Read 10:1-6. In this passage the Apostle Paul uses the expressions, "wage war", "the weapons we fight with", or "demolish strongholds." What kind of war is Paul talking about? What are the weapons he fights with? What is the purpose of the war Paul is referring to?
Read verses 7-11. What do some say about Paul? What does this show us about them? What is Paul's response to them?
Read verses 12-18. What does Paul expect them [i.e., Corinthian brothers and sisters] to do (or be)? What does it mean to "boast in the Lord"? What is Paul's boasting in the Lord?
Read 11:1-6. What is godly jealousy? Why is Paul jealous of them?
Read verses 7-15. Why does Paul choose to preach the gospel “free of charge”?
Read verses 16-21a and think about the statement: “you put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.” Paul says, “To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!” What does Paul mean by this admission?
Read verses 21b-30. What does this passage tell us about Paul as a shepherd for God’s flock?
This passage says that Paul was filled with godly jealousy for the Corinthians and so prays for them. He has seven prayer topics for them. Once upon a time a woman living in La Jolla in San Diego County became jealous of her ex-husband sleeping with another woman. One morning in flames of jealousy she drove down to his place, ran into the bedroom, and gunned down the two of them who were still in bed.
Thus far the Apostle Paul prayed that the Corinthians would be united with Jesus Christ as pure virgins. But they were flirting with someone else. Being a godly man Paul had a godly jealousy for them. In godly jealousy he shed many tears. And he prayed for them that they would repent and turn to Christ. In the passagehe shares seven prayer topics with them.
First, he prays that they would be obedient to Christ (10:1-6)
In 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 the Apostle Paul speaks of the spiritual war. He also talks about the spiritual weapons that fight the spiritual war. Knowing that the spiritual war takes place in man’s thought world, he shares with them the prayer topic to make every thought obedient to Christ. The question for us then is, “How can I do that? There are zillion thoughts arising and disappearing in my mind. How on earth can I make all of them obedient to Christ?”
Here is the answer. Look at verse 5. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. And we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The Bible says that Jesus is God Incarnate for John 1:18 reads, “No one has ever seen God, but God the one and only, who is at the Father’s side has made him known.” (John 1:18) Similarly the Apostle Paul says in Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being.” So each time you are confused about God, you can take a look at Jesus Christ. Then confusion will disappear. You can have a clear idea about who God is.
This observation shows us the way to prevent our thoughts from being rebellious against the knowledge of God, but rather to make all of them “obedient to Jesus Christ,” that is, by “FIXING OUR THOUGHTS ON JESUS.” Figuratively speaking, our thoughts are like wild animals. So the call to make “every” thought obedient to Christ is like asking all the wild animals in the whole world to be fully tamed. This sounds like an impossible mission. In my backyard a lot of possums are hanging around. And none of them obey me. How can you tame and even make “all the wild animals” obedient to a single person, Jesus Christ? But nothing is impossible with God. And God’s way to make every thought obedient to Christ is to have “our thoughts” fixed on Jesus.
Last Monday, I lost my eye glasses. So I always thought about my eye glasses. Then all kinds of evil thoughts came to mind: “Why are you so stupid?” And, “Are you already developing Alzheimer’s disease?” And, “If I were still young I could have LASIK surgery and get rid of these stupid eyeglasses. But I am too old for that. Oh, my life is so miserable.” These thoughts ruined the whole morning. But on Mondays I work on the Sunday message. Reluctantly, I started meditating on 2 Corinthians 10. Meditating on God’s word helped me to take my thoughts off of the eye glasses and fix them on Jesus. Then Jesus, the author of all thoughts, tamed all of my wild thoughts. Not only that, but Jesus got rid of all the bad thoughts and instead let a lot of wonderful thoughts come into my mind. He reminded me that I have not only physical eyes but spiritual eyes. He also reminded me of the spiritual eye glasses, that is, faith in the Lord. By wearing my spiritual eye glasses, I can see the things of God, which are so wonderful. As I fixed my thoughts on Jesus another inspiration came to me based on Jesus’ grace and work in the life of Fanny J. Crosby. She became blind at an early age. Because of her physical blindness she did not have to see and think about all kinds of mundane things. She only thought about the things of God. By default she had to fix all of her thoughts on God, who is the source of all that is perfectly beautiful. As she had her thoughts fixed on God, God started filling her mind, soul, and spirit with all the wonders of God, so throughout her life she was able to compose more than 8,000 songs of praise.
Second, he prays that the Corinthians would be good Christians not only in speech, but in actions (7-11)
In verses 7-11 the Apostle Paul comments on what some in Corinth say about him, that is, that his letters are weighty and forceful, but when Paul meets people face to face he is “timid” and “unimpressive.” Someone even said, “His speech amounts to nothing.” But Paul says that what he is in his letters while he is physically absent, he is going to be in actions when he is physically present with the Corinthians.
Here Paul puts speech and actions side by side. In doing so, Paul wants the Corinthians to be not only smooth talkers but powerful in actions. Paul does not want them to be mere talkers but powerful doers.
Jesus was powerful in word and deed (Luke 24:19). The Apostle Paul prayed to copy Jesus’ example. Thus he was forceful in his letters. At the same time he strove hard to be powerful in actions. In contrast, the Corinthians were excellent in speech but very weak in actions.
Third, Paul prays that the Corinthians would grow in faith so that they would be powerful in actions and work for the Lord’s world mission purpose (12-18).
Practically, then, how can one be powerful both in word and actions? In verse 15b, the Apostle Paul answers the question. Look at verse 15. “Our hope is that as your faith continues to grow our activity among you will greatly expand.” [Say, “activity”.] Here the Apostle Paul says that as faith grows activity expands. Growth in faith is the key to expansion in activity. For this reason it has been said, “Faith produces action.” By the same token when faith is down, power is down. When power is down, activity is down. In the same way Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” This passage teaches us that each time we feel weak so that we are not motivated to get anything done, we must check our faith in the Lord, for when our faith fails our actions will also fail.
This truth also tells us how to help those who talk big but act little. When we see people talking big but acting little, it is so easy to pass judgment on them. But, instead of passing judgment on them we must pray that they would grow in faith.
In addition each time we see someone talking big, we should convince ourselves that that person has a great desire to get something done. Their big talk is a good sign that they want to do something great. The only problem with them is that their faith is weak. So they talk so much and perform so little. The reality with them is that the desire is there but the strength to do it is not. So, first thing first, that is, acknowledge their potential and then encourage them to grow in faith so that as they have faith in the Lord, the Lord will work on their potential and empower them to do something truly great.
Simon Peter, the top disciple of Jesus, is a case in point. He had the desire to do something big. So he used to talk big. Jesus saw the great potential in him. Jesus challenged him to live by faith in God. Thanks to Jesus he grew in faith. Thanks to his faith, he became a great apostle; by faith he stood on his feet, and led thousands of people to Christ.
Fourth, Paul prays that the Corinthians will be united with their husband Christ as pure virgins (11:1-6).
Practically, however, faith does not grow naturally. It comes with many enemies trying to disrupt it from growing. Speaking of the enemies of faith, in 2 Corinthians 11:1-6, the Apostle Paul says, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those ‘super-apostles.’” This passage says that Satan [by serpent, Paul means Satan who tempted Eve to fall] disrupts man from growing in faith.
How does Satan disrupt you from growing in faith? We can describe it with two D’s: deception and difference: Satan deceives people to believe not in Jesus, but in something or someone else. In order to distract people and make them distant and disconnected from Jesus, Satan raises false prophets, false teachers and false apostles, who preach a different Jesus and a different gospel in a different spirit. Their spirits are all different. They look beautiful on the surface, inside they are wicked
But the Apostle Paul preached the real Jesus saying that Jesus is the Christ. He is the Savior of this world who was appointed by God to save people from their sins. The Apostle Peter proclaimed the same truth about Jesus when he said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When one believes in Jesus who has taken away the sins of the world, God gives him the Holy Spirit who in turn washes him of sins, so that he would be ready to be united with Jesus as a pure virgin. This is the gospel. All other gospels are false gospels. For this reason, in a godly jealousy, Paul prays that they would have faith in this gospel, so that they would be united with Jesus Christ, their husband, as pure virgins.
Fifth, Paul prays that the Corinthians would respect a man like the Apostle Paul who preaches the gospel “free of charge” (7-15).
The beauty of the gospel is its graceful nature. In his grace Jesus lowered himself to the lowest place, in order to elevate believers to an exalted position (i.e., the position of being a child of God). In the name of Jesus the Apostle Paul did the same thing for the Corinthians. In order to elevate the Corinthians to the position of the pure virgin bride of Jesus Christ, he lowered himself to a servant’s position, serving the gospel free of charge. The Corinthians should have been very thankful for the Apostle Paul’s humble service. But how did they treat Paul? To our great surprise, they looked down on Paul. They said, “Look! His speech amounts to nothing.”
Then they flirted with the so-called super-apostles, not knowing that these super apostles were false teachers, the secret agents of the devil, a bunch of wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Apostle Paul was afraid that the Corinthians became so gullible as to follow these wolves.
Sixth, Paul prays that the Corinthians would defend the gospel which is the only way to keep men free from the power of sin and death (16-21a).
In verses 16-21a the Apostle Paul warns the Corinthians against following false teachers, for they preach a different gospel which only enslaves men to the power of sin and Satan. The Apostle Paul’s statement in verse 20 is particularly descriptive of the danger the Corinthians were exposed to: “In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.” What Paul says here is the problem which is repeated in human history again and again. Just think about what most of the Israelites did right after the Exodus. In Exodus 1-11 the Israelites lived as a slave nation under Pharaoh. There Pharaoh enslaved them as slaves in a slave market. Pharaoh exploited them and took advantage of them. Pharaoh slapped them in the face. The slavery was so torturous and painful that they cried out to God. In his mercy God sent Moses to Egypt. Through Moses God commanded the Israelites to sacrifice a Passover lamb. By faith they obeyed. Blessing their faith in the blood of the lamb, God set the Israelites free from the iron rule of Pharaoh. Then in desert lands the Lord provided them with all things necessary to survive. As a result, under the wings of God’s grace and truth, the Israelites could enjoy freedom and journey to the Promised Land. But some of them did not like the new freedom in the Lord. They did not appreciate the grace of God’s salvation. They complained to God and God’s servant Moses saying that life in Egypt was far better than life in the Lord. So they repeatedly said, “Let us go back to Egypt.”
This episode indicates that that slave mentality dies hard. But the gospel message is always the right medicine to destroy the slave mentality built inside of us. For this reason the Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthians not to put up with false teachers but accept Paul and even work with him to defend the gospel.
Seventh, Paul prays that the Corinthians would participate in the sufferings of Jesus Christ (21b-30).
In verses 21b-33 the Apostle Paul describes how he had to suffer for the sake of the gospel. In reading the passage a question arises: by nature no one likes to suffer, yet why does Paul volunteer to suffer for the gospel so much? Two things can be said: first, when the Apostle Paul did not know the gospel he suffered so much because of the power of sin working inside him. In order to overcome the power of sin he made super human efforts. Yet nothing helped. But after meeting Jesus, the source of the gospel, he was completely set free from the iron shackle of sin. Second, knowing how painful it is to live without the gospel he strove hard to get the gospel to all people willingly and joyfully, braving all sorts of difficulties. .
It has been said that when the cause is great, troubles in serving the cause are a trifle. Expressing the same truth, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” For this reason the Apostle Paul shares with the Corinthians how much he had to suffer for the gospel. The message for them and for us then is that it is even a great privilege for us to participate in the sufferings for the gospel, for suffering for the gospel deepens the joy of salvation within us, while it also results in more and more people drinking from the well spring of God’s salvation.
In conclusion, we have covered the Apostle Paul’s seven prayer topics. We can apply these prayer topics to us by asking ourselves seven questions:
Am I obedient to Christ, particularly in my thoughts?
Are my actions for the Lord?
Am I growing in faith?
How is my relationship with Jesus Christ?
Do I share the gospel with others?
Do I defend the gospel message?
Am I willing to suffer (even to the point of risking my life) for the sake of the gospel?
If the answers to all of the above questions are “Yes,” then you are a truly blessed person.