By The Standards of This World- 2 Corinthians 10:2

As we have noted in our previous post, Paul does not deal with those under his “authority” as those in the world do with those under their authority, for authority within the church cannot give orders or manipulate, but must instead make an “appeal”. He then more fully tells us why here in verse 2, for he tells us that those in positions of authority in the church cannot conduct themselves “by the standards of this world” (NIV). The Greek expression translated as “by the standards of this world” in the NIV is kata sarka, literally “in accordance with the flesh”. Much study has been devoted to Paul’s usage of the Greek word sarx, and we will attempt to determine just how Paul makes use of it here. His first use of the term is in a literal fashion, in reference to the makeup of the physical body contrasted with bones and blood, or in reference to the body as a whole, from which one can be absent or present. This usage, however, forms a distinct minority in an examination of Paul’s usage of the term, for he much more frequently uses the term in a more metaphorical sense. In order to understand just what Paul means in this metaphorical usage, we will turn to Galatians 5, in which we find Paul contrasting the flesh with the Spirit as two different ways of “living”. The Spirit, of course, refers to life lived in obedience to God, so the flesh must refer to life lived in opposition to God. As Paul tells us in Romans, we have inherited this “flesh” from Adam, and so we now turn to Genesis 3 in order to complete our understanding of just what Paul means in his use of flesh here in 2 Corinthians. In Genesis 3:22, we find that God summarizes the sin of Adam and Eve as them becoming “just like one of us, knowing good and evil”. The Hebrew word “know” here is yada, and among the meanings of the root of this word is to “produce”, and what may be referred to here is the human proclivity to determine for ourselves what is right or wrong, true or false. This is what constitutes our universal human “fallenness”, what we all inherited from Adam, and it is this fallenness which Paul often refers to in the term “flesh”. It refers to the natural human propensity to want to be our own “Lords”, to do things our own way and not listen to anyone else, including God. Paul also here has in mind the universality of this reality, for human beings all over the world tend to develop the same methods of dealing with one another, and these universal truths may be referred to here, as in the NIV, as a worldwide “standard”. People the world over use intimidation and manipulation as valid methods of showing “leadership”, these can even be understood as a human “universal” apart from the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is the fact that Paul chooses to to employ the method of leadership which he asserts here which demonstrates his submission to the Holy Spirit in this matter and his trust in the Spirit to work this situation for good, to speak to those in the Corinthian church who also sought to be led by the Spirit, and not by the flesh. It is these believers to whom Paul appeals, and through whom he hopes to lead those still living in the “flesh” to begin to live more in accordance with the Spirit.

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