Paul’s Defense of His Ministry
1Now, please listen, for I need to address an issue. I’m making this personal appeal to you by the gentleness and self-forgetfulness of Christ. I am the one who is “humble and timid” when face-to-face with you but “bold and outspoken” when a safe distance away. 2Now I plead with you that when I come, don’t force me to take a hard line with you (which I’m willing to do) by daring to confront those who mistakenly believe that we are living by the standards of the world, not by the Spirit’s wisdom and power. 3-4For although we live in the natural realm, we don’t wage a military campaign employing human weapons, using manipulation to achieve our aims. Instead, our spiritual weapons are energized with divine power to effectively dismantle the defenses behind which people hide. 5We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One. 6Since we are armed with such dynamic weaponry, we stand ready to punish any trace of rebellion, as soon as you choose complete obedience.
Paul Responds to Criticism
7You seem to always be looking at people by their outward appearances. If someone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should remind himself of this: we belong to Christ no less than he does. 8I am not ashamed, even if I’ve come across as one who has overstated the authority given to us by the Lord. For it is the authority to help build you up, not tear you down. 9I don’t want to seem as though I’m trying to bully you with my letters. 10For I can imagine some of you saying, “His letters are authoritative and stern, but when he’s with us he’s not that impressive and he’s a poor speaker.” 11Such a person should realize that when we arrive, there will be no difference in the actions we take and the words we write.
Paul’s Apostolic Mandate
12Of course, we wouldn’t dare to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with those who rate themselves so highly. They compare themselves to one another and make up their own standards to measure themselves by, and then they judge themselves by their own standards. What self-delusion! 13But we are those who choose to limit our boasting to only the measure of the work to which God has appointed us—a measure that, by the way, has reached as far as you. 14And since you are within our assigned limits, we didn’t overstep our boundaries of authority by being the first to announce to you the wonderful news of the Anointed One. 15We’re not trying to take credit for the ministry done by others, going beyond the limits God set for us. Instead, our hope soars as your faith continues to grow, causing a great expansion of our ministry among you. 16Then we can go and preach the good news in the regions beyond you without trespassing on the ministry sphere of other laborers and what they have already done. 17For:
The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.
18So let’s be clear. To have the Lord’s approval and commendation is of greater value than bragging about oneself.