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Paul’s Defense

10 Now I myself, Paul, appeal to you by the humility and gentleness of Christ—I, who am “gentle” when I am in your presence, but “bold” toward you when I am away. I pray that, when I arrive there, I may not have to be bold with the confidence that I expect to use in daring to confront some who think that we walk in the way the sinful flesh does. For even though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage war in the way the sinful flesh does. Certainly, the weapons of our warfare are not those of the flesh, but weapons made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down thoughts such as all arrogance that rises up against the knowledge of God, and we make every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ. And we are ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is fully restored.

You are looking at things only according to the outward appearance. If anyone has convinced himself that he belongs to Christ, let him consider this about himself: We belong to Christ just as much as he does. Indeed, even if I may boast some more about our authority, which the Lord has given for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be put to shame. My purpose is not to seem as if I am trying to frighten you by my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his physical presence is weak, and his speech amounts to nothing.” 11 Let such a person consider this: What we are, by our word through letters when we are away, is just what we will be in our work when we are present.

12 To be sure, we do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who speak highly of themselves. On the contrary, when they measure themselves only by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 But we will not boast about things that cannot be measured. Instead, we will boast according to the measure of the assignment that the God who measures things measured out to us: to reach out also as far as to you. 14 Indeed, we are not overdoing our boasting, as if we had not come to you. In fact, we were the first ones to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We are not boasting about things that cannot be measured, that is, in the hard work of others. But we are hoping that, as your faith grows, our assignment will be greatly increased while we are among you, 16 with the result that we will preach the gospel to the regions beyond you. Then we will not be boasting about what someone else has already done in his assignment. 17 But let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.[a] 18 To be sure, it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Bear With Me

11 I wish that you would be patient with me in regard to a little foolishness—but you are already being patient with me. You see, I am jealous about you, with a godly jealousy, because I promised to present you as a pure virgin to one husband, Christ. But I am afraid that somehow, just as the serpent deceived Eve with his cunning, so also your minds might be led astray from a sincere[b] and pure devotion to Christ. In fact, if someone comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or if you accept a different spirit, which you did not accept before, or a different “gospel,” which you did not welcome before, you put up with it all too well. I do not think that I am in any way inferior to the “super-apostles.” But even if I am an amateur in speech, yet I am not an amateur in knowledge. No, in everything we have clearly demonstrated that to you in every way.

Or did I commit a sin by humbling myself, so that you would be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches, by receiving support from them to minister to you! And when I was with you and needed something, I did not burden anyone, because when the brothers came from Macedonia, they supplied what I needed. In every way I kept myself from ever being a burden to you, and I will continue to do so. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting about me will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do. 12 But what I am doing, and will continue to do, is being done in order to cut off the opportunity of those who want an opportunity to boast that they should be considered equal to us.

13 In fact, such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 So it is no great surprise if his ministers also masquerade as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their works.

16 I say again, no one should think that I am a fool. But if you do, then receive me as a fool, so that I may boast a little. 17 What I am saying when I boast so confidently is not the way the Lord speaks; rather, it is a foolish manner of speaking. 18 Since many are boasting as the sinful flesh does, I will also boast. 19 You gladly put up with fools, since you are just so wise! 20 In fact, you put up with it if anyone makes you his slave, robs you, takes advantage of you, looks down on you, or strikes you in the face! 21 I am ashamed to say that we were too weak for that!

However bold anyone might be (I am speaking in a foolish way), I am going to be bold too. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s seed? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I am speaking in a crazy way.) I am even more. I’ve done more hard work, been in prisons more often, been whipped far more, and I’ve been close to death many times. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. One time I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day on the open sea. 26 I have often been on journeys, in danger from rivers, in danger from robbers, in danger from my own people, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, in danger on the sea, in danger among false brothers. 27 I have worked hard and struggled. I’ve spent many sleepless nights. I’ve been hungry and thirsty. I’ve gone without food many times. I’ve been cold and lacked clothing.

28 Besides those external matters, there is the daily pressure on me of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who falls into sin without my being distressed?

30 If it is necessary that I boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is eternally blessed, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept the city of Damascus on alert[c] to arrest me, 33 but I was lowered in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped from his hands.

Carried Up to Paradise

12 I must go on boasting, although there is nothing to be gained. So I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago, was carried up to the third heaven (whether in the body, I do not know, or out of the body, I do not know—God knows). And I know that such a man (whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know—God knows) was carried up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words that a man cannot possibly speak.[d] On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except about my weaknesses. Indeed, if I wanted to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from doing this, so that no one will think more highly of me than what he sees in me or hears from me.

Therefore,[e] to keep me from becoming arrogant due to the extraordinary nature of these revelations, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me, so that I would not become arrogant. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that he would take it away from me. And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, because my power is made perfect[f] in weakness.” Therefore I will be glad to boast all the more in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may shelter me.

10 That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For whenever I am weak, then am I strong.

Not a Burden

11 I have become a fool. You forced me. After all, I ought to be commended by you, because I was not inferior to the “super-apostles” in any way, even if I am nothing. 12 The signs of an apostle—signs and wonders and miracles—were performed among you with all perseverance. 13 For how were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I myself was not a burden to you? Forgive me for this wrong.

14 See, this is the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you, because I do not seek your possessions, but you. After all, the children should not have to save up for their parents, but the parents for their children. 15 But I will very gladly spend and be completely spent on behalf of your souls. If I love you all the more, am I to be loved that much less? 16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Oh, but I was just being crafty and using deceit to exploit you, wasn’t I! 17 Did I ever take advantage of you through any one of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go and sent our brother with him. Surely Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? Did we not walk in the same spirit—in the very same footprints?

Paul’s Visit

19 Are you thinking that we are trying to defend ourselves to you all this time?[g] We are speaking in the sight of God in Christ. Dear friends, all these words are for your strengthening. 20 For I am afraid that when I arrive, I may not find you as I want you to be, and that you might not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, pride, and disorder. 21 I fear that, when I arrive again, my God will humble me in regard to you, and I will have to grieve for many who sinned earlier and have not repented of the uncleanness, the sexual immorality, and the lewd sins they committed.

13 This is the third time I am coming to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony[h] of two or three witnesses.”[i] I have said this before, and before I arrive I am saying it again—as I did when I was present the second time, even though I am now absent—to those who sinned earlier and to all the rest: When I arrive, I will not spare you. I say this because you are seeking proof that Christ (who is not weak toward you, but is powerful in you) is speaking in me. To be sure, he was crucified as a result of weakness, yet he lives as a result of God’s power. Certainly, we are also weak in him, but we will live with him for your benefit, as a result of God’s power.

Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not know this about yourselves: that Jesus Christ is in you—unless perhaps you fail the test? But I hope that you will recognize that we are not failing the test.

We pray to God that you may not do anything evil, not so that we may appear to have passed the test, but so that you may do what is good, even if we may seem like those who are failing to pass the test. To be sure, we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. Yes, we rejoice whenever we are weak and you are strong. And we are praying for your complete restoration. 10 It is for this reason that I am writing these things while I am still absent, so that, when I am present, I may not have to deal harshly with you, using the authority that the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.


11 Finally, brothers,[j] rejoice. Set things in order. Be encouraged. Agree with one another. Be at peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.


  1. 2 Corinthians 10:17 See Jeremiah 9:24.
  2. 2 Corinthians 11:3 Or single-minded
  3. 2 Corinthians 11:32 Some witnesses to the text add since he wanted.
  4. 2 Corinthians 12:4 Or that a man is not permitted to speak
  5. 2 Corinthians 12:7 Some witnesses to the text omit Therefore.
  6. 2 Corinthians 12:9 Or reaches its goal
  7. 2 Corinthians 12:19 Some witnesses to the text read again instead of all this time.
  8. 2 Corinthians 13:1 Literally mouth
  9. 2 Corinthians 13:1 Deuteronomy 19:15
  10. 2 Corinthians 13:11 When context indicates it, the Greek word for brothers may refer to all fellow believers, male and female.