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In 2 Cor. 10:6, it is written,

And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. KJV, 1769

καὶ ἐν ἑτοίμῳ ἔχοντες ἐκδικῆσαι πᾶσαν παρακοήν ὅταν πληρωθῇ ὑμῶν ἡ ὑπακοή TR, 1550

Question: What is the meaning of the expression "obedience is fulfilled"? Furthermore, is the apostle Paul imploring his audience to "revenge all disobedience"?

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  • I understand this is your first question, so welcome to the forum. This is an excellent question. For the moment I'd just point out that the word translated "fulfilled" has more of the sense of "being made complete". "Complete obedience". I'll look forward to the responses, so thanks for raising this question.
    – user10231
    Apr 27, 2016 at 15:48
  • On the second question, since I am not satisfied with any of these answers, I think some of the verses before this help to give better insight into its meaning: "I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!-- I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh" (2 Corinthians 10:1-3).
    – Andrew
    Apr 15, 2018 at 2:05
  • This is a great question, thanks.
    – Robert
    Jul 21, 2022 at 5:16

10 Answers 10

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If you study this in the Greek you will see that the words we, ready, and punish are not there. What it says in the Greek, in context, is "and will have vindication for every act of disobedience once your obedience is complete" So by taking your thoughts captive and conforming to the thought processes of Christ you will have legal justification over your past disobedience.
Refer to Biblehub.com for further study of the words incorrectly translated as ready and punish and the absence of we.
This is very similar to romans 8:13 but about thoughts instead of deeds.

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This verse in the context of a discussion about the Corinthians struggling with false Apostles. He is basically telling the Corinthians that he will take care of the false Apostles, but at the same time they need to tend to themselves as well.

This is explained (in Greek) in the 21st Homily on the Epistle by John Chrysostom (349-407). His commentary, in English translation, reads:

Here he alarmed these [the Corinthians] also, not those [the false Apostles] alone: ‘for,’ says he, ‘we were waiting for you, that when by our exhortations and threatenings we have reformed you, and purged and separated you from their fellowship; then, when those only are left who are incurably diseased, we may visit with punishment, after we see that you have really separated from them.'

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I think we need to keep Ephesians 6:12 in the back of our minds when we answer this. To my mind the two scriptures are referring to the same idea.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Then 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is saying that as spiritual beings we should war according to the spirit, not the flesh.

4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

but then he adds a bit And having in a readiness ( "and finally if necessary" is way is the way I read it) he's saying that when we have been obedient in this regard ( once your obedience is fulfilled) - or "as long as you've first done all that" - then we should always be ready to also carry the fight through to putting down disobedience should it come to that.

And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

To me this makes sense because going by the Ephesians scripture we're not dealing primarily with disobedience in either those around us or in ourselves, but rather spiritual wickedness in high places - but once the stronghold is pulled down - or once the strong man has been bound "Mark 3:27" then anything that remains is disobedience; which also needs to be dealt with.

I am not a Greek scholar but I suspect translating ἐκδικέω as revenge might be wrong. Surely it should be more along the lines of punish?

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2Cor10:6

BIB καὶ and ἐν in ἑτοίμῳ readiness ἔχοντες, having, ἐκδικῆσαι to avenge πᾶσαν all παρακοήν, disobedience, ὅταν when πληρωθῇ might have been fulfilled ὑμῶν your ἡ - ὑπακοή. obedience.
ESV 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
RV 6 and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be fulfilled.
NLT 6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.
Gdb 6 and being ready to avenge every disobedience, when your obedience may be complete.
NASB 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

Paul instructs the church of Corinth to be mature and perfect in all aspect, in the second letter. It is not the time to remain like little children, but be blameless in all aspect, and when their obedience is fulfilled, they can start punishing the disobedience. In the same way we prune bad branches of a tree. It is the process of discipline and maintaining a high quality perfection.

2Cor 2:5-9 ESV Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

Cf. 2Cor 7:15; 2Cor 10:6; Phil 2:12; 2Thess 3:14; Phlm 1:21; 1Cor5:4-5

[Heb 6:1-3 WEB] 1 Therefore leaving the teaching of the first principles of Christ, let us press on to perfection—not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, of faith toward God,2 of the teaching of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.3 This will we do, if God permits.

2Cor 7:9-12 NASB 9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to [the point of] repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to [the will of] God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to [the will] [of] God produces a repentance without regret, [leading] to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, [it was] not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.

RV: what zeal, yea, what ἐκδίκησιν! avenging! In everything ye approved yourselves to be pure in the matter.
NLT: such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.

The word ekdikesis to avenge comes from dikaiosine root for justice, to execute-justice, bring-to-justice by avenging or punishing the lawless.

ἐκδίκησις (ekdikēsis) 'vengeance'
Meaning justice; vengeance; punishment vengeance, punishment, retributive justice, Lk. 21:22; Rom. 12:19; 2Cor. 7:11; 1Pet. 2:14; ἐκδικησιν ποιειν, to vindicate, avenge, Lk. 18:7, 8; διδόναι ἐκδικησιν, to inflict vengeance, Acts 7:24; 2Thess. 1:8; Heb. 10:30*

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  • This is a helpful interpretation, thank you! Jul 21, 2022 at 19:50
  • Also 2 Cor 7:11: συνεστήσατε ἑαυτοὺς ἁγνοὺς εἶναι τῷ πράγματι.” SLT In every thing ye recommended yourselves to be holy αγνούς in this affair.”
    – Michael16
    Jul 22, 2022 at 4:43
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I'll give my summary interpretation and then explain the reasoning behind it, so people don't need to read a long post just to get the interpretation:

Interpretation

The context of this passage is the Corinthians judging after the flesh, and the one example given is judging Paul after the flesh. They accused him of being powerful in letters but meek in person, thus a phony or hypocrite.

revenge all disobedience does not refer to punishing people, as the passage states "we do not war after the flesh".

Rather, it is the vain thoughts that exalt themselves above the glory of God that are being destroyed, not people. The people -- the church body -- are the ones being avenged, because they have been hurt by their vain thoughts. And really it is Christ in them that is being avenged, because Christ in them is the one blasphemed by judgments according to the flesh.

The vain imaginations are being destroyed by the obedience of the people, so that they are fully avenged when the obedience is complete.

This obedience will be caused by the Spirit moving on the hearts of the people, convicting them, in response to Paul's exhortations.

This is Paul's spiritual warfare: the preaching of the cross reveals the mystery that Christ is in them. Once the Corinithians understand that Christ is in the person they are judging, they realize that they are committing blasphemy, they repent, and they confess their own sins. This is how thoughts are taken captive, high places are pulled down, etc.

His weapons to accomplish this warfare are mighty and effectual even though the outward mechanism (preaching) is foolish and humble. Thus outwardly, he appears foolish and meek, but the warfare does not happen outwardly, but inwardly, where the Spirit moves in power.

"Having in a readiness" is most likely a Latinism -- "in promptu habere" which pictures a military display of readiness (to continue the military theme of the passage). Thus this passage is often translated as "standing ready to .." or "we stand ready" to help get this sense across of a military unit standing at attention, publicly displaying its state of readiness to some military leader that is reviewing it.

Therefore

"we stand ready to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is complete"

...should be explained as:

"We are a powerful army displaying our ability to avenge the vain imaginations of your hearts, by means of spiritual warfare, which will cause you to become fully obedient, confessing your sins, thus tearing down all your imaginations, and hence the body that was hurt will be avenged."

Elaboration

This passage is about judging wrongly, or judging after the flesh (according to what you can see with the eyes).

Remember that what matters is in the heart, because that's where Christ dwells. Every time you read Paul, keep in mind the mystery, the center of everything, what E.E. Cummings calls "the secret that nobody knows, the root of the root and the bud of the bud" -- that you carry another heart inside your heart, namely Christ in you, the hope of glory (Gal 1.26). There is no understanding Paul (or John's epistles) without first seeing the mystery.

Therefore because we are a temple, the only way to judge rightly is to see someone's heart - what is in the temple. Flesh cannot do that, it cannot comprehend Christ, it can only see flesh. So flesh always judges wrongly.

E.g. there are two people, one lusts after another man's wife in his heart, and the other commits adultery in the flesh. In God's eyes, they are both guilty of the same sin, since God sees both committing adultery in the Temple where He resides.

But in man's eyes, only one of these is judged. And it will be the one who committed adultery in the heart that will rise up to condemn the one who did it according to the flesh, because we only condemn in others what bothers our conscience in ourselves. That is, not seeing the heart, the carnal man projects his own heart onto others and then rises up to condemn.

Romans 2:1 (KJV 1900)

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Whereas the man whose conscience is pure does not condemn

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. (Titus 1.15)

The Corinthians, which had no power to see into Paul's heart, nevertheless saw Paul's power in his letters, where he displayed his power, and they saw his meekness in the body. So they accused him of what they were guilty of -- only pretending to have power.

But when you judge outwardly, you are blaspheming God in the person you are judging. You are saying "You have problems in your temple". In that case, you better know what's happening in their temple, instead of judging by outward appearances.

Paul warns them

2 Corinthians 10:7 (KJV 1900)

Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.

Thus these false judgements are an example of the imaginations that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. They are what needs to be torn down. That is what is being talked about here.

Paul could have abused his power, and gone to the Corinthians, exposing them by revealing the secrets of their hearts - thus revealing their hypocrisy and that would tear everything down.

But Paul insists he uses his authority for edification, not destruction (2 Cor 10.8). So he wants them to tear down these imaginations by their obedience. That way they realize what they are doing and learn, as forced obedience is not obedience.

And the way to tear carnal judgement down is by confessing what troubles your conscience to the body, rather than projecting your guilt onto someone else and accusing them in the body. You lower yourself rather than exalt yourself.

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor 4.2)

When you openly confess what your conscience troubles you about, then you will not judge another wrongly. Then you will, like Paul, resolve never to judge after the flesh:

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 2 Cor 5.16

Thus Paul will exhort them to confess. He will teach them the mystery and he will preach the cross. This is how he wages spiritual warfare. And through their obedience, the imaginations will be torn down, and those who have been blasphemed - namely the church body - will be avenged.

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Paul has been displaying patients, humility and gentleness towards some of the Corinthians who had been deceived by proud Judaizers who had infiltrated Paul's work. These men were walking according to the flesh and probably putting strongholds again on some of the Corinthians who blindly accepted their chains of the law.

Those men could've been great speakers compared to Paul who evidently was not a great orator but his words were the truth of God that truly set man free. It was the truth of God that brought down strongholds and that is what he preached.

The law makes men mean and blind to their own shortcomings but very quick to judge others who don't seem to be keeping the correct standard.

Paul is basically saying to those who want Paul to correct things that they don't think others are not doing that he will be ready to avenge every disobedience whenever they've completed their obedience. Of course he is being facetious because he knows darn well that being under the law they never will complete their obedience.

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  • I've gone through all answers, looking for any involvement of verse 5 with verse 6. Byronyasgur seems to be the only answerer mentioning verse 5. It seems to be key to this Q, in my view, so it's a pity it has not been worked in. But +1 for a good answer.
    – Anne
    Jul 30, 2022 at 10:20
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The verse that follows (verse 7) puts verse 6 into perspective, as it speaks of Christ and that we are Christ's. The meaning then is that we are Christ's (meaning we are his) because our obedience is fulfilled. Now to understand the phrase "obedience is fulfilled", we need to have a proper understanding of Christ fulfilling the law. Because the two are tied together, and we are expected to fulfill the law - just as Jesus did. Proof of the idea that we, as believers, are expected to fulfill the law is found in the apocrypha book entitled 2 Esdras. 2 Esdras 2:40 reads: Take thy number, O Sion, and shut up those of thine that are clothed in white, WHICH HAVE FULFILLED THE LAW OF THE LORD. The number of thine children whom thou longest for, is fulfilled.

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  • Hi TrustinJC, can you please explain what you mean by "fulfilling the law" and how that might relate to Paul taking vengeance on the Corinthians "when their obedience is fulfilled"? Thanks.
    – user10231
    Apr 27, 2016 at 18:39
  • The revenge portion does not have to do with obedience being fulfilled, but rather with avenging disobedience. Obedience fulfilled is another way of saying fulfilling the law. Fulfilling the law means you keep it. That you obey it in the same way that all righteous people do. This is the meaning of the passage from 2 Esdras. It tells us people (not just Jesus) will fulfill the law. So you fulfill the purpose of the law by keeping it. Another way to think of it is that the law keeps you save and on the narrow difficult path.
    – TrustinJC
    Apr 28, 2016 at 13:51
  • So what you're saying is that when the Corinthians completely obey the law then Paul will avenge those who don't? In the context, isn't Paul talking about their obedience to him, rather than the law?
    – user10231
    Apr 28, 2016 at 14:45
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Disobedience to god and to his kingdom these are enemies of god and the kingdom of are lord christ said in luke for the wisdom of god will send the prophets and apostles and they will kill and persecute. So when when paul said be ready to avenge all disobedience he means use the law of moses do you not know who rejects the law can be put to death on the testimony of 2 or 3 wittiness. And do not forget the is are teacher [tutor ] that brings us to Christ Jesus. So have faith beware of the wickedness of this world because it is not are Friend. So be ready.

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    Welcome to BH. Please take the Tour and see the Help. Quoting actual scripture (English translation) would, in my view, greatly assist your answer.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 17, 2020 at 21:47
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Remember the parable of the weeds, Matthew 13:27-29 (NIV)

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.

30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Paul was handling the Church of Corinthians in quite a similar manner. The false teachers (the enemy) had gone into the church (the field). They sow the wrong teaching. Those who believed the false teaching were the disobedience (weeds), Those who stayed with Paul were the obedience (wheat). However, it was too early to harvest (to separate the weeds from the wheat), as the church was still young.

Note 2 Cor 3-4 (NIV), Paul said;

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.

4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

Paul did not intend to put this as his fight (war as the world does). It is the Lord to lead the fight to defeat Satan (divine power to demolish strongholds).

2 Cor 10:6 (NIV)

And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

So Paul was ready. Once he got positive response from Corinthians to his letter (your obedience is complete), he would come to expel the false teachers together with those who supported them (punish every act of disobedience (NIV), revenge all disobedience (KJV)). By then Paul was acting as the harvester coming to separate the weeds from the wheat.

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The Dutch states translation notes (Google translated) state:

  1. avenge all

This the apostle does not speak of any outward or worldly vengeance. For these Christ forbade his apostles, Matt. 20:25, and Matt. 26:52; but of the proclamation of the vengeance of God upon the obstinate, and of the exercise of ecclesiastical bans against those who pretend to be members of the church, yet teach or live unchristianly.

Mt 20.25 26.52

  1. are fulfilled.

That is, accomplished, or fully proved. And this saith the apostle to soften the foregoing threat, to induce them to avoid this punishment, by the amelioration of such offenses; for there also due time and means of conversion must be given to such before the extreme punishment may be used.


Paul says he has the spiritual means to deal with disobedience of the gospel and that the use of those means can be prevented by the obedience of the gospel.

(Matthews 16:19)

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

(1 Timothy 1:20)

Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

(1 Corinthians 5:5)

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

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