What does 2 Corinthians chapter 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).