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2 Corinthians 10:13-15 NASB

“But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you,” ‭‭

In verse 15, Paul says that the “measure” is man’s labor, so is he saying that he won’t boast beyond what he has accomplished in terms of gospel outreach? I’m still confused by what “measure” is specifically referring to, and I’m not sure how these few verses tie in with verses 17 and 18.

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Measure is a vague word, which is why it is being used to translate metron which is also a vague word. What Paul is saying is that he is not boasting too much (in amplitude not in frequency*), and there's an implied contrast to other people who are boasting too much.

I think looking at 12-16 is better than 13-15 here.

12 For we do not presume to rank or compare ourselves with [h]some of those who commend themselves; but when they [i]measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they have no understanding. 13 But we will not boast beyond our measure, but [j]within the measure of the [k]domain which God assigned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; 15 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other people’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, [l]within our [m]domain, enlarged even more by you, 16 so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast [n]in what has been accomplished in the domain of another.

Paul is the apostle to the gentiles. He is a pioneer. While other sit at home and titivate themselves, Paul is spreading the gospel. And he speaks to them here, not to embiggen himself in their eyes for his sake, but for the sake of the gospel that they might help him to spread it to ever further regions.

He boasts only to the measure, and in the limits, of his task as a pioneering apostle.

,* If I kill a giant, and boast about it ten times then I may be boasting too "much in frequency". If I claim to have killed a giant, but only killed a man of average height then I am boasting too much in amplitude.

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  • This answer feels more right to me than the alternatives. Paul is saying that he does not boast more than he is entitled to boast, so "the right to boast" is, if anything, what is being measured. Apr 21, 2023 at 6:28
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The simplest answer to this is given in Rom 12:3-5 -

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another.

The operative word here is μέτρον (metron, whence our English word "meter") whic is used in the NT in this sense a number of times:

  • 2 Cor 10:13 - But we will not boast into the things beyond measure, but according to the measure of the area that God has assigned to us, a measure to reach also as far as you.
  • Eph 4:7 - Now to each one of us grace has been given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
  • Eph 4:13 - until we all may attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
  • Eph 4:16 - from whom the whole body, being joined together and being held together by every ligament of its supply, according to the working in the measure of each individual part, the increase of the body makes for itself, to the building up of itself in love.

The NT appears to recognize sinners as all having incomplete faith that is still growing until we reach perfection in Christ. Thus, we are limited and must work without our means according to the measure (limits) of our spiritual abilities. The whole point of this is to encourage growth to increase our faith.

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"Measure" here refers to judgement. It is a noun. The specific thing that is being assessed is the spiritual value or maturity of other people -- remember when the apostles kept debating about who was greatest? That is the measurement being discussed here.

This continues Paul's theme of judgment, in which he condemns those who judge by the flesh, that is by what can be seen, in contrast with those who judge by the spirit, that is what cannot be seen with the eyes but is revealed by the spirit.

But the spirit will only reveal some things to you about some people, whereas the eye can see everyone. Therefore you should stick to your area - to what has been revealed to you, and refrain from trying to measure those that the Spirit did not give you insight about.

As what matters is in the heart, to properly judge someone you need to perceive their heart. The spirit can and does reveal the heart, if that person was put in your area of authority by the Holy Spirit.

But if that person was not put in your area of authority, what you will do is judge that person according to your own standards.

And what will be your own standards? It will be what is in your heart. The things your conscience condemns you with are what you will project onto others. So you will measure wrongly. You will be the body with the heart but everyone else will just be a body, onto which you project your own heart.

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.

In other words, you are not the only one that Christ indwells. Christ is indwelling the person you are judging as well, and they have their own heart. When you judge wrongly, you are blaspheming God in them.

Paul was specifically complaining about those who judge him:

2 Corinthians 10:10 (LEB)

because it is said, “His letters are severe and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech is of no account.”

The reason this was happening is that Paul reveals his heart in his letters, and so they see power. But when he visits in person, they cannot see the heart, because they judge according the outward appearance. So they see weakness. They then accuse Paul of being a phony or not living up to the outward appearance by which they measure him.

Paul's retort is that it is not he that is phony, but rather their failure to judge him correctly that is the problem. They are measuring wrongly.

Paul then condemns those who judge according to the flesh, and thus measure by only what is in their own heart, and not what has been revealed by the spirit:

2 Corinthians 10:12 (LEB)

For we do not dare to classify or to compare ourselves with some who commend themselves, but they themselves, when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, do not understand.

This contrasts with Paul, who is able to measure them, because they were put in his area of authority by God as he is their spiritual father. Just as parents can "see through" their children, because they look at them with the eyes of love and concern, viewing them as their own flesh, so Paul has been given spiritual insight by God into the maturity of the churches he plants, and when he measures, he measures both rightly and according to the measuring rod given to him by God.

2 Corinthians 10:13–14 (KJV 1900)

But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.

For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:

Here Paul extends the metaphor of "measure" -- a measuring stick -- so that those things outside his spiritual insight would be outside the stick -- the stick wont reach them. But Paul is saying that his stick reaches all the way to them. If they were the spiritual children of someone else, they would be "other men's labors" and so beyond his measuring stick.

2 Corinthians 10:15–16 (KJV 1900)

Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand.

And Paul is saying that as the faith of the Corinthians grows, his stick will grow as well. They will never "outgrow" the reach of his measuring stick, but it will grow with them, and hopefully spread even to other regions.

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In chapter 10, Paul set his sights on the impostors (false apostles) and expected the Corinthian church to discern the danger they face and recognized the true nature of these impostors. Paul described these impostors were (NIV version);

  • Those who are disobedient to Christ (vv10:6), but claim themselves belong to Christ (vv10:7).
  • Tearing down disciples instead of building them up (vv10:8)
  • Self-commended person (vv10:12)
  • Measure themself by themself, compared themselves with themselves (vv10:12)
  • Boasting of work done by others (vv10:15)
  • Self-approved (vv10:18)

On the contrary, Paul explained himself;

  • Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ, by divine power (vv10:4-5)
  • Building up disciples, not tearing them down (vv10:8)
  • Work only within God's boundaries (vv10:13)
  • Not going beyond their limits by boasting of work done by others (vv10:15)
  • Only boast in the Lord (vv10:17)
  • Do not self-approved (vv10:18)

Now take a look what is the "measure" Paul refers to, as in NASB version

13 “But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you.

14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ;

15 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you,” ‭‭

In verse 13, Paul mentioned "beyond our measure" and "within the measure". The measure was the Church of Corinthians. If Corinthians were doing well, this is the measure (NIV use "limit") that Paul could boost himself, but never beyond this. What Paul implied when the imposters introduced themselves to the Corinthians, they boosted their accomplishment in other churches (beyond measure), even though they had done nothing to these churches which were established by other apostles (other men's labor).

In verse 15, Paul reiterated the Corinthians were his measure. God assigned Corinthians under his care (Paul's domain), and Paul hoped the Corinthians would grow in faith, that Paul's domain would be enlarged with the growth of the Church.

About Corinth, a small episode was read in Acts 18:9-11

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.

10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

Paul should have met some troubles in Corinth, but God had him stayed because "God have many people in this city". Paul stayed 18 months there which was very unusual compared to the time he spend in other churches. Paul's obedience to divine authority made him understand that there was nothing to boost himself, only boosting the Lord. Those imposters did not get commend from the Lord, so they relied on commends amongst each other. But Paul's only measure was the Lord commends, nothing else.

2 Cor 10:17-18 (NASB)

17 But the one who boasts is to boast in the Lord.

18 For it is not the one who commends himself that is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

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