Measuring Ministries at Corinth
2 Cor. 10: 7-18
Chapters 10 -13 of this Epistle were written by Paul to defend his apostleship. His enemies not only criticize his writings and teachings. They even belittle or insult his physical appearance. Paul’s contrast between his enemies is so broad. Paul Is meek and gentle, unless forced to act otherwise. His spirituality is the opposite from his enemies, his weapon for spiritual battle is the pure Word of God while his enemies uses false doctrines to the extent that they become disobedient to the commands of Christ, they promote themselves, most of all, false teachers take advantage of people.
Here Paul tells the Corinth on how to gauge or measure success in the ministry.
I. Judging by appearance (2 Cor. 10: 7)
A. “Do you look on things after the outward appearance?” (2 Cor. 10:7): Paul warns the Corinthians against being misled by appearances and superficial judgments. 1 Samuel 16:7 … for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. As a general rule, you should never judge a preacher by his looks. Appearance can be deceiving.
B. “For though I should boast… of our authority” (2 Cor. 10:8): Our Lord committed the gospel to Paul by direct revelation (Gal. 1:11, 12). This authority and power were entrusted to him to save men, not to destroy them. It is for the purpose of “edification” (building up) and not for the destruction (pulling down). Furthermore, it takes love to build up (1 Cor 8:1); and the Corinthians interpreted Paul’s love and meekness as a sign of weakness.
His critics promote themselves and commend themselves. They promote
themselves by frequently making comparisons with others. This is why Paul tells us that the authentic apostles would not class or compare themselves with some of those who commend themselves. These men seek to elevate them-selves by misrepresenting their own accomplishments and minimizing the accomplishments of others. No wonder there are factions in Corinth with all this competition taking place! Paul ‘s ministry is not self-promoting but self-sacrificing, and his goal is not the building up of his own reputation, image, and power, but the building up of the church.
C. “That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters” (2 Cor. 10:9): The false teachers and apostles had accused Paul of being an abusive leader of trying to intimidate the Corinthians in his letters. Paul’s intention was not to terrify the brethren in Corinth but to bring them to repentance because he loves them.
D. “For his letters, say they, are weighty… his bodily presence is weak” (2 Cor. 10:10): His enemies charged that Paul was brave from a distance because of his forceful . However, in person, he lacked the charisma and personality of a truly great leader.
E. What Paul is telling here that there was no contradiction between his preaching and his writing. He was bold in his letters because that was what was needed at the time. He would rather write with gentleness, but it would not have achieved the desired purpose. And, even when he wrote “weighty and powerful” letters, he wrote from a heart of love. “You had better prepare for my next visit” he was saying, “because if it is necessary, I will show you how powerful I can be.”
Illustration 1: Paul’s personal appearance
Paul’s enemies charge that he was weak in personal appearance. A legend dating from 2nd century says he was a man of moderate stature, curly hair, scanty crooked legs, blue eyes, large knit brows, long nose and was full of the grace and [pity of the Lord, sometimes having the appearance of a
man, sometimes looking like an angel.
Another tradition has it that he was small in stature, bald-headed, bow-legged, stout, close-browed with slightly prominent nose and full of grace.
There are NT hints that he had eye trouble which at times made him repulsive in appearance. But the charge of his enemies that he was a weak personality certainly was without basis. It is just not possible to think that a man who turned the city after city upside down, as Paul did. Unquestionably
Paul was a powerful and dominating a personality, and all in all as great a man as has ever lived on this earth, except only Jesus.
In reply to the charge that he was weak, he tells them, that, at least, he founded his own churches, and did not go around troubling churches founded by others, as they were doing. Halley’s Bible Handbook
II. Faulty Human measurements (2 Corinthians 10:12-18).
A. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number…” (2 Cor. 10:12): It is very foolish to compare or contrast ourselves with others. Paul refused to compare himself with others or promote himself. His only personal concern was what the Lord thought of him (1 Cor. 4:4), though he needed to defend his apostleship.
The Judaizers set themselves up as the standards of orthodoxy from Jerusalem. “Measuring themselves by themselves” is keenest sarcasm. Setting themselves up as the standards of orthodoxy these Judaizers always measure up to the standard while Paul falls short. Mutual admiration societies, even in religious circles, do not indicate a very high order of intelligence. Such men are “without understanding.
B. “But we will not boast of things without our measure…” (2 Cor. 10:13) Or beyond our measure. A measure is a rule to walk by. Paul’s measuring-rod extends to Corinth. He will confine himself to the limits of the province which God marked out for him, a province which includes Corinth and his converts in that city (verses 14, 15). Other apostles were sent to the circumcision, the Jews. He and Barnabas were sent to the uncircumcision, the Gentiles (Gal. 2:9). When he came to Europe the Spirit of God sent him (Acts 16:9- 10).
C. “To preach the gospel… not to boast in another man’s line” (2 Cor. 10:16): Paul had founded the church at Corinth (Acts 18:1-18). It was Paul’s uniform course to preach where no one before him had preached the gospel. He expresses the hope that this success at Corinth and their support of the church will enable him to carry the gospel beyond them where no man had preached.
D. Modernists, destructive critics and Judaizers, then and now, just invade existing churches and then propagate their false doctrines
Illustration 2: What Counts In a Successful Ministry
When I came to North America, I found that most churches, pastors, seminaries, colleges, and parachurch agencies and agents were in the grip of this secular passion for successful expansion in a way I had not met in England. Church-growth theorists, evangelists, pastors, missionaries, and others all spoke as if:
1. numerical increase is what matters most,
2. numerical increase must come if our techniques and procedures are right,
3. numerical increase validates ministries as nothing else does, and
4. numerical increase must be everyone’s main goal.
Four unhappy features marked the situation. First, big and growing churches were viewed as far more significant than others. Second, parachurch specialists (evangelists, college and seminary teachers with platform skills, medicine men with traveling seminars, convention-circuit riders, top
people in youth movements, full-time authors and such) were venerated, while hard-working pastors were treated as near-nonentities. Third, lively laymen and clergy were constantly being creamed off, or creaming themselves off, from the churches to run parachurch ministries, in which quicker results could be expected and where accountability was less stringent. And fourth, many
ministers of not-so-bouncy temperament were returning to secular employment in disillusionment and bitterness, having concluded that the pastoral life is a game not worth playing. . . Faithfulness,
, and loving service are the divine measure of real success in ministry
J. I. Packer, Christianity Today, August 12, 1988, p. 15
III. Boasting (2 cor.10:17-18)
A. “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17): Paul quotes from Jer. 9:23, 24. See also Prov. 27:2. This gives the true rule of boasting. Let the Lord be our boast, for we are nothing. Let every minister remember this, it is to Christ that he owes all his ability for his work, and all his success in it.
B. “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord
commendeth” (2 Cor. 10:18): He whom the Lord “commendeth” is the one who has approval, not he who commends himself. The Lord has shown his approval of Paul, not of the false teachers, by the work the Lord accomplished through Paul in the church at Corinth!
Illustration 3: Prove Yourself
In Aesop’s fables a traveler was entertaining some men in a tavern with an account of the wonders he had done abroad. “I was once at Rhodes,” said he, “and the people of Rhodes, you know, are famous for jumping. Well, I completed a jump there that no other man could equal within a yard.
That’s a fact, and if we were there I could bring you ten men who would prove it.” “What need is there to go to Rhodes for witnesses?” asked one of his hearers. “Just imagine you are there now and show us your leap.” Thus Paul intimated to the Corinthians, “I don’t have to come to listen to your words. You can prove the quality of your life by what you do, and I’ll know it from where I am.” Bible Illustrations – Illustrations of Bible Truths.
Man’s standard of measurement falls short to the standard set by God. We look at outside appearance but God looks at the heart. We measure success by numbers but God measures success by faithfulness, Godliness, and loving service. Paul was Godly, faithful and loving in his service to the Corinthians. Would you be like Paul also?