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Paul Describes Himself

10 Now I, Paul, urge you by the gentleness and graciousness of Christ—I who am meek [so they say] when with you face to face, but bold [outspoken and fearless] toward you when absent! I ask that when I do come I will not be driven to the boldness that I intend to show toward those few who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh [like men without the Spirit]. For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ, being ready to punish every act of disobedience, when your own obedience [as a church] is complete.

You are looking [only] at the outward appearance of things. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, he should reflect and consider this, that just as he is Christ’s, so too are we. For even though I boast rather freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed [of the truth], nor do I want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters; 10 for they say, “His letters are weighty and forceful and impressive, but his [a]personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible [of no account].” 11 Let such people realize that what we say by word in letters when we are absent, is the same as what we are in action when present.

12 We do not have the audacity to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with some who [supply testimonials to] commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they lack wisdom and behave like fools. 13 We, on the other hand, will not boast beyond our proper limit, but [will keep] within the [b]limits of our commission (territory, authority) which God has granted to us as a measure, which reaches and includes even you. 14 We are not overstepping the limits of our province, as if we did not [legitimately] reach to you, for we were the [very] first to come even as far as you with the good news of Christ. 15 We do not go beyond our proper limit, boasting in the work of other men, but we have the hope that as your faith [in Christ and His divine power] continues to grow, our field among you may be greatly expanded [but still within the limits of our commission], 16 so that we may preach the gospel even in the lands beyond you, but not to boast in work already accomplished in another one’s field of activity. 17 However, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”(A) 18 For it is not he who commends and praises himself who is approved [by God], but it is the one whom the Lord commends and praises.

Paul Defends His Apostleship

11 I wish you would bear with me [while I indulge] in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me [as you read this]. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy because I have promised you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.(B) But I am afraid that, even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted and led away from the simplicity of [your sincere and] pure devotion to Christ.(C) For [you seem willing to allow it] if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted. You tolerate all this beautifully [welcoming the deception]. Yet I consider myself in no way inferior to the [so-called] [c]super-apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speaking, yet I am not [untrained] in [d]knowledge [I know what I am talking about]; but we have made this evident to you in every way, in all things.

Or did I [perhaps] sin by humbling myself so that you might be exalted and honored, because I preached God’s gospel to you [e]free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting [more than their share of] financial support for my ministry to you. And when I was with you and ran short [financially], I did not burden any of you; for what I needed was fully supplied by the brothers (Silas and Timothy) who came from Macedonia (the church at Philippi). So I kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.(D) 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, my boast [of independence] will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia (southern Greece). 11 Why? Because I do not love you [or wish you well, or have regard for your welfare]? God knows [that I do]!

12 But what I am doing I will keep doing, [for I am determined to keep this independence] in order to cut off the claim of those who want an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things they brag about. 13 For such men are counterfeit apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, since Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 So it is no great surprise if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness, but their end will correspond with their deeds.

16 I repeat then, let no one think that I am foolish; but even if you do, at least accept me as foolish, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I say in this confident boasting, I say not as the Lord would [with His authority], but foolishly. 18 Since many boast [of worldly things and brag] about human accomplishments, I will boast too. 19 [f]For you, being so wise, gladly tolerate and accept the foolish [like me]! 20 For you tolerate it if anyone makes you his slave; or devours you and your possessions; or takes advantage of you; or acts presumptuously; or hits you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we have been too weak [in comparison to those pseudo-apostles who take advantage of you].

But in whatever anyone else dares to boast—I am speaking foolishly—I also dare to boast. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they [self-proclaimed] servants of Christ?—I am speaking as if I were out of my mind—I am more so [for I exceed them]; with far more labors, with far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, and often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews [g]thirty-nine lashes.(E) 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent adrift on the sea; 26 many times on journeys, [exposed to] danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own countrymen, danger from the Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger on the sea, danger among those posing as believers; 27 in labor and hardship, often unable to sleep, in hunger and thirst, often [driven to] fasting [for lack of food], in cold and exposure [without adequate clothing]. 28 Besides those external things, there is the daily [inescapable] pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel [his] weakness? Who is made to sin, and I am not on fire [with sorrow and concern]?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that reveal my weakness [the things by which I am made weak in the eyes of my opponents]. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed and to be praised forevermore, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the [h]governor (ethnarch) under [i]King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to arrest me, 33 and I was [actually] let down in a basket through a [j]window in the wall, and slipped through his fingers.

Paul’s Vision

12 It is necessary to boast, though nothing is gained by it; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a [k]man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, [only] God knows—such a man was caught up to the [l]third heaven.(F) And I know that such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, [only] God knows— was caught up into [m]Paradise and heard inexpressible words which man is not permitted to speak [words too sacred to tell]. On behalf of such a man [and his experiences] I will boast; but in my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. If I wish to boast, I will not be foolish, because I will be speaking the truth. But I abstain [from it], so that no one will credit me with more than [is justified by what] he sees in me or hears from me.

A Thorn in the Flesh

Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself!(G) Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. 10 So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].

11 Now I have become foolish; you have forced me [by questioning my apostleship]. Actually I should have been commended by you [instead of being treated disdainfully], for I was not inferior to those [n]super-apostles, even if I am nobody. 12 The signs that indicate a genuine apostle were performed among you fully and most patiently—signs and wonders and miracles. 13 For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches, except [for the fact] that I did not burden you [with my financial support]? Forgive me [for doing you] this injustice!

14 Now for the third time I am ready to visit you. I will not burden you [financially], because I do not want what is yours [not your money or your possessions], but you. For children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 But I will very gladly spend [my own resources] and be utterly spent for your souls. If I love you greatly, am I to be loved less [by you]? 16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you [with my support]. But [some say that] I was sly and took you by trickery. 17 Did I take advantage of you or make any money off you through any of the messengers I sent you? [Certainly not!] 18 I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? [No!] Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps? [Of course!]

19 All this time you have been thinking that we are [merely] defending ourselves to you. It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking [as one] in Christ; and everything, dearly beloved, is to strengthen you [spiritually]. 20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you not to be as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder; 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality and decadence which they formerly practiced.

Examine Yourselves

13 This is the third time that I am visiting you. Every fact shall be sustained and confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.(H) I have already warned those who have sinned in the past and all the rest as well, and I warn them now even though I am absent [from you] as I did when I was with you the second time, that if I come back I will not spare anyone, since you seek [forensic] proof that Christ is speaking in and through me. He is not weak or ineffective in dealing with you, but powerful within you. For even though He was crucified in weakness [yielding Himself], yet He lives [resurrected] by the power of God [His Father]. For we too are weak in Him [as He was humanly weak], yet we are alive and well [in fellowship] with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.

Test and evaluate yourselves to see whether you are in the faith and living your lives as [committed] believers. Examine yourselves [not me]! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves [by an ongoing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test and are rejected as counterfeit? But I hope you will acknowledge that we do not fail the test nor are we to be rejected. But I pray to God that you may do nothing wrong. Not so that we [and our teaching] may appear to be approved, but that you may continue doing what is right, even though we [by comparison] may seem to have failed. For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth [and the gospel—the good news of salvation]. We are glad when we are weak [since God’s power comes freely through us], but you [by comparison] are strong. We also pray for this, that you be made complete [fully restored, growing and maturing in godly character and spirit—pleasing your heavenly Father by the life you live]. 10 For this reason I am writing these things while absent from you, so that when I come, I will not need to deal severely [with you], in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me [to be used] for building you up and not for tearing you down.

11 Finally, believers, rejoice! Be made complete [be what you should be], be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace [enjoy the spiritual well-being experienced by believers who walk closely with God]; and the God of love and peace [the source of lovingkindness] will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a [o]holy kiss. 13 All [p]God’s people 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.

Footnotes

  1. 2 Corinthians 10:10 Among the Greeks, a speaker’s presence and delivery were as important as his message, as the orator Demosthenes made clear when he said that the three most important elements of a speech are delivery, delivery, and delivery. However, Paul did not follow these rules because the message of salvation does not need to be presented with fanfare in order to reach the hearts of the audience.
  2. 2 Corinthians 10:13 I.e. ministry to the Gentiles.
  3. 2 Corinthians 11:5 This may be a sarcastic reference to the teachers of false doctrine (pseudo-apostles) who opposed Paul and tried to claim they had an association with the original twelve disciples.
  4. 2 Corinthians 11:6 Like the original Twelve, Paul received his knowledge of the gospel from the Lord.
  5. 2 Corinthians 11:7 Traveling philosophers and religious teachers (including the false apostles) customarily charged for their lectures. Paul’s reason for refusing support from this church is unclear.
  6. 2 Corinthians 11:19 The sarcastic tone of vv 19-21 reflects Paul’s extreme frustration with the Corinthian church.
  7. 2 Corinthians 11:24 OT law limited judicial scourging (whipping) to forty lashes. The Jews established a tradition of thirty-nine lashes to minimize the risk of making a mistake in the count and giving the guilty party more than forty.
  8. 2 Corinthians 11:32 Perhaps also leader of the Jewish community.
  9. 2 Corinthians 11:32 King of the Nabatean Arabs from 9 b.c. to a.d. 40.
  10. 2 Corinthians 11:33 I.e. small door.
  11. 2 Corinthians 12:2 Paul had this experience prior to beginning his missionary journeys.
  12. 2 Corinthians 12:2 The dwelling place of God, called Paradise by Jesus and also by Paul (v 4).
  13. 2 Corinthians 12:4 Paul apparently uses “Paradise” as an equivalent of the third heaven, the dwelling place of God (cf Luke 23:43).
  14. 2 Corinthians 12:11 See note 11:5. If the false teachers were degrading Paul’s apostleship, they may have wrongly ascribed a “super-apostleship” to the Twelve, especially James, Cephas (Peter), and John. See Gal 2:9.
  15. 2 Corinthians 13:12 A traditional greeting in biblical times, much like today’s handshake and hug.
  16. 2 Corinthians 13:13 Lit the saints.

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