What does 2 Corinthians 10:18 mean?
ESV: For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
NIV: For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
NASB: For it is not the one who commends himself that is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
CSB: For it is not the one commending himself who is approved, but the one the Lord commends.
NLT: When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.
KJV: For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
Verse Commentary:
The bottom line of this passage is that Paul does not need to compete in a bragging contest with opponents in Corinth. Those false teachers may have been skillful by the standards of the day: demonstrating superiority through speaking skill, self-promotion, and tearing down competitors. Commending oneself was an important part of that competition.

Paul has said that he refuses to participate in that competition for several reasons. First, he has already accomplished what he set out to do: leading the Corinthians to faith in Christ. Another reason is that praising oneself does not actually make the person who is boasting worthy of anything. The self-praiser is not approved by anyone except himself. The one who is commended by the Lord, though, is approved by the one who matters most.

Paul is urging the Corinthians to stop allowing shallow showmen to turn their minds away from Paul and, by implication, away from Christ. They should know, better than most, that Paul's role as Christ's representative is genuine. They believed in Christ because of Paul's message. At least for that reason, they should know the Lord has commended Paul. God's approval of Paul should be the only opinion that matters to them.
Verse Context:
Second Corinthians 10:1–18 contains Paul's response to charges against him from critics in Corinth. They claim that though his letters are potent, he is pathetic in person. Paul does not argue either point. However, he issues a stern warning: that he will arrive prepared for boldness in Christ in punishing every disobedience. He describes the conflict with the false apostles as a spiritual war. He and his associates plan to win that battle by capturing the thoughts of the Corinthians again so they will obey Christ. He will not boast to defend himself except in the Lord.
Chapter Summary:
Critics and other opponents in Corinth argue that though Paul's letters are strong and weighty, he is unimpressive in person. In response, Paul warns the Corinthians not to make him show how bold he can be when he arrives. Paul and his partners fight for the truth about God and the gospel. They battle using spiritual weapons that destroy false arguments. He won't trade boasts with the false apostles, but will only boast in the Lord, who approves of him. The Corinthians should know that—they came to Christ as a result of Paul's ministry to them as an apostle.
Chapter Context:
Second Corinthians 10 continues the pattern of Paul's letter, as he deals with one topic after another in an orderly way. After concluding his comments about the contribution to the Christians in Jerusalem, Paul tackles a personal charge against him: that he is too unimpressive in person to be a true apostle of Christ. He insists he will follow through on the strong words in his letters when he comes to see them. He is fighting a spiritual war for the minds of the Corinthians and their obedience to Christ and will not stoop to the blatant self-promotion of the false apostles. This counter of false teachers continue into chapter 11.
Book Summary:
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
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