In these verses the apostle proceeds to reason the case with the Corinthians, in opposition to those who despised him, judged him, and spoke hardly of him: “Do you,” says he, “look on things after the outward appearance? 2 Cor. 10:7. Isa. this a fit measure or rule to make an estimate of things or persons by, and to judge between me and my adversaries?” In outward appearance, Paul was mean and despicable with some; he did not make a figure, as perhaps some of his competitors might do: but this was a false rule to make a judgment by. It should seem that some boasted mighty things of themselves, and made a fair show. But there are often false appearances. A man may seem to be learned who has not learned Christ, and appear virtuous when he has not a principle of grace in his heart. However, the apostle asserts two things of himself:—
I. His relation to Christ: If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s, 2 Cor. 10:7. It would seem by this that Paul’s adversaries boasted of their relation to Christ as his ministers and servants. Now the apostle reasons thus with the Corinthians: “Suppose it to be so, allowing what they say to be true (and let us observe that, in fair arguing, we should allow all that may be reasonably granted, and should not think it impossible but those who differ from us very much may yet belong to Christ, as well as we), allowing them,” might the apostle say, “what they boast of, yet they ought also to allow this to us, that we also are Christ’s.” Note, 1. We must not, by the most charitable allowances we make to others who differ from us, cut ourselves off from Christ, nor deny our relation to him. For, 2. There is room in Christ for many; and those who differ much from one another may yet be one in him. It would help to heal the differences that are among us if we would remember that, how confident soever we may be that we belong to Christ, yet, at the same time, we must allow that those who differ from us may belong to Christ too, and therefore should be treated accordingly. We must not think that we are the people, and that none belong to Christ but ourselves. This we may plead for ourselves, against those who judge us and despise us that, how weak soever we are, yet, as they are Christ’s, so are we: we profess the same faith, we walk by the same rule, we build upon the same foundation, and hope for the same inheritance.
II. His authority from Christ as an apostle. This he had mentioned before (2 Cor. 10:6), and now he tells them that he might speak of it again, and that with some sort of boasting, seeing it was a truth, that the Lord had given it to him, and it was more than his adversaries could justly pretend to. It was certainly what he should not be ashamed of, 2 Cor. 10:8. Concerning this observe, 1. The nature of his authority: it was for edification, and not for destruction. This indeed is the end of all authority, civil and ecclesiastical, and was the end of that extraordinary authority which the apostles had, and of all church-discipline. 2. The caution with which he speaks of his authority, professing that his design was not to terrify them with big words, nor by angry letters, 2 Cor. 10:9. Thus he seems to obviate an objection that might have been formed against him, 2 Cor. 10:10. But the apostle declares he did not intend to frighten those who were obedient, nor did he write any thing in his letters that he was not able to make good by deeds against the disobedient; and he would have his adversaries know this (2 Cor. 10:11), that he would, by the exercise of his apostolical power committed to him, make it appear to have a real efficacy.