“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present. (2 Corinthians 10:10-11)
The Same Word
It is hard to imagine the apostle Paul as anything but a powerful force to reckon with. When he was called Saul of Tarsus, he was exceedingly enraged against the church and persecuted the disciples of the Lord even to foreign cities. Luke describes after Paul’s conversion, the church was afraid of him when he tried to join the church family in Jerusalem. Paul began to take missionary journeys where he helped to establish numerous churches converting many people to Christ. Reading any of his epistles to the churches would leave the impression the apostle Paul was a formidable man in presence.
In his second letter to Corinth, Paul seeks to defend his authority as an apostle as some were trying to discredit him. One of the charges that Paul knew the brethren made against him was his physical presence. There are no descriptions of the apostle in Scripture, but Paul suggests of himself his bodily presence was not impressive and his oratory lacking. This was the opinion of his detractors, whether justified or not. Paul defends himself with the authority that his letters were weighty and powerful, and his words were the same when he was present with the brethren. He may not have been a man like Apollos, who was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scripture, but Paul was a man whose word was as straightforward and demonstrative when he spoke as it was when he wrote his letters. The preaching of Paul was not to impress others with his physical appearance. He was not in the kingdom of God to make a name for himself among men.
Paul was a preacher of the gospel with the same diligence to speak the truth whether in person or in letter. He reminds the Corinthians that what he is in word by letters is the same man he is when he is present with the brethren. He may not be much to look at but what he says has eternal consequences. The power of the word is what drove Paul. There was no need to change the word of God to impress people. Paul preached the truth regardless of the opinions of men. Some may reject him because of his physical presence, but they are rejecting the word of God. The only message that Paul preached was the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The word must be the same in every part of a man’s life. There cannot be two sides of a man who on one side is hard on the truth and then in the presence of others softens the impact. It is easier to rebuke through the written word because there is no personal confrontation. Courage comes from a heart that will speak the truth in love face to face. Paul warned his detractors that his message when he came to them was the same as when he wrote them a letter. His faith was consistent with his belief which was rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. What we are in word by letters must the same when we are gathered with others.