Paul met with much opposition at Corinth from false preachers and teachers. He had many enemies there who boasted in themselves and refuted both Paul and his doctrine. They envied him and did all that they could to undermine him and lessen his influence. They represented him as a harsh, mean-spirited man and insinuated that he had neither the authority nor the courage which he claimed. In this chapter he vindicates himself and arms the Corinthians against these self-seekers.
(Vs. 1.) Paul's enemies evidently had charged him with being meek, gentle and humble when he was present with them, but when he was away, he wrote forceful, bold and condemning letters. Is not this the example of our Lord, who never compromised the truth about men, yet was meek and gentle, kind and patient toward all? When we find ourselves inclined to be rough or angry with men, let us think of the gentleness of Christ, be sensible of our own infirmities and yet be bold in our quest for Godliness in spirit and deed (2 Tim. 2:24, 25; 4:1, 2).
(Vs. 2.) He urges them to hear him, follow him as he follows Christ and submit to his teaching, that he might not, when he comes among them, have to use that power and authority given him by Christ (Heb. 13:7, 17). He does not want to deal boldly with them all in general, as he plans to deal with some who have accused him of acting according to the flesh (1 Cor. 4:21). These false preachers accused Paul of the very thing of which they were guilty, that of seeking his own worldly interest and secular advantage and employing craftiness and fleshly wisdom and methods to accomplish it (2 Cor. 1:12).
(Vs. 3.) There is a difference in walking in the flesh and walking after the flesh or warring after the flesh (Rom. 8:1,4.6). Every believer walks in the flesh, in the body, in a state of imperfection, attended with many weaknesses and infirmities, but he does not walk after the flesh in that his fleshly appetite, desires and pride are not his end, goal and objective. The glory of God and a godly way of life are the desires of every renewed heart (Phil. 3:10-14). Nor does the believer war after the flesh! The work of the ministry and the Christian life are spiritual warfare (1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:3, 4), but this battle is not fought upon fleshly principles, using fleshly methods, nor yet for fleshly honour and glory. We seek his glory and the true salvation of sinners (Jer. 9:23,24; l Cor. 10:31).
(Vs. 4.) The goal of the Christian ministry is not carnal but spiritual. We seek not lip-service from men but heart love to Christ. It is not our goal to bring men to outward morality and reformation alone, but that they might be new creatures in Christ, delivered from the kingdom of evil to become bond-slaves of Jesus Christ, motivated to holiness and godliness by new and spiritual inward principles. Therefore, our weapons and methods are not carnal nor of the flesh, but spiritual (John 6:63). The strongholds of Satan are ignorance, prejudice, vain imagination, carnal wisdom and beloved lusts. These can only be pulled down by the mighty Spirit of God, bestowing grace and life through the gospel. Our weapons in this warfare are the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God), prayer, gifts of ministering and love to (Christ and his people (Eph. 6:11-15). We dare not depend on anything the flesh can produce. If God does not work in us and through us, we labour in vain.
(Vs. 5.) The preaching of the gospel of Christ is the power of God to destroy the strongholds of Satan in the minds and hearts of men, casting down every proud thought of self-righteousness, every high and lofty reasoning of human wisdom, as opposed to his revealed truth, every reliance on our works or deeds which might be a rival to his grace in Christ, every high and haughty look or feeling of confidence in what we were or have become, and bringing us, mind and heart, thought and attitude, into a full and complete dependence upon and obedience to Christ Jesus (I Cor. 1:26-31; Col. 2:9, 10). Repentance is the gift of God; faith is the gift of God; eternal life is the gift of God. All that we are, know and shall ever be are gifts of God and the work of God in us through, by and for the glory of our Lord Jesus (Eph. 2:8-10). We have nothing of which to boast in the flesh (1 Cor. 4:7). What we do is in response to what he has done in us and for us (1 John 4:19).
(Vs. 6.) The apostle refers here to church censure and excommunication to be exercised upon those who depart from the gospel of God's grace. Paul would not tolerate another gospel, the dishonouring of the name of Christ, nor a disorderly walk among church members. These offenders are to be dealt with by the church, not hastily, but prayerfully, patiently and only after our own submission and obedience to Christ are secured and complete. Church censure and excommunication are painful but necessary where the honour of Christ, the glory of God, the well-being of the church and the testimony of the gospel are concerned.
(Vs. 7.) "Do you look upon and judge men by outward appearance?" (1 Sam. 16:7; Luke 16:15.) Are you so weak in spiritual wisdom that you judge men by their faces, their outward appearance, their claims and their voices and words? A man may appear to be gracious and not have the principle of grace in his heart. A man may appear to be learned in the Scriptures and not know Christ. Don't be misled by the outward appearance of some; redemption is a heart work. "If any among you is confident that he has an interest in Christ, is redeemed by his blood and is a believer, let him reflect and remind himself that on the same basis (which is the mercy and grace of God in person and work of Christ) we, too, have a saving interest in him." We must not think that none belong to Christ but ourselves. By the grace of God we are what we are, and his grace is effectual to save even those who differ from us.