SERIES: 2 Corinthians 10:1-6
Paul encountered critics and detractors throughout his life of service for Jesus. After reading through our passage several times over a number of days, I began to believe that examining in more detail the criticism he faced (especially from those in Corinth) would be helpful in gaining a better understanding of 2 Corinthians 10:1-6.
And so I made a list of observations of the accusations Paul’s critics and detractors leveled against him – taken from Acts 18:1-7, the historical description of Paul’s 18-month stay in Corinth, and from Paul’s first and second letters to the Corinthian church.
In Acts 18:1-7, we can discover the nature of the resistance Paul received from the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles in Corinth:
- The Jews resisted Paul’s message and blasphemed
- The Jews threatened him with physical harm (cf. verse 10 where God told Paul that He was with him and that no one would attack Paul in order to harm him – so prior to this, Paul must have feared physical attack)
- The Jews rose up against Paul and took him before the judgment seat of the city (this seems to suggest that they physically restrained him)
- Gallio’s perception was that the Jews’ resistance to Paul and his message had to do with “words and names and Jewish law”
In addition, we can read through both of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and capture further insights. As I was reading through 1 and 2 Corinthians, it occurred to me that while the resistance described in Acts 18:1-7 came from Jews and God-fearing Gentiles (non-Jewish people who worshipped the God of Israel and kept some of the Jewish law – perhaps the regulations pertaining to the Sabbath and dietary restrictions – but did not completely convert – perhaps foregoing circumcision), the resistance described in 1 and 2 Corinthians may have come from those within the church.
This does not necessarily mean that the resistance came from believers. In my opinion, it is a mistake to believe that everyone who attended gatherings of the church in the first century were believers. But whether or not the criticism of Paul came from believers or unbelievers, the audience Paul is writing to in 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 was in danger of being persuaded by Paul’s critics.
Here are some of the criticisms Paul described or alluded to in the two letters to the Corinthians that we have in our New Testament:
- Jews were saying Paul was not providing a sign (to prove the truth of his message?) – 1 Corinthians 1:22
- Gentiles were saying Paul’s message was too basic (he wasn’t talking about the “wisdom” reserved for those who were really spiritual) – 1 Corinthians 1:22
- People were saying that Paul had abandoned the Corinthian church – that he would not return – 1 Corinthians 4:18
- People were claiming that they knew more than Paul – 1 Corinthians 8:2
- People were saying that Paul was not a real apostle (perhaps because he had not been a follower of Jesus when Jesus was on earth) – 1 Corinthians 9:2
- People were saying that Paul was a freeloader – 1 Corinthians 9:3-6
- People were saying that Paul incorrectly preached that Christ was resurrected from the dead – 1 Corinthians 15:12
- People were saying that the resurrection of Christ was only a spiritual event – it wasn’t physical – 1 Corinthians 15:35ff
- People were saying Paul was flaky – 2 Corinthians 1:17
- Were some people saying that Paul had not come with letters of recommendation (as perhaps other apostles did)? – 2 Corinthians 3:1
- People were saying that Paul’s appearance was not impressive – 2 Corinthians 5:12
- People were claiming that Paul had wronged some of the Corinthians, corrupted them, took advantage of them, and condemned them – 2 Corinthians 7:2-3
- Some said Paul walked according to the flesh, that he was not very “spiritual” – 2 Corinthians 10:2
- Some said Paul was two-faced – meek and gentle when he was with the Corinthians, but bold when absent from them – 2 Corinthians 10:2
- People were saying that Paul was unskilled in his speech – 2 Corinthians 11:6
- People were saying Paul was foolish – 2 Corinthians 11:16
- People were asking Paul to prove that his words were from Christ – 2 Corinthians 13:3
Continuing the theme of how 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 might be helpful to those who face mental health struggles, I believe that the sense of loneliness that many feel is at least a contributing factor to depression. As I said in the last article in this series, I don’t consider myself an expert on mental health (and in many ways, my comments in this article and elsewhere on this website represent an exploration on my part of various passages of Scripture, opinions, ideas, etc.), but in my observations of someone close to me who struggles with depression, I do think loneliness can play a large part in both the genesis of and a person’s ongoing battle with depression.
The loneliness can come from more than one source (I’m not placing these in any particular order and not suggesting that one source is more important than others – or that these are all the possible sources):
- One’s general personality type can contribute to loneliness. Someone who has an introverted personality will have a natural tendency at times to isolate themselves from others.
- Those who struggle with mental health may have a tendency to surround themselves with others who have mental health struggles. This is not surprising as it can provide a safe environment for those who suffer – they know that those around them will not stigmatize them for their suffering. And yet, always associating with people who are similar to yourself can also contribute to loneliness. Especially when those who you associate with are often coping with their own struggles.
- The church, to its shame, does not always provide such a safe, healing community for those who are at war with debilitating thoughts. One of the most important things for one who suffers from depression is to realize that they are the recipients of a love beyond their comprehension, beyond their wildest dreams. God’s design is that His love for us would be revealed in the midst of His community so that we would experience a tangible expression of that love. But if the church follows societal trends and stigmatizes mental illness, how is the one who suffers to experience His love as it is expressed through the community of believers?
- When people in our social circles criticize us and act as our detractors – as they were treating Paul in our passage – we have a natural tendency to distance ourselves from people (even those who have not criticized us). This can further contribute to our sense of loneliness.
I wonder if Paul, when he was describing the weapons of his warfare, was perhaps thinking of his battle against thoughts he experienced when considering the words of his critics and detractors.
Whatever the source of your loneliness — critics and detractors, introverted personality, lack of friends who are not struggling themselves, the failure of the church to embrace you and understand your battle — I would encourage you to ultimately find the salve for your loneliness in your relationship with the Lord.A word for the depressed and anxious – God makes a home for the lonely. Psalm 68:6 #ahomeforthelonely Click To Tweet
When you feel lonely, turn to Him (Psalm 25:16). If your closest friends and even your family forsake you, the Lord will receive you (Psalm 17:10). He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), and He makes a home for the lonely (Psalm 68:6).
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