You Are Two-Faced; 2 Cor 10:1-11

The hardest thing of all for any Christian leader is to work hard for the sake of Jesus being formed in others, and then have those others turn round and impugn your integrity. That is what happened to Paul . He responds in 2 Cor 10, a chapter which almost makes your eyes water with the vehemence that was clearly being directed against the godly father of the church. He was accused of:

  • Being two-faced. Timid when with them but boldly criticising through letters from a safe distance when he was away (v1)
  • Living by the standards of the world rather than the gospel, and fighting using its weapons (v2)
  • Boastful pride (v8)
  • Setting out to scare them into submission through his letters (v9)
  • Being a rubbish speaker who disguises the fact with weighty, forceful letters (v10)
  • Self-commendation (v12f)

There are several possible reasons for all of this, including:

  • They didn't like being exhorted to faithfully carry out what they had once promised
  • They were confusing spiritual leadership with the rhetoric expected from public speakers of the day and finding Paul wanting in comparison, confusing meakness with weakness
  • Cynicism about authority

None are legitimate. Paul has real authority for this church and it is appropriate that he defends it. The critical thing, however, is how he defends it. Not buillying, but appealing on the basis of Christ. Jonathan Lamb sums it up brilliantly, noting four features of true leadership authority in this passage that are "supremely relevant to Christian service of whatever kind" (Integrity, IVP, p69):

  • The model of authority is the gentleness of Christ (10:1)
  • The foundation for exercising authority is the gospel of Christ (10:4). The gospel is the weapon by which spiritual strongholds are demolished
  • The purpose of authority is building up the body of Christ (10:8)
  • The context of authority is a Christ-like life (10:18)

The thing that stands out for me here is that the authority of Paul is real authority. I want to extend that, in application, to all those who have responsibility for fathering in local churches: pastors and elders. It is authority from God, not to build themselves up, but to build up the believers for the glory of God.

Therefore one of the most painful things in a local church is when some or all the believers refuse to acknowledge the fathership of godly leaders. Not only is the body damaged, but the leaders are prevented from exercising their god-given gifts. I believe that, out of fear of ungodly authoritarianism, far too many UK churches flee the exercise of liberating, releasing leadership by completely godly leaders who are authorised by God, to their great detriment.