2 CORINTHIANS 10
1 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:
He tries to awaken them to the fact that the house of God is not built according to worldly standards, but that its strength and glory lies in meekness and gentleness and service.
"Whosoever will be great among you," said Jesus, Let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Matt. 20; 2 Cor. 10).
The way of the world is so ingrained in the flesh that unless we are very careful and alert we take it for granted as the starting point of our reasoning. But God's way is entirely different.
God attaches so much value to loving freewill and individual spiritual enlightenment that He has permitted 6,000 years of violence and wickedness in order that out of this fiery crucible a few divine characters may be developed for His eternal pleasure and glory.
This we must always bear in mind. The end could superficially be accomplished a thousand times more easily by enforced regimentation but the vital spark of freewill would be destroyed. *
2 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.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
Paul had great authority. He could strike a man blind with a word when the service of the Gospel required it.
How easy it would have been to use it to bring these shortsighted, rebellious ecclesias into line! But Paul knew, as Jesus knew with the limitless power of the Spirit upon him, and all the kingdoms of the earth stretched before him, that there is only one way that can build with endurance, and it is not the way of force.
He knew that though he could easily silence all opposition and make a big showing in the eyes of the flesh, he would gain nothing this way for God. He knew that only quiet and persistent patience and love could develop what he was seeking to develop -- a people prepared for the Lord. This was a very slow and unspectacular work, and exposed Paul constantly to the charge of timidity and weakness.
He spoke of the possibility of having to use his authority with some, but he knew that this would be, at best, a necessary evil -- a step backward -- a confession that in their case, love had failed to penetrate and persuade. It would be lost ground in the development of the eternal purpose.
This is what his opponents could not realize. They did not understand the end to which he was driving. He was trying, by the enlightenment of the Spirit, to create freewill desire to draw near to God. Neither force nor fleshly appeal -- the two motives they understood -- could accomplish this purpose. *
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
So long as Satan has plenty of loaves and fishes in his cupboard at the service of his friends, he will always have clergy enough for his purposes, after losing all we may be able to detach from his service. It is no part of our mission to bandy compliments with Satan.
We are at war with him, and when we meet, it is in battle. Let the clergy draw and defend themselves as best they can. We know no surrender, and accept no peace from them which is not yielded as the consequence of defeat. Our conflict with them is to strip off that sheep's clothing which deceives the sheep; and to unveil the wolf in all the deformity of his nakedness, that he may be known in his true character. We would not leave even a piece of wool upon his paw, but make him stand out, either all wolf, or nothing but a sheep.
Our mission is to enlighten the ignorant upon all Scriptural subjects; to assist in finishing the work begun by Peter at the house of Cornelius; to aid in preparing a people who shall be ready for the Lord at his apocalypse; to keep them informed of the signs of its approach; to pull down all the strongholds of error in the way; to cast down reasonings and every presumption that exalteth itself against the knowledge of the Deity; to bring into captivity every thought, unto the obedience of the Christ; and to oppose the clergy in all their claims to Christianity and a divine appointment to teach the way of life.
This is our mission, and, we presume, that if it be of God...he has chosen just the sort of instrument, crooked as some may deem it, best suited for the work and the exigency of the times.
[The foregoing was written in 1861, for The Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, but did not appear, in consequence of the suspension of that publication, on the outbreak of the American war].
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, May 1869
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 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;
Every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God
The serpent in the flesh shows itself in individuals in all the colours of its skin. It manifests itself in all the deceptions men practice upon themselves and one another. Its most insidious and dangerous manifestations emanate from the pulpit, and ecclesiastical thrones. In these, the serpent presents himself to mankind, presumptuously entertaining them with things he does not understand.
From thence he delights them with the assurance of wisdom upon principles in harmony with their nature. "God doth not mean," saith he, "exactly what He says. Trouble not your consciences about the letter of His word. He knows that the circumstances in which you are placed prevent a rigid construction of it.
Besides, the times are changed, and the world is better than it used to be. He takes the will for the deed. The Spirit is everything; the letter is nothing; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. Eat, then, and drink, and be merry. Be diligent in business, fervent in the cause of your church, serving your clergy; and when you die, ye shall be as gods in the elysian fields!"
But, the serpent in the flesh manifests itself in all the high places of the earth. It obtrudes itself upon all occasions, and through all the channels of human life. Popes, cardinals, and priests, bishops, ministers, and deacons, emperors, kings, and presidents, with all who sustain them, and execute their behests, are but the fleshly media through which the thinking of the flesh finds expression.
Elpis Israel 1.3.
These were the strongholds against which he was waging war. He could see them clearly, although those who were afflicted with them could not. They exist In every heart and mind. He knew where the trouble In Corinth lay, and he knew the only way to correct it, if it ever was to be corrected, and he had to reach their heart to do it.
Each victory must be an individual one. One at a time he would win them over. He was laboring, as he said, to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. He knew that any victory less than this was a hollow one, not worth winning, for it would not be reaching deep enough. He knew that if he could not convince and inspire them to the point of eager, anxious submission to the will of God in all things, then he had not really won them at all, and though superficially "in the Truth" they were still outside the life-giving grace of God.
Therefore, in spite of the taunts of those who dared him to use his boasted authority, he patiently continued to beseech them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. *
This is what Paul laboured for among the Corinthian believers. He would not be diverted from this goal. This was the "mark of the high calling of God In Christ Jesus" to which he patiently and earnestly pressed forward.
At the beginning of his first letter he said--
"I beseech you that ye all speak the same thing -- that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
The only way this can be accomplished is, as he says, to--
"Bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
The essential unity of the body, without which it cannot live and thrive, depends upon a freewill allegiance of each member to the one divine rule of judgment. The opposition of any to any part of the revealed divine mind makes unity impossible.
This is the one characteristic that distinguishes the Ecclesia of God from all human organizations -- the mind of God as the basis of union and source of unity. Each member of the body, therefore, shares in the responsibility for the unity and health of the whole, and must make it his primary aim in life to develop and preserve that essential unity on divine things. "If any man speak," says the Apostle, -- let him speak as the oracles of God." Within those oracles is unity, and if it is ever to be found it must be found there. Everything outside of them is chaos. *
God's law is very thorough. No surface obedience will meet its demands. It addresses itself to the root of all motive. Unless the heart is reached, and rightly influenced, there can be no acceptable service.
The truth must be affectionately believed-no mere intellectual assent will suffice. When believed, there must follow a similar joyous heart-rendered obedience-Hypocrisy is a certain prelude to shameful condemnation.
Two illustrations will evidence the piercing character of divine law. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Christ's comment upon this is, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Again, "Forgive men their trespasses." In reference to this Christ said, "If ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother," the anger of God abideth upon you.
And so with the whole round of our obligations. Pray let us examine ourselves. "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." It can, however, be reformed, provided its owner be willing to submit to the self-abnegating process which the word inculcates. To act as though God were like ourselves-able only to judge by appearances-is fatal. The day that is coming will reveal to such as think thus, appalling things! Our Lord is coming, "who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise of God."
The Christadelphian, Jan 1887. p17.
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
7 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.
8 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:
9 That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.
10 For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.
11 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.
12 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.
Expressed clearly in this way, the folly of this course is obvious. For measurement to have any meaning at all it must be according to a recognized and unchanging standard. There is no point in measuring two things against each other when the measurements of both are in question. Therefore, we can never measure one brother against another, or one ecclesia against another. Just because one exceeds the other will be no proof that either is acceptable or begins to measure up to the true standard.
There is only one true rule of measurement, and that is the standard God has laid down. It is a humiliating standard for the flesh. Many complain that it is very discouraging to measure things by this standard, but still it is the only safe and scriptural course. "If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged," Paul tells them; and James says, "So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the perfect law of liberty" -- the law of perfection that will bring liberty to those that love it -- (1 Cor. 11:31; Jam. 1:25; 2:12).
Let us never be afraid of facing the true measurement, but rather seek it and apply it daily, ever striving, in the power of God, to attain to the full stature of the perfect man in Christ Jesus. Let us talk no more of discouragement, but let us glory in the exalted standards God has set -- the standards to which, it is promised, we shall some day attain, if we now strive toward them and confess their truth and desirability, and do not attempt to confuse and obscure them to satisfy the flesh.
God will give us no reward we have not honestly labored toward. He will not force perfection upon us if we do not strive after it now. *
13 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.
14 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:
15 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,
16 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.
17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
There is nothing to glory of outside of God; all outside of God is shame. There are only two kinds of activity -- that which is done through God and that which is done contrary to God. In the former, the glory is clearly God's -- in the latter, there is no glory at all. There may appear a range of neutral ground between, but the Scriptures rule this out and tell us that what we do not consciously bring into the first category must necessarily fall into the second. *
* Bro Growcott - The Test of Love
18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.