2 Corinthians 10-12 Common English Bible (CEB)
Paul’s personal request for obedience
10 I, Paul, make a personal request to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ. I’m shy when I’m with you, but I’m bossy when I’m away from you! 2 I beg you that when I’m with you in person, I won’t have to boss you around. I’m afraid that I may have to use that kind of behavior with those people who think we live by human standards. 3 Although we live in the world, we don’t fight our battles with human methods. 4 Our weapons that we fight with aren’t human, but instead they are powered by God for the destruction of fortresses. They destroy arguments, 5 and every defense that is raised up to oppose the knowledge of God. They capture every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 Once your obedience is complete, we are ready to punish any disobedience.
7 Look at what is right in front of you! If anyone is sure about belonging to Christ, that person should think again. We belong to Christ just like that person. 8 Even if I went on to brag about our authority, I wouldn’t be ashamed of it. The Lord gave us that authority to build you up and not to destroy you.
9 I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to intimidate you with my letters. 10 I know what some people are saying: “His letters are severe and powerful, but in person he is weak and his speech is worth nothing.” 11 These people need to think about this—that when we are with you, our actions will show that we are the same as the words we wrote when we were away from you. 12 We won’t dare to place ourselves in the same league or to compare ourselves with some of those who are promoting themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they have no understanding.
13 We won’t take pride in anything more than what is appropriate. Let’s look at the boundaries of our work area that God has assigned to us. It’s an area that includes you. 14 We aren’t going out of bounds, as if our work area doesn’t extend as far as you. We were the first ones to travel as far as Corinth with the gospel of Christ. 15 We don’t take pride in what other people do outside of our boundaries. We hope that our work will be extended even more by you as your faith grows, until it expands fully (within the boundaries, of course). 16 We hope that our work grows even to the point of the gospel being preached in places beyond Corinth, without bragging about what has already been done in another person’s work area. 17 But, the one who brags should brag in the Lord.[a] 18 It isn’t the person who promotes himself or herself who is approved but the person whom the Lord commends.
Confrontation of the super-apostles
11 I hope that you will put up with me while I act like a fool. Well, in fact, you are putting up with me! 2 I’m deeply concerned about you with the same concern that God has. As your father, I promised you in marriage to one husband. I promised to present you as an innocent virgin to Christ himself. 3 But I’m afraid that your minds might be seduced in the same way as the snake deceived Eve with his devious tricks. You might be unable to focus completely on a genuine and innocent commitment to Christ.
4 If a person comes and preaches some other Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different Spirit than the one you had received, or a different gospel than the one you embraced, you put up with it so easily! 5 I don’t consider myself as second-rate in any way compared to the “super-apostles.” 6 But even if I’m uneducated in public speaking, I’m not uneducated in knowledge. We have shown this to you in every way and in everything we have done. 7 Did I commit a sin by humbling myself to give you an advantage because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by taking a salary from them in order to serve you! 9 While I was with you, I didn’t burden any of you even though I needed things. The believers who came from Macedonia gave me everything I needed. I kept myself from being a financial drain on you in any way, and I will continue to keep myself from being a burden.
10 Since Christ’s truth is in me, I won’t stop telling the entire area of Greece that I’m proud of what I did. 11 Why? Is it because I don’t love you? God knows that I do! 12 But I’m going to continue to do what I’m doing. I want to contradict the claims of the people who want to be treated like they are the same as us because of what they brag about. 13 Such people are false apostles and dishonest workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 It is no great surprise then that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Paul defends himself
16 I repeat, no one should take me for a fool. But if you do, then allow me to be a fool so that I can brag like a fool for a bit. 17 I’m not saying what I’m saying because the Lord tells me to. I’m saying it like I’m a fool. I’m putting my confidence in this business of bragging. 18 Since so many people are bragging based on human standards, that is how I’m going to brag too. 19 Because you, who are so wise, are happy to put up with fools. 20 You put up with it if someone enslaves you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone places themselves over you, or if someone hits you in the face. 21 I’m ashamed to say that we have been weak in comparison! But in whatever they challenge me, I challenge them (I’m speaking foolishly).
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? I’m speaking like a crazy person. What I’ve done goes well beyond what they’ve done. I’ve worked much harder. I’ve been imprisoned much more often. I’ve been beaten more times than I can count. I’ve faced death many times. 24 I received the “forty lashes minus one” from the Jews five times. 25 I was beaten with rods three times. I was stoned once. I was shipwrecked three times. I spent a day and a night on the open sea. 26 I’ve been on many journeys. I faced dangers from rivers, robbers, my people, and Gentiles. I faced dangers in the city, in the desert, on the sea, and from false brothers and sisters. 27 I faced these dangers with hard work and heavy labor, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, and in the cold without enough clothes.
28 Besides all the other things I could mention, there’s my daily stress because I’m concerned about all the churches. 29 Who is weak without me being weak? Who is led astray without me being furious about it? 30 If it’s necessary to brag, I’ll brag about my weaknesses. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, the one who is blessed forever, knows that I’m not lying. 32 At Damascus the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to capture me, 33 but I got away from him by being lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall.
Paul’s visions and revelations from the Lord
12 It is necessary to brag, not that it does any good. I’ll move on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven fourteen years ago. I don’t know whether it was in the body or out of the body. God knows. 3-4 I know that this man was caught up into paradise and that he heard unspeakable words that were things no one is allowed to repeat. I don’t know whether it was in the body or apart from the body. God knows. 5 I’ll brag about this man, but I won’t brag about myself, except to brag about my weaknesses.
6 If I did want to brag, I wouldn’t make a fool of myself because I’d tell the truth. I’m holding back from bragging so that no one will give me any more credit than what anyone sees or hears about me. 7 I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited.
8 I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. 9 He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. 10 Therefore, I’m all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong.
11 I’ve become a fool! You made me do it. Actually, I should have been commended by you. I’m not inferior to the super-apostles in any way, even though I’m a nonentity. 12 The signs of an apostle were performed among you with continuous endurance through signs, wonders, and miracles. 13 How were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I myself wasn’t a financial burden on you? Forgive me for this wrong!
Paul’s plans to visit and a warning
14 Look, I’m ready to visit you a third time, and I won’t be a burden on you. I don’t want your things; I want you. It isn’t the children’s responsibility to save up for their parents but parents for children. 15 I will very gladly spend and be spent for your sake. If I love you more, will you love me less?
16 We all know that I didn’t place a burden on you, but in spite of that you think I’m a con artist who fooled you with a trick. 17 I haven’t taken advantage of you through any of the people I sent to you, have I? 18 I strongly encouraged Titus to go to you and sent the brother with him. Titus didn’t take advantage of you, did he? Didn’t we live by the same Spirit? Didn’t we walk in the same footsteps?
19 Have you been thinking up to now that we are defending ourselves to you? Actually, we are speaking in the sight of God and in Christ. Dear friends, everything is meant to build you up. 20 I’m afraid that maybe when I come you will be different from the way I want you to be, and that I’ll be different from the way you want me to be. I’m afraid that there might be fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, backstabbing, gossip, conceit, and disorderly conduct. 21 I’m afraid that when I come again, my God may embarrass me in front of you. I might have to go into mourning over all the people who have sinned before and haven’t changed their hearts and lives from what they used to practice: moral corruption, sexual immorality, and doing whatever feels good.