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2 Corinthians 10

New International Version

1 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you--I, Paul, who am 'timid' when face to face with you, but 'bold' toward you when away! 2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. 7 You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. 8 So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. 9 I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, 'His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.' 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. 12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. 14 We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. 15 Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else's territory. 17 But, 'Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.' 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
English Standard Version

1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. 7 Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 8 For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. 9 I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. 12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
King James Version

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: 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: 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; 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. 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. 18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
New American Standard Bible

1 Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ-- I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! 2 I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. 7 You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ's, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ's, so also are we. 8 For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame, 9 for I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters. 10 For they say, 'His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.' 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present. 12 For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. 13 But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; 15 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men's labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, 16 so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. 17 But HE WHO BOASTS IS TO BOAST IN THE LORD. 18 For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.
New Living Translation

1 Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ--though I realize you think I am timid in person and bold only when I write from far away. 2 Well, I am begging you now so that when I come I won't have to be bold with those who think we act from human motives. 3 We are human, but we don't wage war as humans do. 4 We use God's mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient. 7 Look at the obvious facts. Those who say they belong to Christ must recognize that we belong to Christ as much as they do. 8 I may seem to be boasting too much about the authority given to us by the Lord. But our authority builds you up; it doesn't tear you down. So I will not be ashamed of using my authority. 9 I'm not trying to frighten you by my letters. 10 For some say, 'Paul's letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!' 11 Those people should realize that our actions when we arrive in person will be as forceful as what we say in our letters from far away. 12 Oh, don't worry; we wouldn't dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! 13 We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you. 14 We are not reaching beyond these boundaries when we claim authority over you, as if we had never visited you. For we were the first to travel all the way to Corinth with the Good News of Christ. 15 Nor do we boast and claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow so that the boundaries of our work among you will be extended. 16 Then we will be able to go and preach the Good News in other places far beyond you, where no one else is working. Then there will be no question of our boasting about work done in someone else's territory. 17 As the Scriptures say, 'If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.' 18 When people commend themselves, it doesn't count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.
Christian Standard Bible

1 Now I Paul, myself, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am humble among you in person but bold toward you when absent. 2 I beg you that when I am present I will not need to be bold with the confidence by which I plan to challenge certain people who think we are behaving according to the flesh. 3 For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, 4 since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. 6 And we are ready to punish any disobedience, once your obedience is complete. 7 Look at what is obvious. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, let him remind himself of this: Just as he belongs to Christ, so do we. 8 For if I boast a little too much about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be put to shame. 9 I don't want to seem as though I am trying to terrify you with my letters. 10 For it is said, "His letters are weighty and powerful, but his physical presence is weak and his public speaking amounts to nothing." 11 Let such a person consider this: What we are in our letters, when we are absent, we will also be in our actions when we are present. 12 For we don't dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure but according to the measure of the area of ministry that God has assigned to us, which reaches even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we had not reached you, since we have come to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We are not boasting beyond measure about other people's labors. On the contrary, we have the hope that as your faith increases, our area of ministry will be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel to the regions beyond you without boasting about what has already been done in someone else's area of ministry. 17 So let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. 18 For it is not the one commending himself who is approved, but the one the Lord commends.

What does 2 Corinthians 10 mean?

False apostles and other critics were challenging Paul's role as a true apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul tackles one of their arguments against him in this chapter. Their attack implies hypocrisy, cowardice, or both. Detractors say Paul was brave when he was away writing letters, but lacking confidence when face to face. Put even more bluntly, Paul quotes them as saying, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is of no account" (2 Corinthians 10:10). The gist of their accusation seems to be that a true apostle should be more impressive in person. Apparently, the false apostles vying for the hearts and minds of the Corinthians were accomplished and forceful speakers. They implied that the Corinthians could ignore Paul's strong letters because he would not be strong enough to back them up when he came in person.

Paul does not argue with the characterization that his letters are strong, compared to his personal conduct. Nor does he deny that he is not impressive in person. Instead, he begins by pointing to the meekness and gentleness of Christ. In doing so, Paul suggests such traits should not be mistaken for weakness. Christ, after all, humbled himself to the point of death, but He was not weak. Along those lines, Paul begs the Corinthians not to make him show how bold and confident he can be in person when he next comes to visit them. He is prepared to be surprisingly brash with those who are accusing him of a lack of integrity (1 Corinthians 10:1–2).

Rivals for the Corinthians' loyalty may see themselves in a competition with Paul, but he understands it to be a war. He will not fight this war with physical weapons, but with spiritual ones. The spiritual weapons he and his associates wield carry the divine power to destroy strongholds of demonic activity. They can even cut through impressive-but-faulty arguments these false apostles are making against the true knowledge of God.

Paul and his fellow warriors will take the Corinthians' very thoughts captive, allowing them to once again believe what is true and return to obeying Christ. With their spiritual weapons and God-given authority as Christ's representatives, they stand ready to punish every disobedience against Christ. This includes both the deceptive false teachers and any believers living in sinful rebellion (2 Corinthians 10:3–6).

After these strong, warlike words, Paul begins to reason with the Corinthians. Are they confident that they belong to Christ? If so, they should remember that he was the one who introduced them to Christ. That means Christ is real in him, as well. He is not a false apostle. Paul's authority as Christ's apostle is real, and he intends to use it to build the Corinthians up, even if that means disciplining them. He is not ashamed of that. His letters are not empty threats meant to frighten them; he will follow through on what he writes (2 Corinthians 10:7–11).

What Paul will not do is to participate in a competition for popularity. His purpose is to lead others to faith in God, not to love of Paul. He won't join in measuring himself against others, bragging about his skills and other blatant self-promotions. From Paul's perspective, he does not need to compete. He has already completed his first mission: to bring the Corinthians to faith in Jesus. His hope now is to bring the gospel to more and more people, maybe with their help (2 Corinthians 10:12–16).

Paul refuses to join in a game of trading boasts with those who challenge him. Instead, he will boast in the Lord. The Corinthians, of all people, should know that Paul has the Lord's approval and that is what matters most of all (2 Corinthians 10:17).