Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? 2 Corinthians x.7
As human beings, we are prone to judge others according to their outward appearance. Even at the first glance, we study the outward appearance of people. We measure others on the basis of their beauty, skin color, height, language, accent, clothes and other accessories on their person.
The first Christians in Corinth were no different. Members of that church admired St. Paul because he had brought the Gospel to Corinth. It was through his preaching that they came to know Jesus Christ. Later, when they came across other apostles – Peter and Apollos – many of them revised their opinion about Paul. They judged Paul on the basis of external factors. This caused Paul the apostle a lot of pain because he was, in a way, their spiritual ‘father.’
What did the Corinthians say about Paul?
- Paul wasn’t among the original apostles of Christ; Peter was.
- While the ‘super apostles’ ministered in Jerusalem and Judea, Paul kept traveling in Asia and other provinces – far away from the ‘happening places’ – preaching the gospel to people of strange languages and cultures.
- Paul’s physical presence was so weak; he was short. No wonder he was called ‘Paul’ – meaning ‘little.’
- Paul couldn’t talk as impressively as Apollos did. Certainly, Peter and Apollos were superior to Paul.
- Although Paul’s letters appeared to be weighty, his speech did not make many Corinthians think he was as wise as other Christian leaders. Some even questioned whether his teachings had any divine sanction.
These judgments were all based on outward appearances. Paul, therefore, had to chide the Corinthian church. He felt it was proper to defend himself, his calling as an apostle and the honor of his God-given ministry. After all, why should some Christians be allowed to think that apostleship is their monopoly? Why should they look down upon a late entrant whom Christ was using in a different way in a new arena of Christian mission.
Observe Paul’s defense in these lines:
- “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 2 Corinthians x.10 NLT
- ‘But I don’t think I am inferior to these “super apostles.”‘ xi.5
- “I may not be a trained speaker, but I know what I am talking about.” xi.6
- “… for I am not at all inferior to these ‘super apostles,’ even though I am nothing at all.” xii.11.
- “I will give you all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me.” xiii.3
Notice how Paul mentioned twice in this epistle that he was not at all inferior to some leaders whom the Corinthians considered as ‘super apostles.’ Paul’s courage and confidence in God’s call upon his life kept him strong. He wasn’t discouraged by the wayward assessment of some of his own friends.
We are reminded of what Yahweh said to prophet Samuel when he went to Jesse’s house to anoint a new king of Israel. Samuel thought that the eldest and tallest of the sons of Jesse was God’s choice for Israel. That’s when God said, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel xvi.7)
Are we guilty of judging fellow Christians and ministers on the basis of external factors? Just because some do things differently and use unconventional methods, how can we ‘disapprove’ of their ministry? Are not our judgments way below the standards of God’s righteous assessment of His servants?
What is despised now may turn out to be far greater and significant in the years to come. Regardless of what the early Corinthian Christians thought of Paul’s stature, he stands tall in Christian history as one of the greatest apostles of Christ. Let’s try to learn God’s ways and look at other people through His eyes.