Text: 2 Corinthians 10:7-11; John 7:24

One of the accusations levelled against Paul by his opposers was that of a weak appearance. While they admitted that Paul’s letters demonstrated literary quality and boldness, they claimed that Paul was not physically imposing and strong, neither was his speech comparable to the oratory greats of the age (v.10).

Were the accusations true? While tradition seems to paint Paul as a short man with average features, we do know that he was physically able and vibrant, by the grace of God, to endure many arduous trips during his missionary journeys. With regards to speech, we have Acts 14:12 which records the people of Lystra likening Paul to Mercurius (or Hermes), the Grecian messenger of the “gods”, because he was the chief speaker. Thus,
Paul had at least some level of oratorical ability.

The derogatory and inflammatory remarks by Paul’s accusers were made with an agenda in mind – they were designed to undermine the Apostolic authority of Paul and to detract the Corinthians from Paul’s letters and messages. These comments pointed the Corinthians to judge using worldly and carnal criteria – to judge by the outward appearance, rather than discerning by spiritual principles. By doing so, the accusers of Paul were in effect pulling the Corinthians away from Christ and His Word.

The Apostle Paul thus asked a cutting question, “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?” Some of the opponents claimed they were from a Christ party (c.f. 1 Cor. 1:12), lauding themselves as being superior over others in the congregation. Paul’s reply was, if such regarded themselves to be of Christ, is Paul himself therefore not of Christ? And if Paul was of Christ, then surely he ought to be received among the congregation of the saints! Why are Paul’s accusers trying to put a stumbling block between Paul and the rest of the saints? There is simply no reason for them to obstruct.

The attack suffered by Paul was no different from that which Christ suffered during His earthly ministries. Many regarded Him as no more than a carpenter’s son. Others even accused him of casting out devils in the name of Beelzebub. Christ’s reply? “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

The same principle applies to the appointment of leaders. When Jethro advised Moses to appoint leaders to assist him in the work of the Lord, he told him to choose able men who, “fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness,” to bear the burden. These are not worldly but spiritual requirements. Similarly, the appointment of leaders in the New Testament church is not by worldly assessments, or friendly and familial relationships, but that of spiritual criteria. A spiritual church must function by spiritual principles.

As spiritual men, let us therefore judge by spiritual criteria, and not that of the world.

THOUGHT: Leader s should be appointed by spiritual criteria.
PRAYER: Teach me to judge all things fr om a spir itual perspective.

Text: 2 Corinthians 10:12-18; Numbers 16

The second accusation levelled against Paul in this chapter was that of overstepping authority. The power-hungry adversaries of Paul set themselves as their own standards (v.12), and then proceeded to measure everyone else according to these standards. Alas, these standards were manmade carnal criteria, rather than that from the Holy Scriptures. These were standards designed to promote self rather than the glory of God.

As Paul had failed by the self-imposed standards of his critics, they  proceeded to accuse him of overstepping the boundaries of his ministry. Paul denied this, saying that he had always ministered within the limits set by God. God was the one who had called Paul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, therefore he did not build upon other men’s labours (v.15), but laboured to preach Christ where He was not named (v. 14, c.f. Rom. 15:20). Paul was just being true to the duties of His call.

In a twist of irony, by assuming that they were superior to Paul and taking on greater authority upon themselves, the accusers of Paul were the actual ones overstepping their authority. They were acting just like Dathan, Abiram and the sons of Korah in the times of Moses, who rose up against Moses and Aaron, saying, “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?”  (Num. 16:3) Moses rightly replied, “Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?” (Num. 16:9) It was the sons of Korah who had taken too much upon themselves and not Moses (Num. 16:8). Similarly, the accusers of Paul failed to see that they were the ones guilty of falling short of the standards of the Holy Scriptures in the first place! In their pride and self-conceit, they had the gumption to exalt themselves over the Apostle Paul, being blind to their own shortcomings. They should rather submit themselves before God’s Word and follow Christ faithfully.

According to John Calvin, the three rules of knowing theology is “Humility, Humility, Humility.” The same three rules also apply to Christian service – “Humility, Humility, Humility.” Therefore, let every man serve Christ humbly with regards to God’s calling for him. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. (Rom 12:3)

THOUGHT: Read Romans 12:3. Have I been following this principle in my service to Christ?
PRAYER: Father, teach me to respect the authorities which You have set over me in my life and abide in Thy call for me.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: Children, honour your parents!