Chapter ten begins the final section of the letter and a new defense of Paul’s authority over the Corinthian church as God’s divinely-appointed apostle, specifically in comparison to the false teachers that had deceived them.
Paul’s appeal that they would listen to him was offered in “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:1). His comment that he was meek while with them and full of courage only in his letters was a sarcastic retort toward his accusers, who apparently had convinced many of the Corinthians that Paul was a hypocrite. He could talk a big game in his letters, but in person, he carried no power or authority. Paul claimed this was ludicrous (2 Corinthians 10:9-11). The bulk of his argument in this chapter was based on the truth that the most important aspect of this life is a spiritual matter, not a physical one, emphasizing thoughts and not just actions (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). This is why he refused to be held to someone else’s human standards (2 Corinthians 10:2); why he seemed harsh when dealing with matters of obedience and disobedience in the church (2 Corinthians 10:6); and why he did not let outward matters distract him from inward realities (2 Corinthians 10:7-8).
In the final verses, Paul denounced his critics for boasting about their accomplishments while minimizing Paul’s (2 Corinthians 10:12-18). He pointed out that they simply “compare[d] themselves with themselves” to brag about how good they were, but he was not about to lower himself to their games. Instead, he would boast only about the work God was doing in and through him and his team, including what God was accomplishing in Corinth. Ultimately, he cared only that people heard the gospel (from him directly or the churches he started) and that they continued to grow in their faith. Nothing else was worth bragging about because that was all God called him to do.
The last verse should be a wonderful encouragement to all who want to be faithful servants: “It is not the person who commends himself who is approved, but the person the Lord commends.”