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Paul Defends His Work for Christ

10 Do you think I am a coward when I am with you and brave when I am far away? Well, I ask you to listen, because Christ himself was humble and gentle. Some people have said that we act like the people of this world. So when I arrive, I expect I will have to be firm and forceful in what I say to them. Please don’t make me treat you that way. We live in this world, but we don’t act like its people or fight our battles with the weapons of this world. Instead, we use God’s power that can destroy fortresses. We destroy arguments and every bit of pride that keeps anyone from knowing God. We capture people’s thoughts and make them obey Christ. And when you completely obey him, we will punish anyone who refuses to obey.

You judge by appearances.[a] If any of you think you are the only ones who belong to Christ, then think again. We belong to Christ as much as you do. Maybe I brag a little too much about the authority that the Lord gave me to help you and not to hurt you. Yet I am not embarrassed to brag. And I am not trying to scare you with my letters. 10 Some of you are saying, “Paul’s letters are harsh and powerful. But in person, he is a weakling and has nothing worth saying.” 11 Those people had better understand that when I am with you, I will do exactly what I say in my letters.

12 We won’t dare compare ourselves with those who think so much of themselves. But they are foolish to compare themselves with themselves. 13 We won’t brag about something we don’t have a right to brag about. We will only brag about the work that God has sent us to do, and you are part of that work. 14 We are not bragging more than we should. After all, we did bring the message about Christ to you.

15 We don’t brag about what others have done, as if we had done those things ourselves. But I hope that as you become stronger in your faith, we will be able to reach many more of the people around you.[b] That has always been our goal. 16 Then we will be able to preach the good news in other lands where we cannot take credit for work someone else has already done. 17 The Scriptures say, “If you want to brag, then brag about the Lord.” 18 You may brag about yourself, but the only approval that counts is the Lord’s approval.

Paul and the False Apostles

11 Please put up with a little of my foolishness. I am as concerned about you as God is. You were like a virgin bride I had chosen only for Christ. But now I fear that you will be tricked, just as Eve was tricked by that lying snake. I am afraid that you might stop thinking about Christ in an honest and sincere way. We told you about Jesus, and you received the Holy Spirit and accepted our message. But you let some people tell you about another Jesus. Now you are ready to receive another spirit and accept a different message. I think I am as good as any of those super apostles. I may not speak as well as they do, but I know as much. And this has already been made perfectly clear to you.

Was it wrong for me to lower myself and honor you by preaching God’s message free of charge? I robbed other churches by taking money from them to serve you. Even when I was in need, I still didn’t bother you. In fact, some of the Lord’s followers from Macedonia brought me what I needed. I have not been a burden to you in the past, and I will never be a burden. 10 As surely as I speak the truth about Christ, no one in Achaia can stop me from bragging about this. 11 And it isn’t because I don’t love you. God himself knows how much I do love you.

12 I plan to go on doing just what I have always done. Then those people won’t be able to brag about doing the same things we are doing. 13 Anyway, they are no more than false apostles and dishonest workers. They only pretend to be apostles of Christ. 14 And it is no wonder. Even Satan tries to make himself look like an angel of light. 15 So why does it seem strange for Satan’s servants to pretend to do what is right? Someday they will get exactly what they deserve.

Paul’s Sufferings for Christ

16 I don’t want any of you to think that I am a fool. But if you do, then let me be a fool and brag a little. 17 When I do all this bragging, I do it as a fool and not for the Lord. 18 Yet if others want to brag about what they have done, so will I. 19 And since you are so smart, you will gladly put up with a fool. 20 In fact, you let people make slaves of you and cheat you and steal from you. Why, you even let them strut around and slap you in the face. 21 I am ashamed to say that we are too weak to behave in such a way.

If they can brag, so can I, but it is a foolish thing to do. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Jews? So am I. Are they from the family of Abraham? Well, so am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a fool to talk this way, but I serve him better than they do. I have worked harder and have been put in jail more times. I have been beaten with whips more and have been in danger of death more often.

24 Five times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes with a whip. 25 Three times the Romans beat me with a big stick, and once my enemies stoned me. I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea. 26 During my many travels, I have been in danger from rivers, robbers, my own people, and foreigners. My life has been in danger in cities, in deserts, at sea, and with people who only pretended to be the Lord’s followers.

27 I have worked and struggled and spent many sleepless nights. I have gone hungry and thirsty and often had nothing to eat. I have been cold from not having enough clothes to keep me warm. 28 Besides everything else, each day I am burdened down, worrying about all the churches. 29 When others are weak, I am weak too. When others are tricked into sin, I get angry.[c]

30 If I have to brag, I will brag about how weak I am. 31 God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, knows I am not lying. And God is to be praised forever! 32 The governor of Damascus at the time of King Aretas had the city gates guarded, so that he could capture me. 33 But I escaped by being let down in a basket through a window in the city wall.

Visions from the Lord

12 I have to brag. There is nothing to be gained by it, but I must brag about the visions and other things that the Lord has shown me. I know about one of Christ’s followers who was taken up into the third heaven fourteen years ago. I don’t know if the man was still in his body when it happened, but God certainly knows.

As I said, only God really knows if this man was in his body at the time. But he was taken up into paradise,[d] where he heard things that are too wonderful to tell. I will brag about that man, but not about myself, except to say how weak I am.

Yet even if I did brag, I would not be foolish. I would simply be speaking the truth. But I will try not to say too much. That way, none of you will think more highly of me than you should because of what you have seen me do and say. Of course, I am now referring to the wonderful things I saw. One of Satan’s angels was sent to make me suffer terribly, so that I would not feel too proud.[e]

Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. But he replied, “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. 10 Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong.

Paul’s Concern for the Lord’s Followers at Corinth

11 I have been making a fool of myself. But you forced me to do it, when you should have been speaking up for me. I may be nothing at all, but I am as good as those super apostles. 12 When I was with you, I was patient and worked all the powerful miracles and signs and wonders of a true apostle. 13 You missed out on only one blessing that the other churches received. That is, you didn’t have to support me. Forgive me for doing you wrong.

14 I am planning to visit you for the third time. But I still won’t make a burden of myself. What I really want is you, and not what you have. Children are not supposed to save up for their parents, but parents are supposed to take care of their children. 15 So I will gladly give all that I have and all that I am. Will you love me less for loving you too much? 16 You agree that I wasn’t a burden to you. Maybe that’s because I was trying to catch you off guard and trick you. 17 Were you cheated by any of those I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to visit you, and I sent another follower with him. But Titus didn’t cheat you, and we felt and behaved the same way he did.

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? Actually, we have been speaking to God as followers of Christ. But, my friends, we did it all for your good.

20 I am afraid that when I come, we won’t be pleased with each other. I fear that some of you may be arguing or jealous or angry or selfish or gossiping or insulting each other. I even fear that you may be proud and acting like a mob. 21 I am afraid God will make me ashamed when I visit you again. I will feel like crying because many of you have never given up your old sins. You are still doing things that are immoral, indecent, and shameful.

Final Warnings and Greetings

13 I am on my way to visit you for the third time. And as the Scriptures say, “Any charges must be proved true by at least two or three witnesses.” During my second visit I warned you that I would punish you and anyone else who doesn’t stop sinning. I am far away from you now, but I give you the same warning. This should prove to you that I am speaking for Christ. When he corrects you, he won’t be weak. He will be powerful! Although he was weak when he was nailed to the cross, he now lives by the power of God. We are weak, just as Christ was. But you will see that we will live by the power of God, just as Christ does.

Test yourselves and find out if you really are true to your faith. If you pass the test, you will discover that Christ is living in you. But if Christ isn’t living in you, you have failed. I hope you will discover that we have not failed. We pray that you will stop doing evil things. We don’t pray like this to make ourselves look good, but to get you to do right, even if we are failures.

All we can do is to follow the truth and not fight against it. Even though we are weak, we are glad that you are strong, and we pray that you will do even better. 10 I am writing these things to you before I arrive. This way I won’t have to be hard on you when I use the authority that the Lord has given me. I was given this authority, so that I could help you and not destroy you.

11 Good-by, my friends. Do better and pay attention to what I have said. Try to get along and live peacefully with each other.

Now I pray that God, who gives love and peace, will be with you. 12 Give each other a warm greeting. All of God’s people send their greetings.

13 I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will bless you and be kind to you! May God bless you with his love, and may the Holy Spirit join all your hearts together.

Footnotes

  1. 10.7 You judge by appearances: Or “Take a close look at yourselves.”
  2. 10.15 we will be able to reach many more of the people around you: Or “you will praise us even more because of our work among you.”
  3. 11.29 When others are tricked into sin, I get angry: Or “When others stumble into sin, I hurt for them.”
  4. 12.4 paradise: In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word is used for the Garden of Eden. In New Testament times it was sometimes used for the place where God’s people are happy and at rest, as they wait for the final judgment.
  5. 12.7 Of course. . . too proud: Or “Because of the wonderful things that I saw, one of Satan’s angels was sent to make me suffer terribly, so that I would not feel too proud.”