6:10-17, etc.).
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Verse 4. - Weapons (see 2 Corinthians 6:7; Romans 6:13). Not carnal. He did not rely on the mere "arm of flesh," or on earthly sword or panoply. Mighty through God; literally, powerful for God; i.e. either
(1) powerful for the cause of God, or
(2) powerful in his estimate. To the pulling down of strongholds. The word for "pulling down," which implies the entire clearance of an obstacle, is only found in the New Testament in this Epistle (vers. 4, 8; 2 Corinthians 13:10). The word for "strongholds" is found here alone. These "fortresses" were the opposition aroused by factious and hostile partisans, and he hoped to subdue them by the strong exercise of apostolic authority (l Corinthians 4:21; 5:1-5). Dean Stanley suggests a reminiscence of the hundred and twenty Cilician fortresses pulled down by Pompey; but I think that these general allusions are often pressed too far.
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Verse 5. - Casting down. This agrees with "we" understood, not with "weapons." Imaginations; rather, disputations, or reasonings. Every high thing that exalteth itself; rather, every height that is exalted. Against the knowledge of God (see 1 Corinthians 15:34). There, however, we have passive ignorance, here active opposition. Bringing into captivity. When the fortresses are razed, their defenders will be taken prisoners, but for a beneficent end. Every thought. Even intellectual result. The word (noema) is not common in the New Testament. It occurs five times in this Epistle (2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 10:5; 2 Corinthians 11:3), but elsewhere only in Philippians 4:7.
And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
Verse 6. - Being in a readiness; i.e. being quite prepared. My sternness of purpose is ready, but my hope is that it may not be called into action. To revenge; rather, to do justice upon. In any case, in this infliction of justice, whatever form it might take, he would only be an agent of God (Romans 12:19). When your obedience is fulfilled. St. Paul is confident that he will overcome the mazes of those opposed to him, and win them to Christ's obedience; but if there were any who should obstinately refuse to submit, they must be reduced to submission by action, not by words.
Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's.
Verse 7. - Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? Like many clauses in this section, the words are capable of different interpretations. They might mean,
(1) as in the Authorized Version, "Do you judge by mere externals?" or,
(2) "You judge by things which merely lie on the surface!" or,
(3) "Consider the personal aspect of the question." The Authorized Version is probably right (comp. John 7:24). If any man. Perhaps alluding to some party ringleader. That he is Christ's. If a man holds this in an exclusive and partisan sense (1 Corinthians 1:12). Some manuscripts (D, E, F, G) read, "a slave of Christ." Of himself. The true reading is probably ἐφ, not ἀφ, but in either ease the meaning is, "by his own fair judgment." Even so are we Christ's. In a true and real sense, not by external knowledge and connection (which he has already disclaimed), but by inward union. This he proceeds to prove by the fact that he was the founder of their Church (vers. 13-18); that he had always acted with absolute disinterestedness (2 Corinthians 11:1-15); that he had lived a life of toil and suffering (2 Corinthians 11:21-33), and that he had received special revelations from God (2 Corinthians 12:1-6).
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:
Verses 8-11. - Assertion of his intentions. Verse 8. - Should boast. In this section St. Paul is thoroughly haunted by this word. The fact that a word could thus possess and dominate over his style and imagination shows how deeply he was moved. The Corinthian Church, with its inflated factions and their fuglemen, recked with beasting, and St. Paul is driven, with utter distaste, to adopt in self-defence language which, to the uncandid and indiscriminating, might seem to wear the same aspect. The word, which is unfrequent in other Epistles, occurs eighteen times in these chapters alone. Other haunting words are "tolerate," "bear with" (2 Corinthians 11:l, 4, 19, 20), and "senseless," "fool" (2 Corinthians 11:16, 19; 2 Corinthians 12:6, 11); see note on 2 Corinthians 1:3. Somewhat more; something more abundantly. For edification, and not for your destruction; for building you up, not pulling you down. The word kathairesin is from the same root as the verb in ver. 5. I should not be ashamed; rather, I shall not be ashamed. No shame shall ever accrue to me from my "boast" being proved false.
That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.
Verse 9. - By letters; rather, by the letters. He had certainly addressed two letters to them (1 Corinthians 5:9).
For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.
Verse 10. - Say they; literally, says he. The phrase may, indeed, imply "it is said" (on dit); but it may refer to one main critic and opponent (comp. vers. 7, 11). Perhaps it would have been wiser and kinder if no one had reported to St. Paul all these subterranean calumnies and innuendoes. Weighty and strong. This could not be denied, considering the immense effect which had been produced by his first letter (2 Corinthians 7:7). His bodily presence is weak. This is usually taken to mean that St. Paul's personal appearance was unprepossessing (Galatians 4:1). This, indeed, we should infer from many other passages (1 Corinthians 2:34; Galatians 4:13, 14), and as a natural result of his "stake in the flesh." It is, too, the consistent though late tradition respecting him (see my 'Life of St. Paul,' 2:628). Here, however, the words may mean no more than that "he adds nothing to his cause by being present in person, since he shows vacillation and want of energy." Contemptible; rather, despised (see 1 Corinthians 2:3, 4).
Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.
Verse 11. - Such a one. A formula used to avoid mentioning a special name (see note on 2 Corinthians 2:7). Such will we be; rather, such are we. The verb is not expressed, but it would have been if the future tense had been intended. In this verse St. Paul is not saying what he would do hereafter, but is rebutting with calmness and dignity the false charge that he was in any way different when absent from what he was when present.
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Verse 12. - We dare not. They are in this respect of self-praise much bolder than I. Make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves; literally, judge ourselves among or judge ourselves with. There is a play on the words, like the Latin, inferre or conferre, or the German, zurechnen oder gleichrechnen. That commend themselves. The verb rendered "commend" is that from which is derived "the commendatory letters" (2 Corinthians 3:1) at the arrogant and intrusive use of which he had glanced already. St. Paul is once more rebutting the charge of self-commendation (2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 6:11). But they measuring themselves...are not wise. The clause is difficult; for
(1) to compare ourselves with others in order to learn what we can and cannot do is usually accounted wise;
(2) some manuscripts and editions, omitting οὐ συνιοῦσιν ἡμεῖς δὲ, render, "But we ourselves (αὐτοὶ), measuring ourselves by ourselves, and comparing ourselves with ourselves, will not boast above measure;"
(3) some, for συνιοῦσιν (they are not wise) read συνίουσιν (with ourselves, who are not wise). The reading, however, of the Authorized Version is undoubtedly right, and most probably the rendering also. The meaning is that the little cliques of factious religionists, never looking outside their own narrow circles, became inflated with a sense of importance which would have been annihilated if they had looked at higher standards. Hence they thought themselves at liberty to intrude and lay down the law and usurp a claim to infallibility which there was nothing to justify. Such conduct is the reverse of wise. It is a mixture of selfishness, Pharisaism, and conceit, and there have been abundant examples of it among religious parties in all ages. St. Paul, on the other hand, keeps within his own measure, because he has learnt to adopt larger and loftier standards.
But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.
Verse 13. - Will not boast of things without our measure. This might be rendered, "will not indulge in these immeasurable boastings;" but ver. 15 points to the sense, "we will not glory beyond our measure." Of the rule; i.e. of the measuring line. I will keep to the province and limit which God has assigned to me in my proper mea- sure. St. Paul declines the favourite office of being "other people's bishop ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος)" (1 Peter 4:15). Hath distributed; rather, apportioned.
For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:
Verse 14. - As though we reached not unto you. In including you within the reach of our measuring line, we are guilty neither of presumption nor of intrusion. Your Church is a part of our legitimate province and range of work (Acts 18:1, 4). We are come as far as to you; rather, we anticipated others in coming to you; "we were the first to come as far as unto you." To St. Paul belonged the undisputed glory of having first introduced the gospel into the regions of Macedonia and Achaia.
Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,
Verse 15. - That is, of other men's labours. Not to thrust himself obtrusively into spheres of labour which legitimately belonged to others was a part of St. Paul's scrupulously chivalrous rule (2 Corinthians 3:10; Galatians 2:9; Romans 15:20). It contrasted with the usurping arrogance of these Jerusalem emissaries. When your faith is increased; rather, increases or grows. He delicately implies that their lack of faith prevents the extension of his labours. He could not leave in his rear an unstormed fortress of opposition to the gospel. The spread of the gospel depends on them. We shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly. The Revised Version renders it more clearly, "We shall be magnified in you according to our province unto further abundance."
To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.
Verse 16. - In the regions beyond you. Even to Rome and Spain (Romans 15:19, 24, 28).
But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Verse 17. - But he that glorieth, etc.; literally, he that boasteth, etc. (see note on 1 Corinthians 1:31; Jeremiah 9:24).
For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.