The Gentle Giant

The Gentle Giant

Words of Faith 12-7-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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2 Corinthians 10:9-11

[9] I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. [10] For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." [11] Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.


         What was the real Apostle Paul like? What did he look like? What kind of a speaker was he? And was he worried about his image? There were rumors going around among the false apostles that Paul was unimpressive in person and had nothing of the force found in his letters.

       Interestingly, there is a description of the Apostle Paul in one of the traditional sources outside of scripture dating to the second century. The tradition describes Paul as "a man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace. For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel..." While it is not a scriptural description, some scholars believe it may give us a pretty accurate picture of the man who was unarguably the first and greatest Christian theologian and the founder of the earliest churches.

      It is also interesting that Paul did not deny that his public presence was superficially unimpressive. He referred to the rumors going around about him-- that some said he was unimpressive in person and his letters were weightier than his words in person. In many ways this fit the second century picture, but Paul wasn't really worried about his "image.” That was the least of his concerns.

       Paul's point in these warnings was not to frighten or bolster his image. He was aware that some might smirk at his bark not being equal to his bite. His point here was to make sure that those receiving his letter at Corinth did not misjudge either his resolve or his true authority.

       Paul was clear-- "People should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present." Don't make that failure in judgment. Paul was not a polished speaker by design as much as by default. If the false apostles equated his rhetorical skills with the power granted him by God as an apostle, they would do so at their peril. His letters contained awesome commands about handing men over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh. But his subsequent action would show that he did what he said.

       It is not difficult to understand the origin of the malicious accusations against Paul. His earlier letters to Corinth-- the "previous letter" and the "severe letter"-- had each been "forceful." In person he was less intense. What Paul was actually exhibiting was the qualities of peace, longsuffering and gentleness, the fruit of the Spirit.

       In person, Paul did not have to force his authority on people. He did not have to prove himself in their presence. He was able to be patient with those who might try him. He could listen to the situation. He was able to have genuine authority without having to wield it heavy handedly.

       These are all Christ-like qualities. There were many instances in which Jesus could have been judged to be weak because he did not clobber those who challenged his legitimate authority. Jesus chose very carefully the times and situations when he exercised authority. We should be careful not to misunderstand Jesus' patience and gentleness to be weakness or lack of concern.

       The same was true for Paul. Whatever his appearance might have been like in person, Paul had the spiritual authority as apostle and founding pastor of the Church at Corinth to discipline strongly and directly those who were critical and in opposition to him. He was a kind of "gentle giant" seeking to lead in the least heavy handed way possible. But the Corinthians needed to be wise and not look at Paul through the eyes of the world, but rather through the eyes of the Spirit of God.

       We can a great deal from Paul. Sometimes the best preacher is not necessarily the loudest. Sometimes the best teacher is not the slickest. We should not misjudge the spiritual authority of a leader based on the fact that they do not rule with a heavy hand. A person who shouts a lot and exhibits great personal confidence may seem to have more authority, but this is not necessarily the case. A leader with a lighter touch may simply be exhibiting the fruit of the spirit rather than fleshly exuberance.

       Paul was a gentle giant. That is a blessing. He wrote powerfully and ministered with gentleness in the Spirit. And we could probably use more of that, not less.


       Lord God, thank You for the witness of the Apostle Paul. Thank You for his presence both in written letters and in person as he traveled. Help me to see the gentle giants that You are raising up in the Body of Christ. Help me to be more enamored with character than with polish and rhetoric. Help me to see those who have authority because of their careful walk with You. In Jesus' Name.