Paul’s Apostolic Authority
Open Your Bible
2 Corinthians 10:1-18, Jeremiah 9:23-24, Ephesians 2:8-9
BY Guest Writer
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 10:1-18, Jeremiah 9:23-24, Ephesians 2:8-9
Many of us who engage with social media have seen it: folks emboldened by relative anonymity in the virtual world of the internet, or by the perceived distance from those with whom they interact. On social media a person can have a mouthful of opinionated vitriol to spew, but face-to-face they’re silent as a lamb. Those folks have what kids today call “Twitter fingers” (derivative of the phrase “trigger fingers”), a term used to describe someone who is always at-the-ready to take a proverbial “shot” at someone else on social media, while hiding behind an online persona or handle.
I wonder if the Corinthians church thought Paul was guilty of the same kind of communication. His letters to them are certainly stern and authoritative, but in person, the apostle seems a good bit more tame. But Paul doesn’t take their accusations lying down. In 2 Corinthians 10, he fires back at the Corinthians’ claims, saying they are off-base because they are judging strength and boldness in the same way the world does. The world expects strength and authority to manifest as brute force or powerful, charming speech, but Paul argues that those things are inferior to the spiritual authority he’s been given in Christ. The apostle’s strength and authority are waging war in the spiritual realm—where the real work is done.
Paul’s words are strong, and they should be! He should speak as strongly as possible because he’s asserting that his authority comes from the Lord! It was by God’s power that Paul was even able to evangelize and establish the Corinthian church in the first place. It was because of the Lord’s grace that Paul had the strength, wisdom, and patience to have a shepherding presence for their community.
The Corinthian church had it all wrong. They thought Paul couldn’t support such bold words with action, and therefore, his spiritual authority shouldn’t be taken seriously. In truth, they should’ve been more eager to submit to his leadership because his authority was manifested with demonstrations of spiritual power. In fact, their own Christian lives were the fruit of Paul’s boldness and authority.
Friends, I think the same is true of us. Yes, we’re supposed to be marked by our meekness and gentleness and patience, but let’s not mistake those characteristics for weakness. On the contrary, when we’ve cultivated the fruit of the Spirit of God, we are actually reflecting the God of heaven and earth more accurately. We don’t have to be the best speaker, the most outgoing, or the smartest person in the room to move and act in the power of the Spirit. I’d argue that the less emphasis we put on our own strength to win the favor of people, the more we rely on the Spirit of God to empower us to be the people God has called us to be. That way, whenever victory is won, all glory goes to God!
So be encouraged, and don’t worry about impressing others. Let us boast in the power of God instead, which lives in each one of us (2 Corinthians 10:17). May we be quick to boast of knowing Him, enjoying Him, being found in Him, and loved by Him (Jeremiah 9:24).
Erin Rose lives and works in vibrant Richmond, Virginia, where she serves as Worship & Teaching Pastor at East End Fellowship. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and is currently enrolled as a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Erin is a member of Urban Doxology, a ministry that is writing the soundtrack of reconciliation for the church. Her greatest joy lies in leading God’s people in authentic worship, and teaching them the truth found in God’s Word. She also enjoys eating delicious food, spending time with loved ones, and indulging in the occasional Netflix binge.