The Epistle of Second Corinthians
Lesson Number 48
TRANSLATION LEGEND: AMPLIFIED or AMP = Amplified Bible, (1965), ASV=American Standard Version (1901), BBE=Bible in Basic English (1949), DRA=Douay-Rheims (1899), ESV=English Stand Version (2001), IE = International English, ISV = International Standard Version (1967), JPS = Jewish Publicatrion Society (1917), KJV=King James Version (1611), LIVING = Living Bible (1971), MONTGOMERY = Montgomery’s New Testament (2001), MRD = Peshitta-James Murdock Translation (1852), NAB=New American Bible (2002), NASB=New American Standard Bible (1977), NAU=New American Standard Bible (1995), NIB=New International Bible, NIV=New International Version (1984), NJB=New Jerusalem Bible (1985), NKJV=New King James Version (1979), NLT=New Living Translation (1996), NRSV=New Revised Standard Version (1989), PHILLIPS = J B Phillips New Testament (1962), PNT = BISHOP’S New Testament (1595), RSV=Revised Standard Version (1952), TNK=JPS Tanakj (1985), Webster=The Webster Bible (1833),WEYMOUTH=Weymouth’s New Testament (1903), WILLIAMS = William’s New Testament (1937), TNK = JPS Tanakh (1985), TYNDALE= Tyndale’s Bible (1526), WYCLIFFE= Wycliffe New Testament (1382), YLT=Young’s Literal Translation (1862).
LEXICON LEGEND: FRIEBERG=Friberg Lexicon, UBS=UBS Lexicon, LOUW-NIDA=Louw-Nida Lexicon, LIDDELL SCOTT=Liddell Scott Lexicon, THAYER=Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
PAUL DEFENDS HIS APOSTLESHIP
“2 Cor 12:11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. 16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile. 17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? 18 I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps? 19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. 20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: 21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” (2 Corinthians 12:11-21)
This epistle is an excellent commentary on the inhibiting effects of carnality. When the “mind of the flesh” creeps into the church, all manner of disruption takes place. Not only is there a breakdown in morality and general relationships with kindred spirits, spiritual growth is brought to a grinding halt. When it becomes necessary to rebuke, correct, and direct human conduct, the exposition of Christ and His great salvation is reduced, at best, to a minimum. The seriousness of this is seen in the fact that the Gospel is the means by which faith is both initiated and maintained (Rom 1:16-17). As I have said already, rebuke, correction, and instruction in righteousness are all designed to get people back on the highway of holiness, where true spiritual learning and advancement are realized. I find that this perspective can hardly be found in the professing church. It has become occupied with human behavior.
Today, we are living in the midst of a great departure from the faith. The agenda of the church has been changed by novices and sophists – tailored to facilitate careers and impressive appearances. Hardly a quadrant of Christendom can be found where there is a dread of people remaining novices in the things of God. Precious few places can be found where holiness is viewed as an unwavering requirement of God (Heb 12:14), and friendship with the world is perceived as evidence of being God’s enemy (James 4:4). These are not mere casual observations. Everyone with a modicum of spiritual discernment knows this to be true.
MODERN WAYS OF DEALING WITH CORINTH
If contemporary church leaders had confronted the Corinthian church, they would not have taken the approach of the Apostle Paul. They would rather have hired some counselors who were supposed experts in human behavior, and added them to the staff. They would have offered some special classes in recovering from, what they conceived to be, abnormal behavior. Perhaps there would have been an increase in their work with the youth, the singles, and those in troubled marriages. But today’s merchants of religion would not have required the expulsion of fornicators (1 Cor 5:1-5), together with the casting out of “the leaven of malice and wickedness” (1 Cor 5:6-8).
In dealing with divisions, modern church leaders would not have pointed out the carnality of division, and how it contradicts the very nature of Christ Himself (1 Cor 1:10; 3:3; 11:18). They would rather have scurried about to develop some new services that would allow the factionists to all worship in isolated groups, maintaining their divisive opinions without disrupting the others. They would then have boasted about their spurious wisdom, referring to their contemporary and traditional services, and how they had actually managed to increase their attendance, even though there were divisions among them.
The point here is that the entirety of Paul’s approach to the deficiencies in Corinth is at a complete and total variance with the approach of the modern church. There is not a Bible College course in the country that would present this approach to church problems as the only proper one. This is because there is no room for “the flesh” in this approach. There is no concession to the carnal mind, and no tolerance of morally deviate behavior. There is no allowance for wayward teaching that produces wayward living. There is not the slightest permissiveness of degrading views of the messengers of truth. Here, the point is not being friendly, but godly. It is not institutional success, but readiness to stand before the Lord on the day of judgment.
Who can even imagine a group of elders, or a “pulpit committee,” that would consider a minister being approved “as the minister of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor 6:4-10)?
And what makes such standards of measure sound so strange? It is because they do not have any association with the promotion of an institution and a personal career in religion. Such things as Paul has cited manifest the enmity that exists between the man of God and the world, and the marvelous unity of the Spirit that exists between him and those who have been “born of God” (1 John 4:7).
Who has ever heard of a modern church of any size that has demanded that its ministers be men who have “renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:2). Corinth did not require this, but had allowed “false apostles and deceitful workers” (2 Cor 11:13) to come among them and spread their venomous doctrines.
What Paul is dealing with in the Corinthian letters bears such a remarkable resemblance to the contemporary situation that it is staggering to consider. Divisions, carnality, inconsideration, criticism of those who deliver the truth, susceptibility to false doctrine, flesh in the assembly, confusion, failing to discern the Lord’s body at the Lord’s table – etc. We are being exposed to how God deals with such things. This is how the Head of the church moves His real ministers to approach such matters.
In this approach we will find honesty (2 Cor 8:21; 13:7), a hatred for sin (1 Cor 5:7-8), a love for righteousness (1 Cor 15:34), and a hearty effort to get the saints where they can be edified (1 Cor 14:5,12,26; 2 Cor 12:18). The Gospel will be of utmost importance (1 Cor 4:15; 2 Cor 5:21; 8:9), the nature of the New Covenant will be expounded (2 Cor 3:6-11), the necessity of ongoing change (2 Cor 3:18), and a reminder issued that God will ultimately settle all differences on the of judgment (2 Cor 5:10).
In this book we are being exposed to the following:
☛ The effects of carnality upon a church.
☛ The thinking of a godly man.
☛ The manner in which the Holy Spirit moves a holy man to speak.
☛ The way in which the Head, Jesus Christ, ministers through those connected to Him.
☛ How God the Father addresses such problems.
☛ A proper preparation for the day of judgment.
☛ What is required to recover from sin.
All of this makes this book highly relevant for our day. Of course, it is inconceivable that God would ever inspire something to be said that was not relevant, or could be ignored by any given generation. “All Scripture” is for the profit of all saints, that they might be equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). That will never change.
COMPELLED TO BECOME A FOOL
“ 2 Cor 12:11a I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me . . . ”
Speaking in spiritual “baby-talk,” Paul is explaining why he has spoken so extensively about himself – even though he did not do so “after the manner of men” (Rom 6:19). There is much to be learned from this unique section of Scripture, for it is exposing us to the effects of carnal-mindedness within the church.
I AM BECOME A FOOL
“I am become a fool in glorying . . . ” Other versions read, “I have become a fool in boasting,” NKJV “I have become foolish,” NASB “I have made a fool of myself,” NIV “I have been a fool,” NRSV “I have turned into a fool,” NJB “It is foolish of me to write like this,” WEYMOUTH and “Now I have been [speaking like] a fool.” AMPLIFIED
The idea here is that Paul is now speaking quite differently than he normally speaks. He has not “become a fool” by worldly standards, but by his own. This also was not the manner in which an apostle would ordinarily speak, testifying to the harrowing experiences through which one’s ministry had led him, or announcing and sharing profound spiritual experiences. Holy men were sent by Jesus to preach and expound the Gospel, not to tell of their experiences.
Now Paul will tell the Corinthians that their condition, not his commission, moved him to speak as he has done. It was their lack of spiritual stature that required such an approach, not his personal preference or inclination. He is showing them how they ought to have vehemently opposed the “false apostles and deceitful workers” among them, who had spoken so derisively of him. Rather than bearing with them (2 Cor 11:4), they should have thrust them from their presence, quickly and zealously.
YOU HAVE COMPELLED ME
“ . . . ye have compelled me . . . ” Other versions read, “you yourselves compelled me,” NASB “but you drove me to it,” NIV and “You forced me to it.” NRSV
When the “carnal mind” is injected into the mainstream of religious thought, it alters how the people are approached. Paul had already told them, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1 Cor 3:1).
☛ Their doctrine had become flawed: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor 15:12).
☛ Their thinking had become flawed: “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another” (1 Cor 4:6).
☛ Their conduct was now flawed: “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife” (1 Cor 5:1). “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Cor 3:3). “
☛ They had come to despise the truth: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:8).
☛ They had come to despise God’s messenger: “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this” (1 Cor 9:1-3).
☛ They had ceased to grow: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor 3:1-2).
☛ They required spiritual milk: “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor 3:2).
At the time Paul wrote those words, the Corinthians had been in Christ for approximately four years. At the time he is writing this epistle, they had been “Christians” for five years. It was inexcusable that they should still be in such an infantile state, dominated by the “carnal mind.” It could be said of them as was said to certain spiritually retarded Jewish believers, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Heb 5:12).
One of the great tragedies of our time is that men have grown accustomed to weak churches. Scarcely a professing servant of God can be found who carries a daily “anxiety for all the churches” NRSV (2 Cor 11:28). In fact, if a consistent and extended concern for the churches is made known, those possessing such concern are generally criticized. They are upbraided for not having a sufficient concern for the lost, or missions, or assisting the poor, or some community concerns. But there is not a single syllable in the Epistles that has been prompted by a concern for such things. Deficiencies in local government are not addressed. The lack of cohesive families is not the subject of any letter to the churches. Numerical growth is never approached with an arresting concern.
Why are such things drawing so much attention in our day? It is because a lethal dose of “the carnal mind” has been injected into the mainstream of religious thought! The “mind of the Spirit” (Rom 8:27) has been thrust to the side in favor of “the carnal mind” with all of its machinations. Lest we forget what the Lord has said about “the carnal mind,” or the purely human way of thinking, it is good to consider His words.
☛ “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom 8:5-6).
☛ “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:7-8).
☛ “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).
☛ “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
When men are exposed to the truth of God, and show no fundamental appetite for it, there are very real reasons for that condition. It is not owing to a lack of religious education. It is not that they are merely not ready for the truth, or that God does not intend for them to embrace it at that time. This condition is wholly owing to a certain unacceptable mind-set. Their thinking is being directed by “the flesh,” not “the Spirit,” and this is not an innocent situation. If it is not corrected, it will be the cause of God’s condemnation, for there will not be a soul in glory whose thinking is at variance with that of the Lord of glory.
It is the unjustified carnal thinking of the Corinthians that has constrained Paul to write in this manner. However, he is also laboring to lead them back to a “sound mind,” and therefore writes with great wisdom.
I OUGHT TO HAVE BEEN COMMENDED BY YOU
“ 11b . . . for I ought to have been commended of you . . . ” Other versions read, “For I ought to have been commended by you,” NKJV “Actually I should have been commended by you,” NASB “Indeed, you should have been the ones commending me,” NRSV “though it was right for my praise to have come from you,” BBE “It is you who should have been commending me,” NJB “You ought to have been writing commendations of me,” NLT “For you people ought to be writing about me and not making me write about myself,” LIVING “You should have been patting me on the back,” IE “Why, you ought to have been my vindicators,” WEYMOUTH “for I am the man who ought to have been constantly approved by you,” WILLIAMS “or I ought to have been [saved the necessity and] commended by you,” AMPLIFIED and “If only you had had a better opinion of me it would have been quite unnecessary.” PHILLIPS
Elsewhere, Paul made clear that he did not labor to please men. “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10). “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thess 2:4).
It is quite true that there was a sense in which Paul did please men: “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor 10:33). In this text, Paul was not expressing his objective, but his manner. That is, he did things that did not violate the good sense of men. He referred to this as being “approved of men” (Rom 14:18); that is, honest men could not find moral flaws in what he did or the way he did it. In this way he could commend himself to “every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:2). He was thus providing “for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor 8:21). If any one accused Paul of deviate conduct, they would have to do so “falsely” (1 Pet 3:16). There are a considerable amount of “Christian ministries” that appear, even to the world, to lack noble motives – works that give the appearance of being nothing more than the exploitation of the people. Paul labored to avoid anything that led to such a conclusion.
But when it came to the objective of Paul’s labors, it was not to please men. He is not, therefore, extending himself so that the Corinthians will give him praise. In fact, as he states in this verse, they should have rushed to his defense when his critics began dragging his name through the mud, and denigrating his person. The Corinthians themselves were the product of Paul’s labors – an “epistle of Christ ministered” by himself (2 Cor 3:3). They were his “work in the Lord” (1 Cor 9:1). Their washing, justification, and sanctification (1 Cor 6:11) were owing to his labors. If anyone should have known the legitimacy of his ministry, it was the Corinthians.
When these intruding teachers began maligning Paul, the Corinthians should have spoken up, bearing faithful testimony concerning him. They knew him intimately, and were well familiar with the power and truthfulness of his message. They had gained great spiritual advantages from his teaching, so that they “came behind in no gift” (1 Cor 1:7).
Instead of speaking in his behalf, and citing the trials through which he had passed for Jesus’ sake, they had allowed themselves to be taken in by “false apostles and deceitful workers.” So much was this the case, that they now thought less of him than more of him. Thus, Paul had to declare what they themselves should have made known – how that God had revealed things to him, and he had chosen to go through great trials in order to faithfully deliver the message and insights that were given to him.
Every time faithful ministers are maligned by those to whom they have ministered, and who have gained spiritual advantages from them, “deceitful workers” have been spreading their poison. How often I have seen it happen: once close and thankful friends suddenly become critics of the very ones whom God used to open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Few kingdom laborers have not drunk the bitter dregs of such a cup.
Paul, however, will not let the matter go. He will not run away with his tail between his legs, or sulking in bitter disappointment. He knows that if he loses the Corinthians, he will have spent some of his labor in vain, and will “suffer loss” in the very day of judgment (1 Cor 3:15). Therefore he seeks to jar the Corinthians out of the stupidity that had afflicted them because of the teachers who had swooped down like vultures upon them.
It ought to be said that the true ministers of God ought to be noted for their spiritual tenacity. When they face “church leaders” who oppose them, like the “false apostles and deceitful workers” in Corinth, they should confront them to their faces, expose them, and do their best to recover the saints from their grasp. Such perpetrators deserve no respect, and ought not to be treated as though they held some honorable office in the church of God! Such men are imposters, defiling the assembly, corrupting the saints, and causing all who listen to them to move backward to perdition (Heb 10:39). If this seems strong, it is not nearly strong enough. I have greatly understated the case.
You will note that Paul has absolutely no interest in preserving a religious institution – especially at the expense of the truth. Also, he has no respect for a form of godliness that rejects the power thereof, and neither should we.
I COME BEHIND IN NOTHING
“ 11c . . . for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”
Paul has been presented as though he was in some way inferior to his critics. This representation was totally false, and he will not allow the reports to continue as if they were true. This was also the manner of our Lord Jesus Christ, who would not allow his critics to speak against Him without throwing the truth of the situation in their face. Here are some of his statements touching this matter.
☛ “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children” (Luke 7:33-35).
☛ “If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:18-20).
☛ “Jesus answered, If I honor myself, my honor is nothing: it is my Father that honoreth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:54-56).
☛ “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” (John 8:46).
Much more could be said on this matter, but this will suffice to confirm that Paul is conducting himself in perfect harmony with the manner of the kingdom and the nature of the Lord Jesus Himself.
BEHIND IN NOTHING
“ . . . for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles . . . ” Other versions read, “in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles,” NKJV “for in no respect was I inferior to the most imminent apostles,” NASB “for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” NIV “For I am not at all inferior to these superlative apostles,” RSV “for in no way am I was I less than the chief of the apostles,” BBE “I have been nothing behind those who were in surpassing degree apostles,” DARBY “those super-apostles had no advantage over me,” NJB “There isn’t a single thing these other marvelous fellows have that I don’t have too,” LIVING “for in no respect have I been inferior to these superlatively great apostles,” WEYMOUTH “For I am not a single bit inferior to your surpassingly great apostles,” WILLIAMS “In no respect am I inferior to these super-apostolic apostles,” MONTGOMERY “For I have not fallen short one bit or proved myself at all inferior to those superlative [false] apostles [of yours],” AMPLIFIED and “For I am not really in the least inferior, nobody as I am, to these extra-special messengers.” PHILLIPS
Paul is here comparing himself with the “false apostles” that had invaded Corinth – not with the original “twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Paul would not compare himself with the “twelve apostles,” for then he would have doing exactly the same thing as the “false apostles,” who were noted for “comparing themselves among themselves” (2 Cor 10:12). It is important that this distinction be seen.
It is true that it appears some in Corinth had been comparing Paul to some of the twelve apostles. Thus Paul wrote, “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Cor 1:12). And again, “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours” (1 Cor 3:21-22). And again, “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor 9:5). However, in those texts it was the attitude of the Corinthians toward those apostles and others that was the issue, NOT what those men had said about Paul. In the matter with which Paul is now dealing, it was what had been said about him by “false apostles and deceitful workers” that is the issue.
With their “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” and “another gospel,” these men had apparently boasted of some new message, or some new slant on the true message. However, whether you spoke of their Jewish pedigree or their message itself, they had in no way upstaged Paul. He did not come behind them in anything.
On a lower level, there are similar things that faithful servants of God face today. There are some who take it upon themselves to criticize faithful messengers, pointing to their unimpressive appearance, the seeming smallness of their work, or their lack of institutional association. They love to tell men what God has revealed to them, and frequently declare “the Lord told me so,” or “the Lord has revealed this to me.” Some have even boldly announced a new kind of work that God is now doing among men – something that he has never done before. It is not unusual to hear these intruders speak of reversing the curse, gaining wealth, guaranteed health, how to build great churches, and how praise is the key to touching God, etc. This, of course, is generally designed to draw attention to themselves, and away from those who do not embrace their spurious message.
A Word of Caution
It ought to be noted that the people of God should sparingly use such phrases as “the Lord has shown me,” “the Lord is teaching me,” “the Lord has revealed to me,” and so forth. It is not that such things cannot happen. However, genuine revelation and Divine direction will be confirmed by the nature and effects of the message. If that is not the case, then the Lord has been misrepresented. Within a body of people who are experiencing increased measures of “newness of life,” special diligence ought to be given not to in any way misrepresent the Lord. Flesh must be given no advantage among the saints – none at all. When, however, men speak as though they have in some way risen above their peers, they are entering very treacherous terrain.
Note with what care Paul approaches this subject. He does not say, “I have received much more than they,” or “I know a lot more than they do.” He rather says, “in nothing am I behind.” There is certainly wisdom in such humility.
THOUGH I BE NOTHING
“ . . . though I be nothing.” Other versions read, “even though I am a nobody,” NASB “if also I am nothing,” DARBY “even if I am nothing at all,” NJB “even though I am really worth nothing at all,” LIVING “even though I myself am nothing,” WEYMOUTH and “nobody as I am.” PHILLIPS
Paul gloried in the Lord alone, and was swift to say, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:10a). If there was a legitimate difference between him and others, he knew it was only in what he had “received,” not what he had done of himself (1 Cor 4:7). If he confesses that he has “labored more abundantly than they all,” he quickly adds, “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor 15:10b).
This expression can be seen from two perspectives, and both are true. First, that the “false apostles” viewed Paul as “nothing,” feeling at liberty to oppose him and trample on his character as though he was nothing more than a dog. Second, that this is how perceived himself independently of Christ. He knew that his real distinction was strictly owing to the grace of God, not to any personal achievements or pedigree. It seems to me that the latter view is the most prominent one. This is precisely why he has cited his sufferings as his credentials (2 Cor 4:8-11; 11:23-28).
In matters pertaining to kingdom labors, the things that distinguish the real servant of God is what he has “seen and heard” (Lk 7:22; John 3:22; Acts 4:20; 22:15; 1 John 1:3). There is also the distinction that is afforded because of one’s ministry to the people of God (Rom 16:2,6; Phile 1:5,7). However, no man or woman of God is lauded or held in high regard for building an institution, establishing a school, or having an impressive list of credentials. It is good that noble souls have built orphanages, relieved those caught in natural disasters, and the likes. We give thanks for their labors, and in no way choose to criticize them. However, in the kingdom of God, these are not the highest ranking souls. The twelve foundations of the glorified church are “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14). They are noted for being “guided into all truth” (John 16:13), being shown “plainly” the truth pertaining to redemption (John 16:25), and having “the mystery of Christ” revealed to and through them (Eph 3:4-5). When Jude called upon the saints to recall the Apostles, he summoned them to remember “the words” that they spoke (Jude 1:17).
I am particularly cautious on this matter, lest I be thought to despise the “good works” of the people of God. I am here speaking of distinctions in the kingdom. Paul said it this way, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers . . .” (1 Cor 12:28). None of these things rank high in institutionalism. None of them can be used as a basis for building an institution or achieving worldly status. There value is found in the fruit that they produce – fruit that complements the eternal purpose of God.
THE SIGNS OF AN APOSTLE
“ 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”
Here is a most unique passage. This is the only place Paul speaks in this manner, which confirms the seriousness of the conditions in Corinth. One would think that it would never be necessary to remind someone of “the signs of an apostle” that were wrought among them. Such things as signs and wonders surely could not be easily forgotten! However, alas, “the flesh” not only forgets such things, but is prone to erase them from the memory. This is because things that are wrought through the power of God have a convicting influence, so that “the carnal mind” has no inclination to recall them. Therefore, Paul will bring them up.
THE SIGNS OF AN APOSTLE
“Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you . . .” Other versions read, “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you,” NKJV “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you,” NASB “The things that mark an apostle . . . were done among you,” NIV “The signs indeed of an apostle were wrought among you,” DARBY “Yet the signs of my apostleship have been wrought on you,” DOUAY “All the marks characteristic of a true apostle have been at work among you,” NJB “When I was with you, I certainly gave you every proof that I am truly an apostle, sent to you by God himself,” NLT “Yet the tokens of an apostle were wrought among you,” TNT “When I was there I certainly gave you every proof that I was truly an apostle sent to you by God Himself,” LIVING “The marks that signify the genuine apostle were exhibited among you,” WILLIAMS “Indeed, the signs that indicate a [genuine] apostle were performed among you fully,” AMPLIFIED and “You have had an exhaustive demonstration of the power God gives to a genuine messenger of His.” PHILLIPS
The apostles of Christ were no ordinary men – at least not after Jesus called and separated them. The “twelve apostles” and Paul, “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13), were all personally tutored by the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul received his teaching after Jesus was enthroned in heaven (1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 11:23; 1 Thess 4:2). “The twelve” received much of their teaching before Jesus died. Following His ascension, the Holy Spirit then directed them into “all truth” (John 16:13), and brought to their remembrance what Jesus had said (John 14:26).
Because the “foundation” upon which the church is built is “the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20; 3:5), they could not be wrong in what they said. Though they were, from the standpoint of the flesh, ordinary men, from the spiritual perspective there was nothing ordinary about them. The “prophets” that join with the “apostles” as the foundation of the church are not the “prophets”Jesus has set in the church (Eph 4:11; 1 Cor 12:28). These are rather the prophets of old, who were given insight into the nature and ministry of the coming Messiah. Peter spoke of them in this way: “That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Pet 3:2). Both the “apostles and prophets” had first-hand knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom. The rest of the people of God have second-hand knowledge. In their cogitations of the things of God, they must begin with “the Scriptures.”
Any word purporting to be from God that is not in the Scriptures, or in strict harmony with them, is, at the very best, only a temporary word having to do with the affairs of this life – like the prophecy of Agabus concerning a “great dearth” (Acts 11:28). Such words are not foundational, and they are not essential for faith, nor do they promote and maintain faith – even though they may be very true.
These conditions are the reasons for such a thing as “the signs of an apostle.” These are proofs that the person is a genuine “apostle,” like the signs Moses wrought were a sign that he was really sent from God to deliver Israel (Ex 4:8-9,17,28,30).
In a much maligned text of Scripture, Jesus spoke of the kind of “signs” affirmed in this text. “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18). The great controversy among men is whether these pertained to all who believe, as mentioned in verse sixteen – “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” – or to the twelve to whom he said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).
If the “signs” are intended to follow those who believe the Gospel preached by the apostles, then they would be a confirmation to the apostles that the people had really believed. If they followed the apostles who preached in faith, they would confirm to the hearers that the apostles were really sent from God. There can be no question that the latter is the case. Mark concludes his Gospel by saying, “And they [the apostles] went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:20). In recording the spread of the Gospel, Luke writes, “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people” (Acts 5:12). The epistle to the Hebrews also indicates this is the case: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him (Jesus). God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will? (Heb 2:3-4).
Speaking of his own ministry, Paul wrote to the Romans, “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom 15:18-19). Again, it is written, “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:12).
My point here has to do with “the signs of an apostle,” not with the possibility of miracles. Our text is dealing with the confirmation that the apostles did, in fact, deliver the message of God to the people – “the word of this salvation” (Acts 13:26). I am not among those who say “the age of miracles has ceased,” nor is there any clear word from God that teaches such a concept. I believe such a doctrine to be contrived by men with the intent to disprove modern claims to miracles. Of course, in order to embrace such a doctrine, you will be forced to redefine a miracle, or the supernatural. This would rule out angelic ministry (Heb 1:13-145), deliverance from evil (Matt 6:13); , being strengthened with might the Spirit in the inner man (Eph 3:16), and the new birth itself (1 Pet 1:23; 1 John 5:4). None but a fool would make an effort to extract the miraculous from life in Christ Jesus!
Furthermore, the working of miracles was not confined to the apostles, for Philip the evangelist worked them in Samaria, moving the people to believe. As it is written, “And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:6-8).
God is also said to have placed miracles “in the church” – not the church of the first century, but “the church.” “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Cor 12:28). I do not know what rule of reason would justify the conclusion that a time came when three of these eight gifts were rendered obsolete. These are all distributed and managed by Deity, not men. All men do not have them (1 Cor 12:29-30), and they do not constitute the “best” that God has to offer, orthe most “excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31).
I have made these few remarks in order to underscores that this text is about “the signs of an apostle.” It is not a statement concerning the status of common believers.
PATIENCE, SIGNS, WONDERS, AND MIGHTY DEEDS
“ . . . in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”
It will be of interest to see how Paul addresses this subject. This, of course, is a proper approach, as Paul was being moved along by the Spirit of God.
In All Patience
“ . . . in all patience . . .” Other versions read, “with all perseverance,” NKJV “with great perseverance,” NIV “with utmost patience,” NRSV “in quiet strength,” BBE “ en all endurance,” DARBY “complete perseverance,” NJB “For I patiently did,” NLT “Very patiently,” IE “by unwearied fortitude,” WEYMOUTH “in my perfect patience,” WILLIAMS and “and most patiently,” AMPLIFIED
Precious few theologians would have listed “patience” as the sign of an apostle! “Patience” has to do with spiritual fortitude – with continuing the work of an apostle when it is not appreciated, and when countless obstacles appear on the horizon of duty. “Patience” has to do with not quitting, not giving up, and not being swallowed up by despair. “Patience” goes through the storm, even when the ship is wrecked at sea, and some means must be sought to get to shore. “Patience” sings after the messenger has been beaten, and gives thanks to be counted “worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). When “patience” is told to “not speak in the name of Jesus,” it is said of those possessing it, “they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:40-42).
One of the “signs” that a person is sent from God is that they cannot be silenced, or forced to cease doing what they have been commissioned to do. A noble example of this is Jeremiah. He said, “For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jer 20:9). He had “patience.”
Paul said of his own “patience,” “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:8-9). Once, when he was stoned and left for dead, it is written, “Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe” (Acts 14:20). He had “patience” – laboring on when it was difficult to do so.
“ . . . in signs . . . ” Other versions read, “proofs from God,” IE and “miracles.” AMPLIFIED
The word “sign” means “that by which a person or thing is distinguished from others and known . . . an unusual occurrence, transcending the common course of nature . . . of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him, or by which men prove that the cause they are pleading is God's,” THAYER and “(1) basically, as what serves as a pointer to aid perception or insight; sign, mark, distinguishing characteristic; (2) as what distinguishes one person or thing from another sign, token, mark (LU 2.12; RO 4.11); (3) as a miraculous event contrary to the usual course of nature and intended as a pointer or means of confirmation.” FRIBERG
A “sign” is something supernatural that has a specific purpose. It authenticates a person or a message. For example, the speaking of tongues on the day of Pentecost was a “sign” to the listeners that what they heard had come from God (Acts 2:7-12). This is not a mere display, or an empty show, but is designed for instruction – to confirm, assure, and substantiate.
Paul does not enumerate any of these signs, for that would contradict his purpose. These were things wrought among the Corinthians, and they would be aware of what they were, for they were not only unique, but were associated exclusively with Paul.
An Example a Sign Wrought by Paul
Once, early in the ministry of Paul, he was vigorously opposed by a certain sorcerer named Elymas. Paul encountered him when he was in Paphos. This man was “a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus.” He was with the “deputy,” or proconsul NKJV of the country, who was a “prudent man, and had called for Barnabas and Saul, desiring to hear the word of God.” When this false prophet “withstood,” or “opposed” NIV Barnabas and Saul, “seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith,” Saul “who is also called Paul” became agitated. It is written, “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:9-11).
That work conformed that Paul was the real representative of God, and not the imposter Barjesus, or Elymas. The deputy recognized the confirming sign. As it is written, “Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord” (Acts 13:12). I am sure that he no longer had Elymas accompany him.
“ . . . and wonders . . . ”Other versions read, “marvels.” NJB
A “wonder” is a “prodigy,” or something out of the usual course of nature; something extraordinary and inexplicable. The word means, “a prodigy, portent, miracle, or wonder performed by anyone,” THAYER and “something so unusual it arouses close observation.” FRIBERG
Some of the wonders wrought by Paul include the following:
☛ The healing of a lame man in Lystra, who was “cripple from his mother’s womb, and had never walked” (Acts 14:8-10).
☛ Casting out a spirit of divination that possessed a woman Macedonia (Acts 16:16-18).
☛ “Special miracles” wrought by his hand “So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).
☛ The healing of the father of Publius, Melita, chief man of the Isle of Melita, of a fever and a bloody flux (Acts 28:8).
☛ The healing of many of the sick on the Isle of Melita (Acts 28:9).
☛ The raising of Eutychus from the dead while preaching in Troas (Acts 20:9-12).
☛ When Paul was bitten by a deadly viper on the Isle of Melita, he “shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm” (Acts 28:5).
Although not enumerated, the Corinthians had been exposed to such marvelous works while Paul was among them.
In Mighty Deeds
“ . . . and mighty deeds.”Other versions read, “miracles,” NASB “mighty works,” NRSV “acts of power,” BBE “works of power,” DARBY “great works,” GENEVA “demonstrations of power,” NJB “powers,” IE “displays of power,” WEYMOUTH “wonder-works,” WILLIAMS and “works of spiritual power.” PHILLIPS
“Mighty deeds” refers to “the power to perform miracles,” THAYER “supernatural manifestations of power,” FRIBERG “the ability to perform a certain activity or to undergo some experience,” LOUW-NIDA and “the ability to do a thing beyond one’s strength.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
While the word “wonders” emphasizes WHAT was done, the expression “mighty deeds” emphasizes WHO did them. Some examples of “mighty deeds” would be fighting “with beasts at Ephesus” (1 Cor 15:32), surviving five beatings of forty save one, three beatings with rods, three shipwrecks, and a day and a night in the deep (2 Cor 11:24-25).
Again, Paul does not cite any of these “mighty deeds,” but the Corinthians would know well what he was speaking about – which is the whole point here. Unlike the teachers to whom they had been listening, the things that accompanied his ministry proved the truth of it. Consider the “signs of an apostle,” including “patience,” “signs,” “wonders,” and “mighty deeds” to be fruit that testified to Paul’s legitimacy.
The “false apostles and deceitful workers” had no such signs to show. Their mouths were all that they could offer, commending themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves (2 Cor 10:12). In such proofs, Paul puts them to deserving shame, for they could produce no such evidence.
INFERIOR TO OTHER CHURCHES
“ 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.”
Paul continues to reason with the Corinthians, pulling them up out of the quagmire of carnality, into which their teachers had thrown them. He is dealing with them gently and wisely, as he himself admonished the Galatians to do: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal 6:1). He was speaking of a person to the Galatians. In this text, he is dealing with a whole church.
Carnality has a tremendous impact upon those who are dominated by it. It causes their minds to become spiritually demented and unstable, and their souls to become brittle, like “a bruised reed.” It douses the fire of the Spirit, so that they become like a “smoking flax.” Such poor souls wear their feelings on the shirt-sleeve, are easily offended, and are quick to criticize their helpers. These are all signs of being “carnally minded” (Rom 8:6). Because “to be carnally minded is death,” such signs are also indication that spiritual death has set in. In such a case a distance is formed between the offenders and God, the Spirit is quenched, and the Word of God no longer dwells richly within them. It is a serious situation, indeed, and yet it is one that prevails in our country.
INFERIOR TO OTHER CHURCHES
“For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, . . . ” Other versions read, “For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches?” NASB “How were you inferior to the other churches?” NIV “How have you been worse off than the other churches?” NRSV “For in what were you less favored than the other churches?” RSV “For what is there in which you were made less than the other churches?” BBE In what way were you less privileged than the rest of the churches?” NAB “Is there any way in which you have been given less than the rest of the churches?” NJB “The only thing I didn't do, which I do in the other churches?” NLT “Did I treat you as if you were less important than other congregations?” IE “In what respect, therefore, have you been worse dealt with than other churches?” WEYMOUTH “For in what respect were you put to a disadvantage in comparison with the rest of the churches,” AMPLIFIED and “What makes you feel so inferior to other churches?” PHILLIPS
The point here is not that the Corinthians had viewed themselves as inferior. In fact, it was quite the opposite, as they had taken upon themselves to examine Paul as though they were his superiors. Rather, by giving heed to other teachers, who had taken upon themselves to cast aspersions at Paul, they had suggested that a superior message had been delivered to them by superior teachers. The only reason to abandon one teacher for another is because one thinks there is an advantage to doing so. However, these teachers had not actually brought anything to the Corinthians. There had been no increase in spiritual understanding and resources. All, they had presented was talk – and that was mostly about themselves. It is written, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” NIV (1 Cor 4:20).
They Owe Us An Explanation
The Corinthians were suggesting that Paul had withheld some gems of truth from them, and that they could only obtain them from someone else – namely the “false apostles and deceitful workers” they had gladly taken in. They had bought into the same lie that took hold of Eve, thinking that there was some great advantage to disobeying God, as the “old serpent” had told her (Gen 3:5). Now, Paul calls for them to identify precisely what that imagined morsel of truth was. What had they really gained? And, precisely what was it that he had withheld from them?
When people forsake the truth of the Gospel in favor of some emphasis that pushes Christ into the background, they need to tell us what advantage they think themselves to have gained. It is not enough to say they just did not feel at home, or that they have found something better. What did they gain, and what was it that they felt they did not have?
FORGIVE ME THIS WRONG
Paul, in unparalleled wisdom, is able to cite one area in which they were inferior – and it was an area of their own choosing, having nothing to do with what he taught, or how he conducted his ministry. It is a matter that he has mentioned before, and that was an issue even in his first epistle to the Corinthians.
I Was Not Burdensome to You
“ . . . except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.” Other versions read, “except that I myself did not become a burden to you? ” NASB “except that I was never a burden to you?” “but in the one thing that I was not a trouble to you?” BBE “unless that I myself have not been in laziness a charge upon you? DARBY “except that I have not been slothful to your hindrance?” GENEVA “to become a burden to you – I didn’t ask you to give me food to eat or a p lace to stay,” LIVING “No, I didn’t burden you.,” IE “except that I myself never hung as a dead weight upon you?” WEYMOUTH “except that I did not bother you for help?” ISV “except for the fact that I, and I only, never received from you any financial support.” WILLIAMS “unless [it was for the fact] that I myself did not burden you [with my financial support]?” AMPLIFIED and “Is it because I have not allowed you to support me financially?” PHILLIPS
The Corinthians never did support Paul, and he never insisted on them to doing so, even though he had every right to do it. In this matter the Corinthians had proved fundamentally deficient, and their conduct could in no way be justified.
☛ Their failure to support him violated Kingdom reasoning: “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” (1 Cor 9:11).
☛ It deconsecrated the very ordinance of God Almighty: “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor 9:14). It contradicted the right of the apostle to forbear working: “Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?” (1 Cor 9:6).
☛ Their conduct toward Paul was in stark contrast with even the valid wisdom of this world: “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?” (1 Cor 9:7).
☛ Their manner conflicted with the principles revealed through the Law: “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope” (1 Cor 9:9-10).
☛ Paul actually suffered need among them, yet they make no effort to assist him. Brethren from another area saw his need and supplied it: “And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself” (2 Cor 11:9).
In spite of all of this, Paul refused to insist on his own rights – something the “false apostles and deceitful workers” never did. He saw that the Corinthians considered such support a “burden.” Even though they could not possibly have been more wrong, Paul refused to conduct himself in a manner that would be viewed as a “burden.” He would rather suffer deprivation himself than be viewed as a weight upon the necks of those he taught.
☛ “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel” (1 Cor 9:18).
☛ “I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself” (2 Cor 11:9).
☛ “I did not burden you” (2 Cor 12:16).
The context, and the manner in which Paul cites this deficiency suggests he was the only teacher the Corinthians treated in this way. William’s translation reflects this perspective: “I only, never received from you any financial support.”
Some have supposed that this was Paul’s consistent practice, thus seeming to justify the manner in which some churches have treated those who feed them. But this was not the case. Paul received support from the churches in Macedonia – even when he was not ministering among them (2 Cor 11:9). The church at Philippi supported Paul “once and again,” even when he was in Thessalonica (Phil 2:25; 4:16,18). Onesiphorus frequently “refreshed” Paul (2 Tim 1:18). Once he diligently sought Paul out when he was imprisoned in Rome, and “ministered” to him (2 Tim 1:8). Phebe had been a “succourer” of Paul (Rom 16:1-2). A sister named “Mary” also “bestowed much labor” on Paul (Rom 16:6). Paul was not opposed to receiving support from believers.
Let us dispense with the notion that Paul always preached at his own expense. He did do this in the “regions of Achaia,” to which Corinth belonged. This was, however, more owing to the immaturity of the people in that region than to his preference.
Is this the standard of the Kingdom? Indeed not! Throughout history, there have been great men and women of God who have not demanded support from those to whom they ministered. This was an act of humility on their part, for they considered it inappropriate because of the people. But this is not the manner in which the Lord intends for His workers to be treated. I have already shown you what the Scriptures have affirmed on this subject.
Forgive Me This Wrong
“ . . . forgive me this wrong.” Other versions read, “Let me have forgiveness for this wrong,” BBE “Forgive me this injury,” DARBY “Please forgive me for this wrong,” LIVING “Was that wrong? Please forgive me,” IE “Forgive me the injustice I thus did you,” WEYMOUTH “Pardon me [for doing you] this injustice! AMPLIFIED and “My humblest apologies for this great wrong!” PHILLIPS
Why does Paul speak in this manner? It is because of the conduct of the Corinthians. Instead of being moved by his sacrificial and absolutely willing ministry, they took it as a token of weakness, as their miserable teachers had suggested. Thus what Paul had done accented their weakness instead of bringing them out of it. His approach to his support among them actually brought out what they really were, and it was not good. Evil is especially evil when goodness provokes its increase.
THE THIRD TIME
“ 14a Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you . . .”
I want to again emphasize that Paul’s manner of speaking has been required because of the carnality of the Corinthians. This is not conjecture, for Paul affirms to them, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Cor 3:1-3). Repetition and extended explanations are necessary where “the flesh” is dominant. We ought to consider it an indication of unusual ignorance when any person assumes the church in Corinth is a pattern for all churches to follow. Paul nowhere sets them forth as a notable example of proper assembly conduct, speaking in tongues, or the operation of the various gifts dispensed to the church. They had to be corrected in nearly everything from morality to the observance of the Lord’s table. Further their deficiencies were directly traceable to the teachers they had chosen to follow. Still, because of his investment in them, and his fervent desire that none of his labor be lost, Paul continues to reason with them.
READY FOR THE THIRD TIME
“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you . . . ” Other versions read, “Now for the third time I am ready to come to you,” NKJV “Here for the third time I am ready to come to you,” NASB “Now I am ready to visit you for the third time,” NIV and “It is now the third time that I have been ready to come and see you.” WILLIAMS
Paul does not mean he had already been to Corinth two times, and now was preparing to come the third time. He had actually only been there once, when he initially spent eighteen months there (Acts 18:11). He means that this is the third time he has purposed to come. He wrote to them in his first epistle that he had determined to come to them: “Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia” (1 Cor 16:5). Then, in this epistle he tells them that he had purposed to come to them with a “second benefit.” “And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; and to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea” (2 Cor 1:15-16). His purposes, then, were to come to them on his way to Macedonia, and on his return from Macedonia as well. None of these had materialized, and thus he purposed for the third time to come to them. He again mentions this “third time” in the thirteenth chapter, as well as the “second time.” “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare” (2 Cor 13:1-2). Things had been proceeding from bad to worse with the false teachers, as well as other transgressors. Thus he is the more determined to come to them, and alerts them to that determination.
I WILL NOT BE BURDENSOME
“ . . . and I will not be burdensome to you . . . ” Other versions read,“and I will not be a trouble to you,” BBE “and I will not be in laziness charge,” DARBY “and yet I will not be slothful to your hindrance,” GENEVA “and yet will I not be chargeable unto you,” PNT “and yet will I not be grievous unto you,” TNT “and it is still not going to cost you anything,” LIVING “but I will not be a dead weight on you,” WEYMOUTH “and I will not bother you for help,” ISV “and I will never ask you for financial support,” WILLIAMS and “and I am still not going to be a burden to you.” PHILLIPS
That is, Paul is still going to forgo receiving any support from them – particularly since he has had difficulty enough getting them to gather the offering for the poor saints that they promised more than a year ago. Knowing how the carnal mind thinks, he assures the Corinthians that he is not coming to gather an offering for himself, or to preach and teach at their expense.
It is a sad state of affairs when ministering to the person who is feeding you the good word of God is considered “burdensome” – but that is just how the Corinthians viewed it. It grieves my heart to think of this kind of response to a man of Paul’s spiritual caliber. It only confirms that the Corinthians were closer to the world than to heaven, and had failed to crucify the flesh, as those who in Christ are said to do: “And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal 5:24). Paul is long suffering with them, for he is desiring to present them faultless to Christ. However, this in no way dignifies their condition.
I SEEK NOT YOURS, BUT YOU
“ . . . for I seek not yours, but you . . .” Other versions read, “for I do not seek what is yours, but you,” NASB “because what I want is not your possessions but you,” NIV “my desire is for you, not your property,” BBE “For I seek not the things that are yours, but you,” DOUAY “because what I want is not your possessions but you,” NIB and “I don’t want what you have, I want you,” NLT
This is not a common frame of mind in our day. One gets the distinct impression that there are many who do want what the saints have – their possessions. They engage in all manner of crafty approaches in order to gain the resources of the saints. But Paul will have nothing to do with such chicanery. He wants the Corinthians themselves – not as his possession, but as the Lord’s, and his brethren en route to glory. At this point, Paul was heading one way, and the Corinthians, under the pathetic leadership of their teachers, were headed in the opposite direction. He knows, and so must we, that Jesus did not open a way to earthly advantages, but a “new and living way” that leads to heaven, where He is enthroned. Thus it is written, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Heb 10:19-20). When Jesus died, God Himself tore the Temple veil in two, “from the top to the bottom,” signifying that the way into the Lord’s presence was being opened (Matt 27:51). Paul desired for the Corinthians to be on this heavenward way, for there really is no other reason for being identified with Christ.
Modern Christianity reflects a decided change of emphasis – from preparation for glory to making life in this world more tolerable. This has had a significant influence upon the religious community. “Worship” is now associated with its impact upon the people rather than upon God himself. There is no longer a perceived need for men and women with an understanding of God’s eternal purpose, justification, and the Person and work of Jesus. Correct human behavior is seen as an end of itself, when it is seen at all, and not as the evidence of faith and part of one’s preparation for glory.
These conditions have all but removed the concept revealed in this text, so that the text itself has a strange sound to it. Charlatans cannot distinguish between “yours” and “you.”
What Paul is Saying
In saying he does not desire what the Corinthians have, but they themselves, Paul means that he is not seeking gain from them. Instead, he is laboring to promote their spiritual welfare – to build them up in the faith in order that they might gain the eternal inheritance. This is in strict comportment with the commission he received from the Lord Jesus – to turn men “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God,” that they might receive “forgiveness of sins, AND inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith” in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18). Do you imagine that if they come short of the inheritance, any value at all can be found in their lives? What place has God made for religious people who will not obtain the inheritance? Where is there room in the Kingdom of God for people who maintain some form of Christian identity, yet do not live by faith or walk in the Spirit, and are not laying up treasures in heaven? Is there some lower place in the body of Christ for such people? Has room been made for those who reject the apostles and conduct their lives in contradiction of the heavenly calling?
Who would dare to postulate such utter absurdities? And yet, the modern church is filled with people who have no perceived connection with God, Jesus Christ, and God’s “eternal purpose.” If the modern church were suddenly to be transformed and begin living by faith and walking in the Spirit, the entire superstructure of organized religion would collapse. Christian schools would either go out of existence or have to completely revamp their curriculum and hire all new staff members. Workshops would go out of existence, and “Christian bookstores” would have to restock their shelves with materials that reflected God’s purpose, or close their doors. Great masses of Christian musicians, song-writers, and the likes would be out of business. And why is this so? Simply because the thrust of popular “Christianity” is piping to the people that have no interest in actually pleasing God. Jesus could well say to them what He did to those of His day: “But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented” (Matt 11:16-17). This is a religious generation that rejects anyone who does not do what it wants, and those who do not please them cannot be accepted into their circles.
One Other Thing
When Paul says he desires the Corinthians themselves, he is acknowledging the lack of their commitment. Even though Paul belonged to them, together with Cephas and Apollos, they had chosen other teachers who had managed to push them into the morass of “the flesh” and self-centeredness. They chose to glory in men rather than in the Lord – even though Paul had clearly spoken the mind of the Lord on the matter. “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's” (1 Cor 3:21-23).
In other words, the hearts of the Corinthians were not pure. They had been corrupted by their teachers, and the “leaven of malice and wickedness” had entered their ranks (1 Cor 5:8). This had caused a separation between themselves and Paul, so that he could no longer minister to them as he desired. Instead, he had to treat them like little toddlers who needed constant care and correction – even though they had been in Christ for some time. Now he states that he desires them – that is, he desires to see them able to receive the truth, and thus be “sanctified” by it, for the truth neither sanctifies nor frees anyone who does not receive it. The benefits of truth are forfeited when it is rejected.
SPIRITUAL CHILDREN AND PARENTS
“ 14b . . . for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” Other versions read, “for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children,” NASB for it is not the children's business to make store for their fathers, but the fathers for the children,” BBE “For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children,” ESV “Children are not expected to save up for their parents, but parents for their children,” NJB “And anyway, little children don't pay for their parents' food. It's the other way around; parents supply food for their children,” NLT “you are my children, and little children don’t pay for the father and mother’s food – it’s the other way around; parents supply food for their children,” LIVING and “Children should not have to support their parents, but parents their children,” ISV
Paul is not speaking of “children” as progeny, regardless of their age, but of “children” in a natural state of dependency – when their parents are caring for them. He is not speaking of children who have grown into mature men and women, for, under normal circumstances, they have no need to be supported by their parents.
The expression “lay up” does not refer to maintaining a savings account or a retirement plan, or an inheritance for the children. It does not mean putting something aside, keeping it from present use, and reserving it for some future time. However practical and valid such a thought is in this world, that is not the meaning of our text. The words “lay up” come from the Greek word qhsauri,zein (thay-so-rid-zo) which means, “keep in store . . . to live from day-to-day.” THAYER This speaks of a daily supply, like the manna, which the Israelites gathered for their little ones, as well as for themselves (Ex 16:16).
Paul is here acknowledging the fledgling status of the Corinthians, as he also affirmed in his first epistle. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor 3:1-2). They sorely needed the spiritual nourishment he was ready to give them, but they were refusing to come to the table. They were like the spoiled child who is given appropriate and nourishing food, yet refuses to eat it because he does not like it. The problem is not with the food, but with the undeveloped appetite of the child. Of course, we expect this from legitimate toddlers. That is why they are given “milk,” a diet appropriate for infants. However, “milk” is not intended to be a perpetual diet, and spiritual infancy is not intended to be an unending state. If spiritual life does not grow and mature, it will die. If believers do not “go on to perfection,” they will “fall away” (Heb 6:1-4).
But when the offspring are of “full age,” they are expected to eat more nourishing and substantial food. As it is written, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:14).
The teachers to whom the Corinthians were listening did not have food appropriate for them. In fact, it did not even qualify for the description “milk.” Their teaching was comprised of “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” and “another gospel” (2 Cor 11:4). There is no possible way that such a diet can help the people of God. It is contaminated with “this present evil world,” and therefore causes all manner of spiritual illness.
Paul, on the other hand, was the spiritual father, or parent, of the Corinthians. As he said elsewhere, “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. (1 Cor 4:15). As such, he knew the kind of diet they required, and had faithfully delivered it during his time with them. Now he tells them that he has not moved away from being their “father.” He has what they need to recover from their waywardness and resume their preparation for glory. However, they must come to the table he has for them. He is appealing to them to do so, for he will set before them what is appropriate and needful for them.
GLADLY SPENDING AND BEING SPENT
“ 15 I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.”
How much is a person willing to give for the spiritual betterment of the saints of God? That is a telling question! Paul will affirm how far he is willing to go for the advancement of the Corinthians in the faith. He is, by insinuation, saying that those “false apostles and deceitful workers” who are criticizing him cannot say this.
I WILL VERY GLADLY
“I will very gladly . . . ” Other versions read, “And I will most gladly,” NASB “I am more than glad,” NJB “I am glad to,” LIVING “And as for me, most gladly will I,” WEYMOUTH “I will be very glad,” ISV “So in my own case, I will most happily,” WILLIAMS “For my part, I will most gladly,” MONTGOMERY and “consequently I will most gladly.” PHILLIPS
Paul is not reluctant to minister to the Corinthians, but conducts himself toward them as a father would his young son. The words “most gladly” describe the work of God toward men as “heartily” describes the work toward God (Col 3:23). There is a certain joy that accompanies feeding the flock of God. Peter described this frame of mind in this way, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (1 Pet 5:2). Paul’s “very gladly” corresponds to Peter’s “willingly” and “of as ready mind.” He means that he is not operating out of obligation or mere necessity, but in a very real preference for their souls.
SPEND AND BE SPENT
“ . . . spend and be spent for you . . . ” Other versions read, “spend and be expended for your souls,” NASB “spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well,” NIV “give all I have for your souls,” BBE “spend and be utterly spent for your souls,” DARBY “gladly bestow, and will be bestowed for your souls,” GENEVA “spend myself and all I have for your spiritual good,” NLT and “I will gladly spend my money and my energy for your souls.” IE
The idea here is that Paul is willing to do whatever is necessary to promote the salvation of the Corinthians, bringing them into practical reconciliation to God. Under the incapable leadership of “false prophets and deceitful workers,” the Corinthians had drifted to the place where it is difficult to hear Him who is speaking from heaven (Heb 12:25). They were in the fog of human wisdom and under the influence of “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” and “another gospel.” This condition required an extraordinary and focused effort on the part of Paul. The aim was to get them to a place where the various benefits of redemption were accessible.
While there is a sense in which we were reconciled to God through the death of the Lord Jesus (Rom 5:10), there is another sense in which that reconciliation is to be realized in the lives of the saints. That is precisely why Paul had called out to the Corinthians, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).
If it is necessary, Paul will preach at his own expense to do this, and do so gladly. This will not relieve the Corinthians of their obligations, but it will allow Paul to minister more freely. While other false apostles were seeking what they could gain from the Corinthians, Paul was investing in them, laboring at his own expense, and doing so gladly.
Whatever it took, Paul was willing to do it for the Corinthians. He would gladly invest his time, strength, and abilities – “be spent.” This meant he was willing to do everything in his power in order to improve the Corinthian condition. He was living out the words that would be written years later by John the beloved. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
This type of spirit – a sacrificial spirit – is not at all common in the “Christian” world. This condition is a sad commentary on the failure of professed preachers and teachers to perceive the need for feeding the flock of God. It is good to keep ourselves alert concerning the reprehensible nature of attempting to nourish the flock without due investment of one’s own person: spending and being spent. Here are some pitfalls to avoid.
The Saturday night specialist. There are some preachers and teachers who give little or no thought to the feeding of the saints until the night before. I call them the “Saturday night specialists.” They imagine that they are able to marshal edifying thoughts at the last minute, and stand in the strength of the Spirit before the people of God with a minimum of preparation. That such occasions will arise, I do not question. I am here speaking of the tendency to follow this course. Whatever may be said of it, it does not manifest the kind of spirit made known in our text.
The second-hand expert. This is the person who can scrape together a quick message compiled of what others have said. Their thoughts are always second-hand, and reflect what they have read in books rather than their perceptions of the Word of God.
The entertainer. This is the preacher who “plays to the audience,” tickling their itching ears. He does what the Israelites of old requested, prophesying “smooth things” (Isa 30:10) – pleasant words that satisfy the flesh and make the people feel religious, even though their hearts are far from God.
The fulfill-your-obligation minister. This is, what Jesus called, “the hireling” – he is not really a shepherd, and does not even consider himself to be such. He has no care for the sheep, but only for himself. When he sees a wolf coming he “leaves the sheep,” fearful of being hurt himself (John 10:12-13).
The “what-is-in-vogue” preacher. This is the contemporary preacher who is always up on the latest thing, and deals with the modern issues. If there is a current trend in preaching, he adopts it. If there is a new thrust or emphasis, he quickly brings it into his preaching, adopting new approaches to evangelism, reaching the youth, and resolving human difficulties.
All of these have one thing in common. They are not willing to spend and be spent for the sake of “the flock of God.” Their own interest and convenience is primary.
Paul, however, was not at all in such a class. At great personal expense, inconvenience, and even inward travail, he sought the spiritual welfare and betterment of the Corinthians.
THE MORE I LOVE, THE LESS I AM LOVED
“ . . . though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” Other versions read, “If I love you the more, am I to be loved the less?” NASB “If I love you more, will you love me less?” NIV “if even in abundantly loving you I should be less loved,” DARBY “Is it because I love you so much more, that I am loved the less?” NJB “even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me,” NLT “It seems that the more I love you, the less you love me,” IE and “If I love you much more than I love others, am I to be loved less by you?” WILLIAMS
Here is one of the saddest statements made in Paul’s writings. He said it to no one else. It indicates that even though he had actually exhibited more love toward the Corinthians than others, they had loved him less than all the others. He had labored long there – no less than a year and six months, and he had written more to them than to any other church. Yet, judging from their response, you would think he had hardly done a thing among them, and that they were very little acquainted with him, his labors, and his doctrine. They are treating him coldly, yet he is extending himself to awaken them to righteousness that they sin not. Just as surely as Paul owed his labor toward them, they owed their love toward him. There was no satisfactory reason for loving him “less” in view of the abundant labor he had bestowed, and was bestowing, upon them. It was a sign of the reprehensible condition of their hearts.
Paul seems to be alluding to a loving parent who had fixed his eyes upon one of his children, who was especially gifted, and whose birth was attended with tender recollections. Yet, the child only flung ingratitude in the face of the parent, criticizing him, doubting his motives, and siding with his critics. But let us rise higher than a mere worldly comparison. These Corinthians had responded to Paul precisely as the Israelites had responded to God. Hear the God of heaven lament over them. “A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of host” (Mal 1:6). Hear Him lament through Isaiah: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (Isa 1:2-3).
The Israelites were not born again. They were under a covenant in which the law was not written upon their hearts, and there was no remission of sins as there is in Christ Jesus. Even in their condition, with their hearts uncircumcised, their minds unrenewed, and their consciences not purged, their condition was inexcusable.
What, then, can be said of a people of whom it was declared, “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:7). What of a people of whom it is said, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). What of those of whom it is written, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11).
How much ingratitude do you suppose God will tolerate from a people who were so singularly blessed? How will He respond to those who have “loved less,” and even maligned, the messenger He sent to them? And, how great must be the man who will endure their grievous insults, willing to spend and be spent that they might dwell in the house of the Lord , forever? We are being exposed to a rare servant of God, and an exceedingly unacceptable response to him. We do well to duly note what is being said here.
CAUGHT WITH GUILE
“ 16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.”
There are two ways to view this verse. First, it can be seen as Paul acknowledging that he has used craftiness to catch, or convert, the Corinthians, preaching at his own expense. Although there are some who take this view, the context does not justify such a conclusion. Here, rather, Paul introduces a charge that had been brought against him. It was a miserable allegation, indeed. The manner in which the passage unfolds shows that he is answering a charge rather than commenting on his manner.
I DID NOT BURDEN YOU
“But be it so, I did not burden you . . . ” Other versions read, “But be that as it may, I did not burden you,” NKJV “Let it be assumed that I did not burden you,” NRSV “But granting that I myself did not burden you,” RSV “But let it be so, that I was not a trouble to you myself,” BBE “But be it, [that] I was not chargeable unto you,” PNT “But be it that I grieved you not,” TNT “”Some of you are saying, “It’s true that his visits didn’t seem to cost us anything,” LIVING “But let it be granted, you say, that I never received from you financial support,” WILLIAMS and “All right then," I hear you say, "we agree that he himself had none of our money.” PHILLIPS
Paul’s absolute lack of demand for financial support was so obvious, even his enemies could not deny it. He at no time demanded their support, or even asked for them to help him (2 Cor 11:9). He never in any way imposed upon them regarding his own needs and comfort. No person in Corinth could say that Paul ever inconvenienced them, or demanded personal consideration. He never asked them for help when he was in need, and none of them ever volunteered to support him. This was so apparent, even his critics knew that it was so.
THE CHARGE OF CRAFTINESS
“ . . . nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.” Other versions read, “Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with cunning,” NKJV “crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit,” NASB “Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery,” NIV “Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit,” NRSV “I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by guile,” RSV “but (someone may say) being false, I took you with deceit,” BBE “but, trickster that I am, I caught you by trickery,” NJB “But they still think I was sneaky and took advantage of you by trickery,” NLT “but he is sneaky fellow, that Paul, and he fooled us. As sure as anything he must have made money from us some way,” LIVING “But, am I a clever man? Did I use a trick to catch you?” IE “But being by no means scrupulous, I entrapped you, they say,” WEYMOUTH “was I a clever schemer who trapped you by some trick?” ISV “you say, by being a trickster I cheated you by sunning,” WILLIAMS “you say, this was my cunning with which I caught you by a trick,” MONTGOMERY “some say that] I was crafty [and that] I cheated and got the better of you with my trickery,” AMPLIFIED and “But are you thinking that I nevertheless was rogue enough to catch you by some trick?” PHILLIPS
Here is the charge that was leveled at Paul, and which he will answer. It appears that some had suggested the offering that was being gathered was really not for the saints at all. Paul’s critics were suggesting that he was actually keeping the money for himself. He had thus gained financial advantage by bringing up an offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem, He had, they surmised, pressed them to gather it quickly, only that he might fill his own pockets. Paul was thus being represented as getting this churches’ money by criminal means, all the whole boasting that he was preaching the Gospel freely.
Do not marvel at the depths to which the flesh will stoop to justify its own ways and thoughts! Others, you may recall said that Paul was preaching, “Let us do evil, that good may come” (Rom 3:8). It is no wonder that Paul confessed, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Cor 11:28). Yet, his great heart compelled him to labor for the rescue of the flock of God.
Those who imagine that Paul caught the Corinthians in the Gospel net through craftiness ought to rethink their view, for it is a most foolish one. It represents the most serious work in all of the world as being accomplished by means of deceit. It has truth being presented with the shroud of deception thrown over it. It requires only a modicum of thought to confirm that the conviction of sin, repentance, and turning from Satan unto God cannot be accomplished such means. The very nature of salvation requires the straightforward and uncompromising presentation of the truth. Men cannot walk into the light thinking they are doing something else, or be justified by faith while they imagine that they are merely part of some religious enterprise.
DID I MAKE GAIN?
“ 17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?” Other versions read, “Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you?” NKJV “Certainly I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I?” NASB “Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent you?” NIV “Did I make a profit out of you by any of those whom I sent to you?” BBE “Did I overreach you by any of them whom I sent to you?” DOUAY “But how? Did any of the men I sent to you take advantage of you?” NLT “Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent to you?” WEB “Have I gained selfish advantage over you through any one of the messengers I have sent to you?” WEYMOUTH “I did not make any money out of you through anybody that I sent to you, did I?” WILLIAMS and “Did I [then] take advantage of you or make any money out of you through any of those [messengers] whom I sent to you?” AMPLIFIED
It is astounding that the Apostle must reason with these people in such a fashion. It confirms the bottomless pit of the flesh. Paul now demands that those who have made the charges against him step forward and substantiate them.
Can anyone confirm that a single penny of the money that had been gathered found its way into Paul’s pocket – or that this was its intention? Did anyone come from Paul, receive money for their expenses from the Corinthians, and then deliver that money to Paul himself? That is what his critics were suggesting. Now they must come to the front and justify their charge. Paul is planning to come to them, and will confront them face to face, doing so with his spiritual weaponry, which is “mighty through God” (2 Cor 10:4-5). This will be no casual confrontation, and they do well to prepare themselves to stand behind their charge. Paul has no intention of letting these things pass by, for the whole church in Corinth has been influenced “for the worse” by these “false prophets and deceitful workers.” Now, in a public epistle, Paul faces them down.
DID TITUS MAKE GAIN OF YOU
“ 18a I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you?”
In dealing with the Corinthians, Paul had taken special care to protect himself against false charges. He had been “wise as a serpent, and gentle as a dove” (Matt 10:16).
I DESIRED TITUS, AND SENT A BROTHER
“I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother.” Other versions read, “I urged,” NKJV “I exhorted,” ASV “I gave orders to Titus,” BBE “I begged Titus,” DARBY “Titus came at my urging,” NJB “I entreated Titus,” YLT “I encouraged Titus,” ISV “I actually begged Titus t go,” WILLIAMS and “I asked Titus to go.” PHILLIPS
Paul had taken care to send two people to Corinth who had a personal and godly interest in them – Titus and another brother. Paul refers to this arrangement in the eighth chapter. “But thanks be to God Who planted the same earnest zeal and care for you in the heart of Titus. For he not only welcomed and responded to our appeal, but was himself so keen in his enthusiasm and interest in you that he is going to you of his own accord. But we are sending along with him that brother [Luke?] whose praise in the Gospel ministry [is spread] throughout all the churches; And more than that, he has been appointed by the churches to travel as our companion in regard to this bountiful contribution which we are administering for the glory of the Lord Himself and [to show] our eager readiness [as Christians to help one another]. [For] we are on our guard, intending that no one should find anything for which to blame us in regard to our administration of this large contribution. For we take thought beforehand and aim to be honest and absolutely above suspicion, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men.” AMPLIFIED (2 Cor 8:16-20).
Even though Paul asked Titus to go to Corinth, Titus had of himself already determined to go to them of his own accord. In addition, Paul had sent another brother to accompany Titus – a man whose “praise in the Gospel ministry” had spread throughout the churches. In fact, in a display of trust, he had been appointed by the churches to travel with Paul as a companion in particular regard to the offering being gathered for the Jerusalem saints. Thus special care had been taken to avoid unjust criticism.
☛ Titus was sent, something to which he joyfully consented, having the Corinthians interest in his heart.
☛ Another brother was sent who was noted for being trustworthy.
☛ The other churches had appointed this additional brother, having noted his consistent and faithful labors in the Lord.
How is it, then, that his critics had dared to charge him with trickery and craftiness? This only goes to confirm the absolute unreasonableness of the flesh.
DID TITUS MAKE GAIN OF YOU?
“Did Titus make a gain of you?” Other versions read, “Did Titus take advantage of you,” NKJV “Titus did not take advantage of you, did he?” NASB “Titus did not exploit you, did he?” NIV “Did Titus make any profit out of you?” BBE “Did Titus overreach you?” DOUAY “Did Titus defraud you of anything?” PNT “Did Titus gain any selfish advantage over you?” WEYMOUTH “Titus did not make any money out of you, did he?” WILLIAMS “Did Titus overreach or take advantage of you [in anything]?” AMPLIFIED and “You don't think Titus made anything out of you, do you?” PHILLIPS
To confirm that Titus did, in fact, have a real heart for the Corinthians, Paul asks them if he had gained any profit from them. Did he take advantage of them? Would he not have done so if he was sent by Paul, and that was Paul’s manner? Titus, in fact, did not make any financial gain from the Corinthians. They apparently treated him just they did Paul, and Titus did not object to it.
Paul is tearing down the feeble charges that have been brought against him, showing that neither he, nor those with him, had ever conducted themselves in a self-serving manner. They had never exhibited a covetous spirit or sought their own gain – never!
THE SAME SPIRIT AND THE SAME STEPS
“ 18b . . . walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?”
Paul continues to show the utter unreasonableness of the charges against him. They had not been brought forward by honest hearts, for there was nothing in either his message or his manners that could justify such things as were brought against him.
Care must be taken not to deal with lies as though they were the truth, or to address dishonest issues as though they were honest. Although fleshly complainers will never admit to dishonesty, the fact that their complaints contradict all sound reasoning, and are in sharp conflict with the facts, confirms their hearts are corrupt. Such people must not be treated as though they had integrity and were truly interested in the welfare of the saints. Believers should not be naive about such things. Jesus never took for granted that the scribes and Pharisees were really serious and noble, but merely uninformed. If one argues that Paul himself was once in this state, it ought to be noted that the very first time the resurrected Christ confronted him about his conduct toward His people, Paul abruptly stopped his rebellion. Paul has dealt repeatedly with these Corinthians pretenders, and they have still not repented. It is not possible that they have noble motives and pure hearts.
WALKED WE NOT IN THE SAME SPIRIT?
“ . . . walked we not in the same spirit?” Other versions read, “Did we not walk in the same spirit?” NKJV “Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit?” NASB “Did we not act in the same spirit?” NIV “were we not guided by the same spirit,” BBE “waled we not in the selfsame spirit?” GENEVA “Can you deny that he and I were following the guidance of the same Spirit,” NJB “No, of course not! For we both have the same Spirit,” NLT “For we have the same Holy Spirit,” LIVING “We lived with the same attitude,” IE “Were not he and I guided by one and the same spirit?” WEYMOUTH and “Yet didn't I act in the same spirit as he?” PHILLIPS
Unlike the Corinthians, who had “divisions” among themselves (1 Cor 3:3; 11:18), Paul, Titus, and those who worked with them were in perfect accord. They had kept “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). Titus was not going one way, like Demas (2 Tim 4:10), and Paul another. Paul was not serving one agenda, and Titus another.
WALKED WE NOT IN THE SAME STEPS?
“ . . . walked we not in the same steps?” Other versions read, “Did we not walk in the same steps?” NKJV “and follow the same course?” NIV “Did we not take the same steps?” NRSV “and were on the same tracks?” NJB “doing things the same way?” NLT “and walk in each other’s steps, doing things the same way?” LIVING “We set the same example, didn’t we?” IE “We took the very same steps, did’t we?”ISV “Did I not take the very same steps?” MONTGOMERY and “and take the same line as he did?” PHILLIPS
Titus, the brother, and Paul lived the same way when among the Corinthians – working with their hands, and taking nothing from the Corinthians for themselves. None of them were dependent upon the Corinthians, or suggested that they should be. They were motivated by the same principles, had the same purpose, and were free from covetousness. Those who suggested otherwise were obliged to find something in their conduct that remotely suggested anything to the contrary.
Paul and company had conducted their lives in strict keeping with the truth: “providing things honest in the sight of all men” (Rom 12:17). Carefully living by faith, they deliberately avoided anything that would allow their “good to be evil spoken of” (Rom 12:17), abstaining from “all appearance of evil” (1 Thess 5:22). This was all very apparent to every honest and good heart. Only a corrupt mind would think otherwise – but there were corrupt minds among the people.
ALL THINGS FOR YOUR EDIFYING
“ 19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.”
Paul now raises his defense to an even higher level. He will not back away from this conflict as though it was of no consequence. His motives have been maligned, his doctrine doubted, and his office questioned. He will not run away like a hireling against the onslaught of his opponents. They are like wolves who are attacking the flock of God, and Paul will hold his ground against them.
DO YOU THINK WE EXCUSE OURSELVES?
“Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? . . . ” Other versions read, “All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you.” NASB “It may seem to you that all this time we have been attempting to put ourselves in the right,” BBE “All this time you have been thinking that we have been pleading our own cause before you,” NJB “Perhaps you think we are saying all this just to defend ourselves,” NLT “Again, think ye that to you we are making defense?” YLT “I suppose you think I am saying all this to get back into your good graces,” LIVING “Throughout this letter have you been thinking that we are trying to defend ourselves to you?” IE “You are imagining, all this time, that we are making our defense at your bar,” WEYMOUTH “Have you been supposing [all this time] that we have been defending ourselves and apologizing to you?” AMPLIFIED and “Are you thinking that I am trying to justify myself in your eyes?” PHILLIPS
Paul knows how “the flesh” thinks. These Corinthian “false apostles” will think they have greatly troubled Paul with their accusations, and that he is writing in an effort to merely gain the Corinthian’s favor. Neither, indeed, is this an effort to excuse himself from coming to them personally – as though he was afraid to face his accusers. It was also wrong for them to think he was merely trying to talk himself out of the situation, making himself look innocent even though they thought he was really guilty.
It is not that Paul was overly concerned about his own reputation, and his words are not to be taken as though that was the case. As he will later affirm, the state of the Corinthians was the compelling reason for his writing.
WE SPEAK BEFORE GOD IN CHRIST
“ . . . we speak before God in Christ . . . ” Other versions read, “Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ,” NASB “We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ,” NIV “We are speaking in Christ before God,” NIV “”It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ,” RSV “That isn’t it at all. I tell you, with God listening as I say it,” LIVING “In reality it is as in God’s presence and in communion with Christ that we speak,” WEYMOUTH “It is in the very presence of God, and as one who is in union with Christ that I am speaking,” WILLIAMS and “[It is] in the sight and the [very] presence of God [and as one] in Christ (the Messiah) that we have been speaking, dearly beloved.” AMPLIFIED
Paul knows very well that he will ultimately stand before the Lord to “receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). Therefore, his words were spoken out of his union with Christ, and with an acute awareness of the seeing eye and listening ear of the living God. A carnal person does not have the faintest notion of what this means. Yet, Paul will confess this is his manner, in order that God might be justified in all of his sayings.
Some have never mastered the art of speaking “in Christ” and “before God.” However, all who speak for the Lord must assume this posture. Their speaking must be the result of the fellowship with Christ, as well as their understanding, working knowledge of Scripture, and awareness of the nature and objective of salvation. It is also essential that our speaking be done with an acute awareness of the all-knowing God, to whom we will give an account.
ALL THINGS FOR YOUR EDIFYING
“ . . . but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.” Other versions read, “and all for your upbuilding, beloved,” NASB “and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening,” NIV “Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up,” NRSV “For all things, dear brothers, are for your profit,” BBE “Everything we do, dear friends, is for your benefit,” NLT “That I have said this to help you, dear friends – to build you up spiritually, and not to help myself,” LIVING “but, dear friends, it is all with a view to your progress in goodness,” WEYMOUTH “and all in order to build you up [spiritually],” AMPLIFIED and “and my only reason for so doing is to help you in your spiritual life.” PHILLIPS
Paul has spoken so as to assure the Corinthians of the integrity, truth, and power of what he has preached. He has skillfully undermined the basis for his criticism, as well as the opponents criticism itself. The Corinthians have heard from their new teachers of “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” and “another gospel.” That is actually why their teachers have disparaged Paul – not because of his conduct, for it was impeccable holy. It was rather because of his message, which was in sharp conflict with what they were hearing from the imposters. Now Paul shows how foolish their statements were concerning himself, in order that they might again embrace the only message that can build them up and suit them for the inheritance of the saints. Once their view of him is correct, they will embrace his message – and that message was delivered to bring true spiritual benefit and strength to them.
THE THINGS I FEAR
“ 20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults.”
From one point of view, Paul is preparing the people for his coming to them. He wants them to be prepared, and not to prove a disappointment to him.
I will forewarn you that this text is a different way of thinking – at least when compared to the modern church. Spiritual Babylon has taught people within the body of Christ to live with spiritual abnormalities, so that little is really expected from the church. This text will show us how such an attitude is completely out of harmony with the manner of the Kingdom.
I FEAR YOU WILL NOT BE WHAT I WANT
“For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would . . . ” Other versions read, “For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish,” NKJB “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish,” NASB “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be,” NIV “For I have a fear that, when I come, you may not be answering to my desire,” BBE “I am afraid that in one way or another, when I come, I may find you different from what I should like you to be,”NJB “For I am afraid that when I come to visit you I won't like what I find,” NLT “For I am afraid when I come to visit you I won’t like what I find,” LIVING and “For I must confess that I am afraid that when I come I shall not perhaps find you as I should like to find you.” PHILLIPS
Paul had certain expectations for the Corinthians. He had sown good seed among them, and an initial good response had been realized. A lot of grace had been given to this church, so that they were not falling behind in any spiritual endowment or aptitude (1 Cor 1:7). They had been snatched from the jaws of spiritual death, having been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified” (1 Cor 6:11). But now, owing to the influence of false teachers they had degenerated, losing ground, so that they required extensive correction. They were allowing in their assembly the things from which salvation had delivered them. They had turned their attention from the true gospel to embrace “another gospel.” Now, Paul anticipates seeing them again, and is afraid he would not find them as he desired. He was afraid that the crop would not match the seed that was sown among them.
It is right to have great expectations for the church, for it is the product of the working of God (Eph 2:10), is being built by Christ (Matt 16:18), and has access to an abundance of grace (Rom 5:2). Why should we expect small things from the work of God’s hands? What would lead anyone to believe that it is ever right or normal to expect minuscule returns from great Divine investments? Let Israel be a confirming testimony to the unacceptability of small returns where God has made great investments.
“LET ME [as God’s representative] sing of and for my greatly Beloved [God, the Son] a tender song of my Beloved concerning His vineyard [His chosen people]. My greatly Beloved had a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. And He dug and trenched the ground and gathered out the stones from it and planted it with the choicest vine and built a tower in the midst of it and hewed out a winepress in it. And He looked for it to bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between Me and My vineyard [My people, says the Lord]. What more could have been done for My vineyard that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to bring forth grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be eaten and burned up; and I will break down its wall, and it shall be trodden down [by enemies]. And I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or cultivated, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it” AMPLIFIED (Isa 5:1-6).
The Lord Jesus also spoke of this matter of not finding what is expected to be found from noble efforts and the planting of a good tree. “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9).
Paul had just cause for being afraid of not finding what was proper among the Corinthians. He did not see such an occasion as an opportunity to develop a special recovery ministry! He knew “the mind of the Lord” on such matters, and therefore he speaks with great honesty and candor.
I FEAR I SHALL BE BE WHAT YOU WANT
“ . . . and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not . . . ” Other versions read, “and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish,” NKJV “ and may be found by you to be not what you wish,” NASB and you may not find me as you want me to,”NIV “and that I may not be answering to yours,” BBE “and you may find me what you would not like me to be,” NJB “and then you won’t like the way I have to act,” LIVING and “and that you will not find me coming quite as you would like me to come.” PHILLIPS
Here Paul means that if they remain in this backward stance, his coming would not be a pleasant one for them. He would be coming to them with a rod – the rod or correction, and it would not be a rod of mere words. He had warned them in his first epistle. “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Cor 4:19-21). He had not yet been able to make the trip he planned when he wrote that first epistle. However, sufficient progress had still not been made, and he was still prepared to deal with their infractions as he at first intended. He is writing now in hopes of their recovery from the influence of their false teachers.
SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL DETERIORATION AND CARNALITY
“ . . . lest there be.” Other versions read, “that perhaps there may be,” NASB “I fear that there may be,” NIV “lest that by any means there should be,” ASV “lest perhaps,” DOUAY “so that in one way or the other there will be,” NJB “I am afraid that I will find,” NLT “I fear lest there be found among you,” TNT “You might be,” IE “I dread lest there should be,” MONTGOMERY and “I am afraid of finding.” PHILLIPS
Paul does not leave the Corinthians to conjecture about the things he is afraid of finding among them. He is not afraid of facing the following things, but afraid of the consequences of such things for the Corinthians. I will tell you that this list will not sound strange to church people. They have probably learned to live with such things in the assembly. Paul, however, knows what God will do about such things, and therefore he is afraid of finding these among the Corinthians.
“ . . . debates . . .” Other versions read, “contentions,” NKJV “strife,” NASB “quarreling,” NIV “fighting,” BBE “rivalry,” NAB “factions (quarreling),” AMPLIFIED and “arguments.” PHILLIPS This involves contending for ones own carnal preferences, causing disruption because personal ambitions and desires are not being served. “Debates” were a trait of the Gentile world which was given over to a “reprobate mind” by God (Rom 1:20).
“ . . . envyings . . .” Other versions read, “jealousies,” NKJV “hate,” BBE “envyings,” DOUAY and “envying each other.” LIVING
Here we find discontent with the allotments made by the Holy Spirit. Some people are wanting what another member or members of the body have received, and think themselves to be inferior if they are not like everyone else. It also includes wanting to be do what God has not equipped them to do. This also was a trait of the fallen Gentile world (Rom 1:29), and is expressly forbidden within the church (Rom 13:13; Gal 5:26). James says that wherever it is found, “there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:14).
“ . . . wraths . . .” Other versions read, “outbursts of wrath,” NKJV “anger,” NASB “angry feelings,” BBE “animosities,” DOUAY “fury,” NAB “angry tempers,” NAS “bad temper,” NJB “being angry with each other,” LIVING “bitter feeling,” WEYMOUTH “tempers,” MONTGOMERY “temper (wrath, intrigues, rivalry, divided loyalties),” AMPLIFIED and “ill feeling.” PHILLIPS
These are fleshly outbursts, and they do not work the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Bitterness, ill-will and the flare of tempers characterizes such outbursts. This is also listed in “the works of the flesh,” which exclude one from the kingdom of God (Gal 5:20). It is among the things that are to be “put away” from among us (Eph 4:31; Col 3:8).
“ . . . strifes . . . ” Other versions read, “selfish ambitions,” NKJV “disputes,” NASB “factions,” NIV “selfishness,” NRSV “divisions,” BBE “contentions,” DARBY “dissensions,” DOUAY “hostility,” ESV “quarrels,” NJB “quarreling,” NLT “revelries,” YLT “acting big,” LIVING “divided,” IE “party spirit,” WEYMOUTH “rivalries,” WILLIAMS and “divided loyalties.” PHILLIPS
Strife occurs when conflicting purposes are being served, and differing carnal agendas are adopted. Instead of uniting in the opposition of the works of darkness, the people contend for their own worldly wishes. “Strife” is expressly forbidden among the saints of God (Rom 13:11). It is joined with envying and division, and moves one into the class of “carnal” (1 Cor 3:3). It is also listed among the “works of the flesh,” which exclude one from the kingdom of God (Gal 5:20). God’s people are to withdraw themselves from those who cause strife (1 Tim 6:4).
“ . . . backbitings . . .” Other versions read, “slanders,” NASB “evil talk about others,” BBE “evil speaking,” DARBY “detractions,” DOUAY “backstabbing,” NLT “saying wicked things about each other,” LIVING “in confusion,” IE and “selfishness.” AMPLIFIED
Backbiting was also one of the traits of the fallen Gentile world (Rom 1:30). This has to do with character assassination, speaking evil of another, and seeking to put a cloak of suspicion upon those who are holy.
“ . . . whisperings . . . ” Other versions read, “gossip,” NASB “secrets,” BBE “whispering behind each other’s backs,” LIVING “gossiping,” IE and “undue eulogy.” WEYMOUTH
This also was a mark of the degenerate Gentiles (Rom 1:29). This is what men call “gossip.” Other texts refer to it as being a “busybody in other men’s matters” – an action that is forbidden (1 Pet 4:15). This may also be considered “slander,” which some sought to do to Paul, saying he taught certain corrupt doctrine (Rom 3:8). This involves “defaming” a person (1 Cor 4:13), raising evil reports (2 Cor 6:8), when people are found “speaking things that they ought not” (1 Tim 5:13). This sin also involves being “tattlers” (1 Tim 5:13), or talebearers, and a “busybodies” (2 Thess 3:11).
“ . . . swellings . . . ” Other versions read, “conceits,” NKJV “arrogance,” NASB “thoughts of pride,” BBE “puffings up,” DARBY “haughty pride,” WILLIAMS “arrogance (self assetion),” AMPLIFIED and “pride.” PHILLIPS
These are assertions of pride, when it is no longer held within the heart, but expressed in words and deeds. It often involves “great swelling words of vanity” (2 Pet 2:18; Jude 1:16). “Swellings” involve the promotion of self and purely self-interests.
“ . . . tumults” Other versions read, “disturbances,” NASB “disorder,” NIV “outbursts against authority,” BBE “seditions,” DARBY “discord,” GENEVA “disorderly behavior,” NLT “insurrections,” YLT “disunity,” LIVING “fighting,” IE “unrest,” WEYMOUTH “disorderly conduct,” ISV and “disharmony.” PHILLIPS
Tumults involve commotion, agitation, and confusion. It is the kind of thing that happened when Paul was being opposed by certain from Asia causing trouble, and “the more part knew not wherefore they were come together” (Acts 19:32).
HOW TRAGIC THAT SUCH COULD HAPPEN!
How could such things happen? What is it that would cause such fleshly eruptions among those who had been “baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1 Cor 12:13)? It was the introduction of “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” and “another gospel!”
None of the sins Paul feared finding among the Corinthians were initiated or fostered by the real Jesus. None of them were the “fruit of the Spirit.” None of them resulted from believing the gospel of Christ. Let it be clear, when there is an exchange of the truth for the lie, degeneration is sure!
THOSE WHO HAVE SINNED AND NOT REPENTED
“ 21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.”
What a grief it must have been to Paul to dread going again to Corinth, afraid of what he would find there, and how he would have to conduct himself. Paul said he “longed” to see the Romans (Rom 1:11; 15:24), and the Thessalonians (1 Thess 3:6) – but he did not say this to the Corinthians. He said he thanked God upon every remembrance of the Philippian brethren (Phil 1:3), and of Timothy (1 Tim 1:3) – but he did not say this to the Corinthians. Whatever one may observe about this circumstance, it certainly does not speak well of the Corinthian situation.
I FEAR GOD WILL HUMBLE ME AMONG YOU
“And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you . . . ” Other versions read, “my God may humiliate me before you,” NASB “my God will humble me before you,” NIV “my God may put me to shame before you,” BBE “my God abase me before you,” GENEVA “My God bring me low among you,” TNT “my God humble me in regard to you,” YLT “I may be humbled by my God in your presence,” WEYMOUTH “my God may humiliate and humble me in your regard,” AMPLIFIED and “will God make me feel ashamed of you as I stand among you?” PHILLIPS
This is a very sensitive expression and worthy of some consideration. Just what was it that Paul was saying? Was he afraid of being embarrassed by his critics? Is that what he is saying? The key is found in the expression “among you,” also translated “in regard to you.” The shame or humiliation of which Paul speaks is not in regard to anything found in him, but how he would feel about what he had to do. His preference was to edify them, building them up in the most holy faith (verse 19). Yet, it was entirely possible that when he arrived, he would have to inflict punishment on unrepentant offenders. He said of this earlier, “I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare” (2 Cor 13:2).
The meaning is that he would be humbled, or in a sense disgraced, when those who should have been “the seal” of his “apostleship” (1 Cor 9:2) proved to be nothing more than a source of shame. It would break his heart to face such calumny among those who had been the fruit of his own labor, only to be turned aside by false teachers to bring forth bitter and wild grapes.
The shame of which Paul speaks was not owing to himself, but owing to them. That is, he dreaded being ashamed of them when he finally stood among them. It would be similar to the feeling of godly Ezra as he stood before the Lord and confessed the sins of his own people. “And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens” (Ezra 9:6). To have expended so much labor on the Corinthians, only to be holding a basket of rotten fruit – who can dare to estimate the shame and embarrassment of that condition upon a holy man? You see, even when chastening and punishment is required, it is difficult, for the one who loves those he is chastening.
BEWAILING MANY WHICH HAVE SINNED ALREADY
“ . . . and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already . . . ” Other versions read, “and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before,” NKJV “and I may mourn over those who have sinned in the past,” NASB “and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier,” NIV “that I may have to mourn over many who have previously sinned,” NRSV “and I should mourn for many of them that have sinned heretofore,” ASV “and I may have grief for those who have done wrong before,” BBE “I will be sad and mourn because many of you who have sinned and became sinners,” LIVING “I will cry over many people who have already sinned,” IE “I may have to grieve over many who formerly lived in sin,” ISV “I have to mourn over some of those who formerly have committed shocking sins,” WILLIAMS and “Shall I have to grieve over many who have sinned already.” PHILLIPS
Shall Paul come among these people, only to be reminded of their sins? Shall the sight of them stir up his memory about transgressions that have been committed long ago? Will he see them as converts, regenerated, and sanctified, or as those who “formerly committed shocking sins?”
Although living under a vastly superior covenant, laden with unparalleled benefits, Paul would have to follow the example of Jeremiah. “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer 9:1).
AND NOT REPENTED
“ . . . and have not repented . . . ” Other versions read, “and have had no regret,” BBE “and not having reformed,” YLT “because they have not changed their hearts about,” IE “whose hearts still cling to their old sins,” WEYMOUTH and “and are not yet sorry for.” PHILLIPS
It is not merely the recollection of the sins that were committed in the past, but the failure of the transgressors to have repented. The sins were committed “beforehand,” or long ago, but the offenders had still not repented of them. The idea is that they had not abandoned their sin, forsaken it, and fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope Paul set before them (Heb 6:18).
In today’s language, they may have been in a recovery program of some sort, having ignored the Divine recovery program which includes a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek 36:26). Or, perhaps they were, owing to their new teachers, indifferent to the whole matter of their sin. “Another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” and “another gospel” do produce a new environment in which sin is not all that serious.
Whatever a person may think of “repentance,” it is something that is to be “preached” (Lk 24:47). Where sin has been committed, and yet repentance is not found, the offender is in no way acceptable to God. That circumstance is what was causing such alarm within the heart of the apostle.
“ . . . of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” Other versions read, “Other versions read, “sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced,” NRSV “for their unclean ways, and for the evil desires of the flesh to which they have given way,” BBE “the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced,” ESV “the uncleanness, and whoredom, and lasciviousness, that they did practice,” YLT “the wicked, impure things you have done: your lust and immorality, and the taking of other men’s wives,” LIVING “the evil things they have done – indecency, sexual sins, and wild parties,” IE “the impurity, fornication, and gross sensuality, of which they have been guilty,” WEYMOUTH “ wicked, impure things you have done: your lust and immorality, and the taking of other men’s wives,” LIVING “their impurity, sexual immorality, and promiscuity that they once practiced,” ISV “the impurity and immorality and wantonness which they have practices,” MONTGOMERY “the impurity, sexual vice, and sensuality which they formerly practiced,” AMPLIFIED and “and are not yet sorry for the impurity, the immorality and the lustfulness of which they are guilty.” PHILLIPS
There is a view of sin that is being perpetrated that puts it all into a single category. While there is a sense in which this is true, there is also a sense in which this is emphatically NOT true. There are sins that are more perverse than others because they require more effort, and have m ore extensive and defiling effects. They allow for the more extensive expression of the flesh, and recovery from them is often more difficult, because the roots of these sins go deeper, and are stronger in their hold over the person.
These are particularly sins of moral contamination. Three categories are mentioned.
Uncleanness is has to do with sensuality – feeding “the lust of the flesh.” This is profligate, or extensive and unrestrained immorality. God is said to have given the Gentile world “over to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their bodies between themselves” (Rom 1:24). It involves giving the body over to sinful pleasures and indulgences of all kinds. Paul referred to this as yielding our [bodily] “members servants to uncleanness” (Rom 6:19). This is a sin classified as among “the works of the flesh,” which exclude one from the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19). Such sins are not “to be once named” among the saints – not so much as “once” (Eph 5:3). This is a sin that is to be “mortified” in all believers (Col 3:5). It is the opposite of “holiness” (1 Thess 4:7).
“Fornication” is a general term used to cover all kinds of immoral relations between people. It includes such sins as sodomy, bestiality, and adultery in all of their varied forms. This sin is particularly heinous because it involves the body. Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning this sin in his first epistle. “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's” NKJV (1 Cor 6:18-20).
Those who commit this sin cannot explain it away by saying they “made a mistake.” That is not the truth. This is a sin that cannot be committed by accident or inadvertently. It is not that it sneaks up on you and catches you unawares. It cannot be committed unless the person wants to do it, seeks a means through which to fulfill the desire, and stupidly barges over all natural and spiritual restraints to do so.
To accent the nature of this sin, here are some things a professing Christian must do in order to commit fornication or adultery.
1. Quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5:19).
2. Grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30).
3. Resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).
4. Refuse Him who is speaking from heaven (Heb 12:25).
5. Leave their "first love" (Rev 2:4).
6. Reject the teaching of the grace of God (Tit 2:11-12).
7. Refuse to "walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4).
8. Refuse to "put on the new man" (Eph 4:24).
9. Refuse to "put off the works of darkness" (Rom 13:12).
10. Refuse to "put on the armor of light" (Rom 13:12).
11. Refuse to "put on the whole armor of God" (Eph 6:10).
12. Refuse to take the "way of escape" that comes with every temptation (1 Cor 10:13).
13. Refuse to "put on" the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13:14).
14. Refuse to "walk in the light" (1 John 1:7).
15. Refuse to "resist the devil" (James 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8-9).
16. Refuse to let the word of Christ dwell within "richly" (Col 3:16).
17. Refuse to "live by every word of God" (Luke 4:4).
18. Refuse to think upon good, pure, and holy things (Phil 4:8).
19. Refuse to hide the word of God in the heart (Psa 119:11).
20. Refuse to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly (Col 3:15).
21. Refuse to "touch not the unclean thing" (2 Cor 6:17).
22. Refuse to "seek the things that are above" (Col 3:1).
23. Refuse to set one's affection on things above (Col 3:2).
24. Refuse to "look unto Jesus" (Heb 12:2).
25. Refuse to make a covenant with one's eyes (Job 31:1).
26. Refuse fellowship with Christ, into which fellowship God called us (1 Cor 1:9).
27. Refuse to add virtue, temperance, and godliness to one's faith (2 Pet 1:5-8).
28. Refuse to watch for the Lord's coming (Mark 13:37).
29. Refuse to "avoid fornication" and "flee fornication" (1 Cor 6:18).
30. Refuse to glorify God in one's body (1 Cor 6:20).
31. Refuse to let one's light shine (Matt 5:16).
32. Refuse to call upon the name of the Lord and be delivered (Psa 50:15).
33. Refuse to maintain a hold on the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience (1 Tim 3:9).
34. Refuse to keep oneself pure (1 Tim 5:22).
35. Make a place for Satan to work (Eph 4:27).
36. Make provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Rom 13:14).
37. Forget salvation makes us "strangers and pilgrims" in the world (1 Pet 2:11).
38. Forget that fleshly lusts "war against the soul" (1 Pet 2:11).
39. Forget he was purged from his old sins (2 Pet 1:9).
40. Forget Lot's wife (Luke 17:32).
41. Forget Jesus died to deliver us from this present evil world (Gal 1:4).
42. Forget that we must die, and then be judged (Heb 9:27).
43. Forget that the Lord is coming again, and doing so suddenly (Mark 13:35-36).
44. Forget that the earth is passing away, and will catch sinners unawares (Luke 21:33-34).
45. Forget that our bodies are "the members of Christ" (1 Cor 6:15).
46. Forget that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19;20).
47. Forget the truth, which makes free (John 8:32).
48. Forget the commandment to "sin not" (1 Cor 15:34; Eph 4:26; 1 John 2:1).
49. Forget the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Ex 20:14; Rom 13:9).
50. Forget God is going to make known the counsels of the heart (1 Cor 4:5).
51. Forget that God will judge adulterers (Heb 13:4).
52. Love the world (1 John 2:15).
53. Walk in darkness (1 John 1:6).
54. Look on a woman to lust after her (Matt 5:28).
55. Must return to the realm from which the person was once delivered (2 Pet 2:21-22).
56. Be ignorant of Satan's devices, and therefore have him gain the advantage (2 Cor 2:11).
57. Deliberately turn aside after Satan (1 Tim 5:15).
58. Covet another man's wife, even though God said not to do so (Ex 20:17; Deut 5:21).
This is also a sin of excess, where a lot of the person is put into it. “Lasciviousness” is unbridled lust, wantonness, shamelessness, and moral insolence. In this sin, the person with the
degenerate appetite zealously seeks to gratify his lusts, prowling like a wild animal in search of fleshly gratification. Such a person may search for it in a person, in literature, in entertainment, or sundry other means – but the search is consistent and relentless.
Men may speak of being “addicted to sex,” “addicted to pornography,” “inherited tendencies,” and the likes – but that is nothing more than psychological jargon. This kind of language must not find its way into the churches. The inspired word for such sins is “lasciviousness.” Jesus said it proceeds “from within, and defiles the man” (Mk 7:22) – that is, it is an expression of the person himself, not of some inherited weakness or uncontrolled habit. It is among the “works of the flesh,” and those guilty of it “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-20). It is a sin to which a person must give himself. It is not something that captures a person, but something the person willingly embraces (Eph 4:19). It does require the denial “of the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).
Remember, these are sins that Paul fears finding when he comes among the Corinthians – sins that were committed in the past, and from which there has been no repentance. Let no one imagine that the twentieth century church is exempt from such things, or that this text is now obsolete.
This has been a passage of monumental implications! It shows that when people within the church insist on clinging to sin, they are tottering upon the brink of eternal ruin. It also confirms that godly ministers will not and cannot overlook sin within the household of faith. Even if it involves ruffling the tender feathers of the fleshly minded, they will do it. If sin is not brought to a cessation within the church, the sinner must be cast out. Such represent defiling and corrupting “old leaven.” Their presence defiles even the observance of the Lord’s Table, which is a “feast” to be kept “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:7-8).
This text also confirms the seriousness of an assembly that is not growing “in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 3:18). In America, it is exceedingly challenging to find a church that is fulfilling this requirement. Often, what is called growth, or advance, is nothing more than institutional hype, or submission to a new imagined mode of “worship.” There is a great distance between most assemblies and the church at Corinth – and it was in a largely unacceptable state. One can only imagine what Paul would write to the churches of our country.
Notwithstanding all of these things, wherever there is a fervent quest for the truth, a faithful running of the race, and a diligent fighting of the good fight of faith, “great grace” will be upon the people. Where the real Jesus is embraced, the real abundant life will be realized. Where the real Spirit is received, the real fruit will be produced. Where the real Gospel is believed, real faith will be received. Real growth will then be realized – genuine progress toward the hope that is set before us.