Paul defends his ministry against the false preachers who despised him, opposed him and judged him by appearance. Spurgeon once said, "The best way to expose a crooked stick is to lay a straight stick down beside it." Every generation is plagued with false preachers and religious hucksters (Matt. 7:15; 2 Peter 2:1-3).
(Vs. 8.) When God calls a man to be a prophet, an apostle, an evangelist or a pastor (Eph. 4:11-13), he is pleased to give that man gifts, ability and certain authority (2 Cor. 13:10; Heb. 13:7, 17). This power is not for the destruction, oppression, nor discomfort of the flock, but for their edification, to promote their faith, holiness, comfort and eternal salvation. Paul was not ashamed to speak of, nor to exercise this authority. Let all who have office or authority in the church remember that with authority goes responsibility to edify and unify, not destroy.
(Vs. 9, 10.) This was the charge against Paul which came from his enemies and false preachers: "When he is absent and writes to the church, his letters are weighty, powerful, forceful and demanding of obedience to God, yet when he is present, he does not impress men with his appearance, grandeur and forceful oratory, but rather his bodily presence is small, frail and old, and his speech is humble, without impressive persuasion and contemptible to those who are looking for a hero to worship." What they thought to be an insult to Paul was a strong recommendation of his true call of God (1 Cor. 15:9, 10; Eph. 3: 8; 1 Tim. 1:15; Phil. 3:3). God never intended us to be impressed with men, to adore men, nor to be obsessed with preachers, but to worship only Christ (2 Cor. 4:7; 1 Cor. 2:4, 5).
(Vs. 11.) Paul declares, "But those who judge by appearance only and think, because I walk in humility before God and men, that I am not an apostle with due authority, let those people realize that what I say in letters, I will put into deeds when I am present." There comes a time to deal forcefully with rebellion and disobedience (1 Cor. 5:4, 5).
(Vs. 12.) Paul refuses to evaluate either himself or his ministry by the method used by these teachers of false religion to commend themselves. They were pleased with themselves, prided themselves on their righteousness and estimated their value in the kingdom of God by comparing themselves with themselves and others. Paul denounces this as unwise (Isa. 65:5; Luke 16:15; 18:9). If we have any grace, gifts, or ability, they are given and sustained by God, and even at our best we are all altogether vanity in his sight (l Cor. 4:7; Ps. 39:5). Feeding our egos by comparing ourselves with others is foolish.
(Vs. 13.) They had among them men who boasted immeasurably, or beyond the gifts which they had. Paul had a better rule for his conduct: not to boast of any gifts, graces, or authority other than those God had obviously given to him and not to go beyond his God-given commission as to duties and place of service. His authority and ministry included the Corinthians. What an important lesson for all believers! Each member of the body has a place and a service to perform. Learn what it is and seek not to be otherwise nor to envy another (1 Cor. 12:12-18).
(Vs. 14.) Paul declares that he had not gone beyond the bounds set for him by the purpose and providence of God in edifying and instructing the church at Corinth, for he was indeed sent by God to them (Acts 18:l, 9-11). Another evidence of his being in the will of God by ministering among them was that God had blessed his labours with success (Matt. 7:16).
(Vs. 15, 16.) When Paul rejoiced in the Corinthians as his children and converts (whom he had begotten through the gospel of Christ), he was not taking credit for the labours of other men, as did these false preachers, who, when they came to Corinth, found a church planted with many believers. Yet these men claimed the Corinthians as their own, belittled Paul, and troubled the church with their errors. His hope concerning this church was that as they were grounded in truth and grown in Spirit, his field of labour would be enlarged greatly, and both he and they would be the instruments of God to preach the gospel in regions beyond, where the name of Christ was not known. He was not interested in interfering with, nor boasting in, work already done by others before he came on the scene.
(Vs. 17.) But none of us really has anything in which to glory (Jer. 9:23, 24; I Cor. 1:29-31), neither Paul who planted nor Apollos who watered, for it is God who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-7). We have no reason to glory in ourselves nor in our works, but only to thank, praise and give glory to God, who is pleased to use human vessels to accomplish his divine purpose.
(Vs. 18.) It is not the man who praises and commends himself who is approved and accepted, but it is the person whom the Lord enables, approves and commends (Prov. 27:2). Self-commendation means nothing; rather than lifting us, it really lowers us in the estimation of true believers and is nauseous to God.