The Nature of True Apostleship

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants(A) of Christ and as those entrusted(B) with the mysteries(C) God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience(D) is clear, but that does not make me innocent.(E) It is the Lord who judges me.(F) Therefore judge nothing(G) before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes.(H) He will bring to light(I) what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.(J)

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.”(K) Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.(L) For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive?(M) And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich!(N) You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die(O) in the arena. We have been made a spectacle(P) to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ,(Q) but you are so wise in Christ!(R) We are weak, but you are strong!(S) You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.(T) 12 We work hard with our own hands.(U) When we are cursed, we bless;(V) when we are persecuted,(W) we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage(X) of the world—right up to this moment.

Paul’s Appeal and Warning

14 I am writing this not to shame you(Y) but to warn you as my dear children.(Z) 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father(AA) through the gospel.(AB) 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me.(AC) 17 For this reason I have sent to you(AD) Timothy,(AE) my son(AF) whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.(AG)

18 Some of you have become arrogant,(AH) as if I were not coming to you.(AI) 19 But I will come to you very soon,(AJ) if the Lord is willing,(AK) and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of(AL) talk but of power.(AM) 21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline,(AN) or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?

Paul’s Vision and His Thorn

12 I must go on boasting.(A) Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations(B) from the Lord. I know a man in Christ(C) who fourteen years ago was caught up(D) to the third heaven.(E) Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.(F) And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up(G) to paradise(H) and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.(I) Even if I should choose to boast,(J) I would not be a fool,(K) because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations.(L) Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh,(M) a messenger of Satan,(N) to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.(O) But he said to me, “My grace(P) is sufficient for you, for my power(Q) is made perfect in weakness.(R)(S) Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight(T) in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,(U) in persecutions,(V) in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.(W)

Paul’s Concern for the Corinthians

11 I have made a fool of myself,(X) but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,”[a](Y) even though I am nothing.(Z) 12 I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.(AA) 13 How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you?(AB) Forgive me this wrong!(AC)

14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time,(AD) and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents,(AE) but parents for their children.(AF) 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.(AG) If I love you more,(AH) will you love me less? 16 Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you.(AI) Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! 17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged(AJ) Titus(AK) to go to you and I sent our brother(AL) with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God(AM) as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends,(AN) is for your strengthening.(AO) 20 For I am afraid that when I come(AP) I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be.(AQ) I fear that there may be discord,(AR) jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition,(AS) slander,(AT) gossip,(AU) arrogance(AV) and disorder.(AW) 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved(AX) over many who have sinned earlier(AY) and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery(AZ) in which they have indulged.

Footnotes

  1. 2 Corinthians 12:11 Or the most eminent apostles