Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:2
I have always believed that when we are criticised we should not defend ourselves, but rather trust God as our Defender. Many years ago Corrie ten Boom said, “If you defend yourself God will say get on with it, but if you let Him defend you, then He will do a far better job than you can ever do.” It is a remarkable word of wisdom. Martin Luther wrote a great hymn that contained the line, “We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender.” The Bible says that Moses was more humble than all men on the face of the earth [Numbers 12:3]. The context is that he refused to retaliate when he was criticised and chose to let God defend him.
It does appear that contrary to trusting God to defend him, the apostle Paul was defending himself against accusations made by the Church in Corinth. Several Bible commentators speak of Paul defending himself as a principle reason why he wrote this epistle to the Corinthians.
Some people in Corinth did not believe that Paul was an apostle, because they considered him untrustworthy. Paul had told the church that he would come to visit them [2 Corinthians 1:15-16], but did not do so. They accused him of saying one thing and doing another. They felt let down by him.
It is helpful to read in the Message Bible why Paul did not visit Corinth. It was not so much to defend himself, but rather to try and explain why he had not kept his word – why it seemed that his “yes” was not “yes”.
“Now, are you ready for the real reason I didn’t visit you in Corinth? As God is my witness, the only reason I didn’t come was to spare you pain. I was being considerate of you, not indifferent, not manipulative. We’re not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical. We’re partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours. That’s why I decided not to make another visit that could only be painful to both of us. If by merely showing up I would put you in an embarrassingly painful position, how would you then be free to cheer and refresh me?“ [2 Corinthians 1:23-2:2 The Message].
Clearly Paul, was not defending himself, but rather explaining the reason for his decision in order to clear up the misunderstanding.
For this reason Paul, at various times in this epistle will return to the issue of his apostleship, because he wants them to understand his heart for them. He will speak about his conduct, sincerity and love for the Corinthian Church, and emphasize the reality of his God-given authority, and the limits of his authority.
Have your motives ever been misunderstood, and as a result people turn against you and become critical of you? How did you handle that situation?
Do you agree that Paul was not so much defending himself, but explaining his decision to do what he had done? Was it right to say that he would come to Corinth and then not do so? Was this a good enough reason for them to reject his ministry?