The spirit in which Paul works
1As for myself, Paul, I would do all things in the spirit of my profession, that is to say in a spirit of meekness and gentleness which underlies all the manifestations of the Christ — yes, that is the spirit in which I work, for it is the only way in which the Christ works. 2But there are some in your midst who take a different view. This Paul, they say, is very emphatic and outspoken in his letters, but when he comes amongst you, Corinthians, he has less to say for himself. He does not recommend himself as a spiritual leader, a commissioned apostle of the Spirit. He is far less notable face to face than at a distance. Against those whose thoughts and words run on these lines I think that I have a good deal of confidence, my brethren, yes and courage and plain-spokenness, as I fear I may have to show unequivocally when I next visit you, and against these persons themselves. 3If I do appear to behave as an ordinary undistinguished being, and to live according to the flesh, as they say, 4let them know that the weapons of my armoury are of the spiritual kind, and that my order of attack and assault is of marvellous efficacy through God for the storming of certain strong places and established positions — 5mighty indeed for battering down mere theories and speculations, for destroying false systems which rear up their evil heads in pitiable rivalry with the true knowledge of the divine, and able to bind and imprison thoughts that are not agreeable to the confession and obedience of the Christ Spirit. 6I have weapons too at my command only waiting for the fulfilment of your own obedience to make retaliation and reprisals for all that deviates from the true obedience. 7-10Now look at that which is really “face to face,” and “present” — as they cast in my teeth my absence, and the weightiness of my epistles when I am away from you, and the insignificance of my presence when I come before you — if your life is in Christ, is not mine there too? 11And do not my deeds when present proceed from that same source as my words in absence? Does it require strong words from me to terrify you into subjection from a distance?
The source of his authority
12-13Is not the authority, of which they say I make too much and boast immoderately, is it not given me by God for your building up — not for your ruin — and does it fail me, does it ever make me ashamed of it? Does it not justify itself? I do not presume to judge my own capacities, and to set myself up over against other teachers, and compare my merits with theirs. For my own capacities do not enter into this question. I measure myself by the rule that God has established in me, not by vague standards that have never been and never can be subjected to a true reckoning and computation. My standard is the measuring rod and line of the perfect builder, and that same rule passes as far as to you, and passes on, too, beyond you to other lands which lie further off still. I shall go on, I hope and believe, to those more distant ones, even as I came to you. 14For I came to you in person, I was the first to bring you the gospel; I do not, as they seem to aver, reach out by my epistles and missions into other people's fields of labour and beyond my own. 15But following God's measurement and his apportionment of my destiny and sphere, not settling down upon another's work or establishing myself and boasting myself in that on which I did not work, I come to you as to my own. As your faith broadens, so will my mission and purpose broaden in your gaze as God's own ordering and adjustment, 16until I am borne onward by this same purpose and rule to unfold the gospel in a yet wider circle and to more distant parts of the world, and by that rule and measurement never trespass on another man's field nor ever boast myself in work which was already prepared and begun by others. 17In fine, “let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord.” (Jer. ix. 24) 18The only man who can stand the test is the one whom the Lord establishes; self-praise is no recommendation.