In the final section of 2 Corinthians, Paul defended his frank speech regarding the ethical norms of the church, and his apostolic ministry in general. To a church neck-deep in a culture of boasting, Paul boasted only in his dependence on Christ. The church in Corinth considered Paul—beaten, impoverished, homeless, lacking external flash, dependent upon others—weak. Yet, for an apostle committed to Christ, all of these were like bullet points on a resume. The Corinthians were tempted to think of a crucified Messiah as far too weak to elicit their worship. Paul hoped they would come to their spiritual senses and recognize that God’s weakness in Christ far surpassed any human strength. Paul’s fatherly care for the Corinthians compelled him to examine their spirituality. In the end, he was both confident of them, and cautious toward them. While Paul affirmed their repentance and spoke highly of them (2 Cor 1:11; 2:10; 3:2-3; 4:14-15; 7:4; 9:1-5), he was ready to prosecute any among them who wished to be both of Christ and of the world. In 2 Corinthians 10-13, Paul described his new covenant ministry with respect to the judicial and prophetic precursors in the narrative of redemptive history that preceded him.
(1) In 2 Cor 10:17, Paul quoted Jer 9:24 to emphasize his dependence on God in new covenant ministry. Jeremiah endured a difficult ministry assignment because the Lord called him to confront the people of Judah, and the people were arrogant and boasted in their self-security. Despite the rise of the Babylonians in Judah, the wise boasted in their wisdom, the mighty boasted in their strength, and the wealthy boasted in their riches. Jeremiah told them that the one who boasts should boast in his knowledge of God—the One who shows His righteousness on earth (Jer 9:24). Paul cited Jer 9:24 in 1 Cor 1:31 to instruct the Corinthians that since God has chosen to save the dishonorable, anyone who boasts must boast in the Lord. Paul used Jer 9:24 in 1 Cor 1:31 to call the Corinthians to boast in the Lord and he used it in 2 Cor 10:17 to explain his own ministry. As Paul took the gospel to areas where Christ had not been named, he could not boast in the accomplishments of another person. His boast would only be in the Lord’s grace as He saved those who heard Paul preach. Paul refused to operate in the flesh and boast in human associations that might give him clout. He needed no letters of commendation (2 Cor 3:1-3) since he relied only on the Lord’s working through him.
(2) In 2 Cor 13:1, Paul cited Deut 17:6 to establish the judicial process he would administer to any in the church that had not repented of their selfishness. In Deuteronomy 17, Moses established principles of justice Israel was to follow as they entered the land. If one was accused of idolatry and the accusation was confirmed by two or three witnesses, that person was to be stoned so that the evil would be removed from the community of God’s people (Deut 17:6-7). Paul cited Deut 17:7 in 1 Cor 5:13 where he urged the church to remove the man who was sleeping with his stepmother. In 2 Cor 13:1, Paul quoted Deut 17:6 saying, “This is the third time I am coming to you. ‘On the testimony of two or three witnesses every word will be confirmed.’” Paul was yet concerned that some in the congregation were sinning. In Paul’s evaluation, church discipline might be necessary in order to remove sinners from the congregation so that the church could progress in the grace of Christ. In 2 Cor 12:20, Paul wrote, “I fear that perhaps when I come I will not find you to be what I want, and I may not be found by you to be what you want.” Paul was preparing for a trial, ready to prosecute any who had not repented of their “uncleanness, sexual immorality, and promiscuity” (2 Cor 12:21). Paul’s demeanor as a trial lawyer would be firm, fully identifying with Christ to examine if the Corinthians had met the demands that are consistent with the gospel. Paul exhorted the Corinthians first to test themselves to see if they were in the faith, and then evaluate him based upon the fact that he boasted only in the Lord (2 Cor 13:5-11).