Series on II Corinthians,III The Defense of Paul's Apostleship,A Criticism, Part 1 Boldness in Christ, Title: The Necessity of Authority, II Cor.10:1-7.

Introduction

We have a crisis of authority at home, in the Church and in our society. In a fallen world there are bad laws and good laws. You don’t get to choose which to obey. Judges and juries make good decisions and bad ones, but you don’t get to choose which you respect. Bad laws should be legally changed and injustice should be legally challenged. One man is in trouble with the IRS for telling people that they don’t need to pay income tax. Personally, I believe that the fourteenth amendment is a bad law, but I am not going to stop paying my income tax. Five years or fifty years later bellicose editorials do nothing except undermine our respect for authority. When Paul was unjustly accused he appealed to Caesar. He did not editorialize endlessly about the injustice. he had a respect for authority that we are rapidly losing. This spills over from society into the home and the Church. This whole last section of II Corinthians has to do with Paul's defense of his office as an Apostle. He speaks of his authority as an Apostle and the consequences. Who is the boss? Jesus also equated respect for authority and faith, as he shows in Matthew 8:5-13. Here  Jesus commends the faith of a Roman Centurion because the man understood authority and as a consequence believed that Jesus could command the healing of his servant. Consider then that Paul's boldness rested upon an authority vested in him by God and the characteristics of that authority were: spiritual, scriptural, and sincere.

I Spiritual Authority

Paul introduces the subject of his authority with a recognition that it is in question in verses 1 and 2, By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. Something about the appearance or demeanor of the Apostle caused the Corinthians to think of him as timid or weak. They judged by the standards of this world. The authority we are talking about does not come from appearance, charismatic personality, or power or expertise. A string of degrees after your name does not confer this authority. Though Paul was well educated, the Corinthians focused on another weakness in Paul. However, God bestows this authority. It is spiritual.  So Paul says you may think I'm weak, but I shall be bold when I come. He speaks this way because his authority rested on Christ. This is made plain by the appeal of the Apostle. He beseeches them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. This is exquisite irony. They would assume by worldly standards that no one who was meek and gentle could have authority. Words spoken gently and kindly carry the ultimate authority when they come from God. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, will punish sinners, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead. Paul is Jesus representative. Fools despise but wise men obey the authority that comes from Jesus. It is the authority of the Apostles, of the elders, of the Church, of parents, teachers,and magistrates. People laugh up their sleeves at authority when it does not punish them in the present. But, it is more real and more powerful than they imagine in the overall scheme of things, and it is not arbitrary, because it is also a scriptural authority.

II Scriptural Authority

This is revealed in verses 3-5, For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Paul stood alone with the other Apostles. We have no Apostles now, but we have their words and the very Word of God. Paul says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, or fleshly, not the same as the world. We fight with the Scripture. The hydrogen bomb in the arsenal of ideas is the truth. Paul refers in Ephesians 6 to the sword of the Spirit as our weapon. This is the word of God. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Paul waxes eloquent here about the power of that Word. It demolishes intellectual strongholds, arguments against God and his truth. It takes captive every thought of those that speak it and those that hear it. Paul is not talking about coming with his own ideas and inflicting them on the Corinthians. He is saying that his spiritual authority rests in God’s truth. In Presbyterianism we have a wonderful system where the elders hold one another accountable to the Word of God and our standards of interpretation in our confession, but the ultimate standard is the Scripture. Ironically people think they can ignore this authority as if it was arbitrary. I would hope we all understand that the Word of God does not go away. Once it is spoken God’s judgment is rendered. God says in Isaiah 55;11 So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth, it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which i sent it. This is true every time that his representatives speak the Word. Every one who hears it is accountable. Some will ignore it, others will oppose it, and the rest will flee. Jesus says in Matthew 5:18 that, heaven and earth will pass away, but his Word will not pass away. When you die, or when this earth passes away and the judgment comes, the Word will be left standing. I just want us to see that the authority vested in Paul and the elders and the church is both spiritual and scriptural. We may ignore the voice of men but to ignore the voice of God speaking in the Bible is to seal our doom. Of course we can always repent and ask forgiveness and do what God says.

III Sincere Authority

Paul is going to administer punishment under this authority to those who disobey according to verses 6 and 7, And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he. Paul expects the Corinthian Christians to repent and to acknowledge his authority. There were greedy, mercenary false teachers in that church who made claims to a superior authority. They designated themselves super apostles as Paul reflects in II Corinthians 11:5. There is going to have to be a clean-up operation here. The Corinthians must answer the serious question. Do they want to be entertained and titillated or do they want to submit and be saved. This is not humorous. Paul repeats that the Corinthians are looking only at the outward appearance. They are not looking at the real source of authority, and are not considering that God is speaking in Paul through the gospel. When Paul says we belong to Christ as much as anybody it takes us back to what he said in I Corinthians 9:1,2, Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! The Corinthians believed the gospel when Paul preached it to them. They are the seal of his authority because the authority is spiritual and scriptural. If we believe the gospel we have a new concept of authority. We become like that centurion of whom Jesus said that he never saw greater faith. We recognize that through the redemption that is ours in the gospel, Christ has become Lord of our lives. He died for us to purchase our salvation. We now belong to Jesus. If this is true of us , then we are people under authority. If we repel authority then maybe we are not true believers. There is no better test of our own sincerity. We live in dangerous times. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. The answer to tyranny is not anarchy. In truth, we need guidance, we need direction, we need authority, and we need to be sure it comes from the person with the blueprints for our existence. That's God. He speaks in His Word and vests his spiritual authority in the Apostles and the Scripture. A church that follows the Apostles’ doctrine bears that authority in its officers. Calvin said “No man has God for his father who does not have the Church for his mother.” We need to listen, our lives depend on it.