As Paul prepares to return to Corinth, there remain some who have failed to recognize his authority as an apostle and refuse to accept his instruction.
One of the reasons for this rejection was a misunderstanding of Paul’s deportment while he was present among them. His demeanor while in their presence was one of lowliness (v 1).
However, those who opposed Paul mistakenly construed his lowliness as weakness. This is because they were unaccustomed to servant leadership. Like many today, they could only picture leadership as being overly assertive, clever, or even slanderous against the opposition.
The Corinthians could only view leadership through the shallow lens of force, a fort of “might makes right” mentality. But Paul again corrects this error by stating that he did not intend to bring them to obedience by clever arguments, coercion, or some cult of personality.
Instead, Paul’s weapons of warfare centered around the truth of ideas and teaching, “pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Finally, Paul issues a stern yet heartfelt warning to the brethren to get their act together, lest he be in person what they have said of his letters: “’For his letters’ they say, ‘are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible’” (v 10).
If we were going to use modern terminology, we might say the rebellious brethren considered Paul a “keyboard warrior.” You know, the kind of person who is powerful when hiding behind a Facebook post or Twitter “tweet” but doesn’t have the courage to say such things to one’s face.
This was yet another misunderstanding on the part of the brethren. Paul was utilizing gentleness for their benefit, but if they persisted, he could exercise his apostolic authority, though such was given for their edification and not their destruction (v 8).