II Corinthians 10. Power, Authority—and Turf.

Key Notes: Authority as the main problem. Turf is a new idea. Conscience claims priority.

The last three chapters of II Corinthians are a unit in which Paul contrasts his credentials—work, trials, and spiritual focus—with those of fake apostles who are disrupting the Corinthian church. He will use several arguments: authority,  power, turf and personal concern.

10:1–2 He begins by presenting himself with meekness (not weakness) and gentleness (not indifference), although sounding  a warning that he can be as bold in person as he is in his letters.

10:3–6 “Although we live in the flesh….” [not “in the world” (RSV)—a different word in Greek]. The flesh is the unregenerate side of our humanness. The world is the culture of society in opposition to God.
            “…we do not war according to the flesh.”

His weapons have divine power to destroy mental or intellectual strongholds
            To destroy arguments  or reasonings
            To destroy every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God
            To take every thought captive to Christ
            To punish every disobedience after your obedience is complete.
The Corinthian Christians will escape punishment brought on evil-doers.

He uses arguments against arguments, reasoning against reasoning, pulling down every obstacle that pagans raise against the knowledge of God. Paul could use the conventional fleshly methods: money, personality, showmanship,  propaganda and half-truths. He will have none of that. For one thing, he intends to capture minds and bring them to the knowledge of God and under the discipline of Christ. The weapons of the flesh would attach people to the flesh, and to himself. Divine power attaches people to God.

We need to think about that a little. We use fleshly methods all the time to attract people to meetings in order that we may present the Gospel. Almost every evangelistic effort has entertainment to bring people in. What would Paul say? The NT church began with miracles to attract attention. In the Third World today,  miracles,  not spectacles,  attract people to Christ. Should we try to attract people to hear the Gospel with skate-boarders or rock concerts  or a visiting drama team?

God’s power can change the mind. Paul’s mind was completely reversed in three days from being a violent hater of Christ to His most loyal bond-slave. C.S. Lewis found himself being dragged into the Kingdom. Perhaps some of us have had the same experience of God’s power.

10:7–12. They should look at their present situation. God gave Paul authority to build them up. Whether absent and writing boldly or present and talking weakly, the message is the same. It is senseless to compare what he is doing with the fleshly methods of others.

10:13–18 Finally Paul talks about coming all the way to them with the Gospel,  enlarging his field,  intent on  reaching the lands beyond—Italy and Spain. He thinks of Corinth as a launching pad for his further missions to the West. (11:15–16). He does not want his base of support weakened.

This is a problem of turf. Is turf a theological problem? I had not seen it before in NT Scripture. In the OT,  boundaries of the twelve tribes were determined by God. The law of Moses says that land must not be permanently taken from a family group. (Num.36). Paul told the Greeks that God determined the boundaries of their nation-states. (Acts 17:26). Paul says his limits are apportioned by God. (10:15). It had been decided in Jerusalem that Paul and Barnabas would go to the Gentiles and that Peter would go to the Jews. (Gal.2:7–10). But the NT church had no territory—at least until now. Now Paul is feeling pressure from pseudo-Christian leaders crowding into Corinth. IICor.11:13

Turf is an issue everywhere we look. Cats mark their territory. Children want their own rooms. Companies try to protect their markets. Nations fight over their borders. Kashmir is a troubling example. In previous centuries church groups were in contention for mission fields. That would be confusing to their audience which thought they served One Lord. In the last 20 years, however,  there has been much more of a trend toward merging and cooperating not only on the mission field but in local evangelistic efforts. Catholics and Pentecostals are working together in South America.

The big issue is authority. Does Paul’s authority reside in himself? He says God gave him authority to build them up.
“As soon as the problem of authority really lifts its head, all others fall to the rear…..the principle of authority is ultimately the whole religious question. “ (New Dictionary of Theology. SB Ferguson, DF Wright, JI Packer; IVP,’88; p. 64)

The hierarchy of authority is important and controversial.
1.God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the ultimate author and authority.
2.Scripture is God speaking, the Son acting, the Spirit superintending and interpreting.
3.Tradition is the accumulated wisdom of studying and interpreting Scripture. It is the invaluable product of 2000 years of working in Scripture and experience with God. To teach Bible without the benefits of study materials is like trying to build a computer in your garage with no assistance--as if there were no instruction available. Tradition fails only when it becomes independent of Scripture.
4.Faith, I believe, follows next as the personal application of 1–3

Conscience and reason stand apart, and may stand between us and the hierarchy of authority, claiming final authority. Many believe that conscience may supercede any other authority. This is a problem for the modern church and deserves careful attention. The liberal church previously tried reason  to overthrow Scripture using  spurious literary  methods and materials. Now it is claiming conscience to over-ride or refute clear Scriptural teaching in the area of morality and human relations.

“This is my Beloved Son…listen to Him.” (Matt.17:5)