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Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ ctf/ 2-corinthians-12.html. 1993-2022.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/
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Paul’s Visions and Revelations from Jesus
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory: The word "expedient" (sumphero) means "profitable" (Strong 4851), indicating Paul does not believe it is profitable for him "to glory." The word "doubtless" (de), as used here, is "a particle of emphasis" (Strong 1211) and "glory" (kauchaomai) is a synonym for "boast." It is found in chapter eleven where it means to "rejoice" (Strong 2744); therefore, Paul is emphasizing that it is generally not profitable to boast, but it has become necessary to protect his reputation that false teachers have damaged by claiming he is not a true apostle and his preaching cannot be trusted as truth. He actually has much to boast about in the sense that he has opportunities that none of the other apostles are ever given. For example, he is about to state the facts that he has had visions and revelations from Jesus. Furthermore, later in this chapter, he clearly states the Lord has given him a "thorn in the flesh" to remind him constantly not to boast about his visions and revelations he is about to share with the Corinthians.
I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: The words "I will come" mean "I will now talk about" (Bratcher 130). Paul is about to talk about specific "visions and revelations" the Lord has given him. The word "visions" (optasia) means "a vision, of that which the Deity permits a human being to see" (BAG 580) and refers to Paul’s unnatural experience of seeing something not visible to the human eye. The word "revelations" (apokalupsis) means a disclosure of truth that was "revealed" (Strong 602) to him from God that was previously unknown." In the scriptures, visions and revelations of the Lord were God’s way of communicating His will for man. These visions and revelations are proof of Paul’s true apostleship.
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago: The "man in Christ" Paul mentions here is Paul himself as he clarifies in verse 7: "lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations…" Paul is not speaking about general visions and revelations that occasionally have happened in his life but about specific visions and revelations that took place "above fourteen years ago." This letter is written around A.D. 57; therefore, Paul would have received this particular vision about the time he and Barnabas left Antioch to preach to the Gentiles:
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister (Acts 13:1-5).
(whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth): These visions and revelations are different from any other he has had. He does not pretend to be able to explain his vision because he does not know words to use in describing it. They are such special visions and revelations that he cannot affirm in what state he was when he received them. In other words, he does not know if he was physically "in the body" when he was transported to be able to see heaven or if maybe he was "out of the body" in the sense of seeing a vision while in his physical body. The point is he does not know if he was actually taken into heaven or whether it was such a realistic vision that it let him clearly see things in heaven. Barnes says Paul "lost all consciousness of anything about him at that time, and that he saw only the things in heaven" (247).
Now, the question is: What were these visions?
such an one caught up to the third heaven: The words "caught up" (harpazo) is in the passive voice, indicating Paul was "snatched up" (Bratcher 131), that is, he was "take(n) by force" (Strong 726) into the "third heaven." Barnes explains this phrase well:
In the case before us there is implied the idea that Paul was conveyed by a foreign force; or that he was suddenly seized and snatched up to heaven. The word expresses the suddenness and the rapidity with which it was done. Probably it was instantaneous, so that he appeared at once to be in heaven (247).
Paul does not know the exact mode that transported him to the third heaven; therefore, any attempt to clarify would be useless. Either the Lord carried Paul to the "third heaven," or he suddenly found himself in the "third heaven." Generally, heaven is considered to have three levels. The first heaven is the area of the sky where the birds fly, such as is mentioned during the creation: "The heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them" (Genesis 2:1).
The second heaven is the area where the sun, moon, stars, etc. are located as Matthew records: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken" (24:29).
The "third heaven" is the actual dwelling place of God, that is, the eternal home awaiting all faithful children of God:
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust…Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:12; Matthew 5:45; Matthew 5:48).
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth): In verse 3, Paul repeats the same words as in verse 2 to emphasize that there are two visions that God allows him, and no other apostle, to see.
How that he was caught up into paradise: The word "paradise" (paradeisos) means "an upper region in the heavens" (Thayer 480) or "a place of blessedness above the earth" (BAG 619) or a "place of future happiness" (Strong 3857). The place called "paradise" (paradeisos) is a mystery and is filled with much speculations because in the New Testament, it is found in only three places: here, in Luke 23:43, and in Revelation 2:7. The Greek word translated paradise is found in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) and is translated "garden" and is identified as being the "garden of Eden" where Adam and Eve were created and lived until they sinned:
And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed…And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it… Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (Genesis 2:8; Genesis 2:15; Genesis 3:23-24).
The word "paradise" spoken of here does not refer to the "third heaven" mentioned in verse 2; therefore, Paul is speaking about two separate visions. That "paradise" does not refer to the "third heaven" becomes obvious when considering the death and resurrection of Jesus. While Jesus is on the cross, He tells one of the thieves, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" Luke 23:43 NKJV). However, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, but before His ascension to heaven, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father (third heaven); but go to My brethren and say to them, ’I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God’" (John 20:17 NKJV).
and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter: It should be noted that Paul is speaking of things he heard in Paradise, and not things he saw. The New Testament often speaks of different times where Paul heard things in Paradise (Acts 9:1-19; Acts 22:6-16; Acts 26:12-18; and also in Acts 16:9; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:17-18; Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:2). The word "unspeakable" (arrhetos) means "inexpressible" (Strong 731). We are not told what Paul saw or heard, but whatever it was is not "lawful" for him to "utter" (laleo), meaning to "speak" (Strong 2980). The word "lawful" (exesti) means "possible" (BAG 274). Apparently, the reason he could not speak about what he heard is that human language has never been capable of producing words to describe what he heard or saw.
Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
In the phrase "Of such an one will I glory," Paul speaks of himself in the third person as a way to keep himself directly out of the visions. He reiterates that he does not "glory" (kauchaomai), that is, he refuses to "boast" (Strong 2744) or praise his own accomplishments. The only things he boasts about are his "infirmities" or "weaknesses" (Bratcher 132), specifically referring to his "disease (and) sickness" (Strong 769). For these things he will boast because of what Jesus says to him: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." As a result of this assurance from Jesus, Paul replies, "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (12:9 NKJV). In other words, the only things Paul is willing to boast about are things that do not build up himself but things that exalt Jesus.
For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: Paul could have boasted about many marvelous experiences he encounters in his visions, but he refrains from doing so because he would have been a "fool" (aphron), that is, he would have been "unwise" (Strong 878); therefore, it would have been "senseless" (Thayer 90) for him to do so. He will just say the truth about what he saw and heard.
but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me: Paul’s unwillingness to speak about his visions is not that it would not be "truth" but because he does not wish to exalt himself. Paul refrains from boasting because he does not want anyone to elevate him because of his stories of the past. He wants them to recognize the truth of his words about Jesus based on what they personally see him do or the messages they hear him speak.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations: Paul understood that because of his own human weakness it was possible for him to be "exalted above measure" (huperairomai), meaning to "be haughty" (Thayer 640) or "becoming too conceited" (Bratcher 133), thus filling him with pride. He recognizes he could have been more easily exalted than others simply because of the "abundance of the revelations" the Lord gave him. The word "abundance" (huperbole) refers to the act of becoming arrogant because of "the extraordinary power" (848 BAG), referring to the "revelations" (apokalupsis) or the abundance of God’s message being "revealed" (Strong 602) to him by the Lord. This is the same message he previously mentioned in 1 Corinthians where he says:
Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (9:25-27).
there was given to me a thorn in the flesh: By this "thorn in the flesh," Paul refers to some form of painful physical infirmity or bodily disorder. The exact nature of this condition is not known for certain. As Hughes says, it "is another one of those questions which, on the evidence available, must remain unanswered" (442); however, the ailment is so painful that he compares it to a "thorn in (his) flesh." The "thorn" does not refer to a small splinter, but to "a stake" or "a nail" (Bratcher 133) driven into (his) body, causing severe pain. This "thorn" (skolops) means, "figuratively, a bodily disability" (Strong 4647) that is evident from the fact that Paul pictures it as being "in the flesh." Here, Paul "alludes to his illness" (BAG 763) and "appears to indicate some constant bodily ailment or infirmity, which, even when Paul had been caught up in a trance to the third heaven, sternly admonished him that he still dwelt in a frail and mortal body" (Thayer 579). Paul speaks of this bodily disorder as such an offensive disease that it possibly could have caused some to have rejected his teaching. He is thankful the Galatians did not reject him, in spite of his infirmity:
Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus (Galatians 4:13-14).
the messenger of Satan to buffet me: The thorn in the flesh is not given to Paul by Jesus; instead, whatever it is, Paul says it is Satan’s messenger to him. As such, Paul accepts it as being from Satan to remind him not to become too proud but, instead, be humble. This bodily infirmity is so terrible that Paul looks at it as though his physical body has been "buffet(ed)" (kolaphizo) or "to treat(ed) with violence" (Thayer 353) by Satan. Since he says his body is buffeted, he indicates it is not mental but visible on the body for others to easily see.
lest I should be exalted above measure: This painful disorder serves as the devil’s representative to remind Paul not to become too conceited because of the extraordinary miraculous powers the Lord has given to him. This verse is clearly translated by Bratcher:
These extraordinary revelations could have made me very proud. So in order to keep me from becoming proud, God sent a physical disorder that hurts like a nail (stake) sticking in my body. This acts as a servant of Satan to beat me, and keeps me from ever getting too proud (133).
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
The fact that Paul states the precise number "thrice" (three times) indicates that he repeated this prayer requesting God to remove his painful sickness three times only. After the third prayer, he does not make the request again, but instead he accepts his fate and recognizes that he must live with the ailment. Simply put, God answers Paul’s prayers but not as he asks. Instead of allowing the illness to be removed from Paul’s life, God uses this physical infirmity to strengthen him spiritually.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: The reason Paul is able to accept the fact that his suffering will remain with him is that the Lord tells him, "My grace is sufficient for thee." In other words, the Lord promises with His loving grace Paul will be able to deal with the ailment. The Lord’s promise to Christians is to help them endure the hardships and sufferings in life, even at times when situations seem impossible. Gould says, "… Christ’s grace is enough. That grace is not made powerless in man’s weakness; but perfects its strength just then; and hence it is sufficient for the sufferer without the added favor of healing" (218). The promise is not to remove all sufferings but to help the Christian endure them.
for my strength is made perfect in weakness: The "strength" (dunamis) is the Lord’s strength and refers to "miraculous powers" (Strong 1411). The "weakness" (astheneia) refers to Paul’s weakness and means feebleness of mind or body" (Strong 769). Therefore, Paul’s message is that the Lord’s greatest work is seen in Christians even when they are weak physically.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me: Apparently, once Paul hears the Lord’s response to his prayer, he stops requesting that the Lord remove his thorn in the flesh and determines to tolerate it. By referring to "the power of Christ (that) may rest upon me," Paul indicates he has willingly committed to "take(ing) up the abode in" (Gould 218) the grace of Jesus.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Therefore I take pleasure: By the words "I take pleasure" (eudokeo), Paul is saying that he "willing(ly)" (Strong 2106) with "approv(al)" accepts the weaknesses in his body.
in infirmities: The word "infirmities" (astheneia) means "frailty (or) disease" (Strong 769), that is, "trials and troubles" (Thayer 80) that come "because of a bodily ailment" (BAG 114).
in reproaches: The word "reproaches" (hubris) used means Paul’s "mistreatment" (BAG 839), which is "a wrong springing from insolence" (Thayer 633). In the Greek "usage," (this term refers to) "the mental injury and the wantonness of its infliction being prominent" (Thayer 633).
in necessities: The word "necessities" (anagke) means "distress" (BAG 52) or "calamity" (Thayer 36).
in persecutions: "In persecutions" (diogmos) means "accusations" (Bratcher 135).
in distresses for Christ’s sake: "In distresses" (stenochoria) means "anguish" (Strong 4730) or "calamity" (Bratcher 135), referring to many different forms of difficulties.
for when I am weak, then am I strong: This paradoxical reference is Paul’s way of repeating Jesus’ statement in the previous verse where He says, "… My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Paul’s example here encourages every Christian to look for the spiritual strength that can be received from the Lord during difficult times in their lives.
Paul’s Concern for Faithful Christians
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.
I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: Paul appears to be self-conscious about the amount of time spent in boasting about his work for the Lord; however, he appears to feel forced to do so. It greatly bothers him because he knows others may use it against him, claiming he is attempting to exalt himself. In the previous verses, Paul has been "compelled" (anagkazo) to do so since the false teachers have "necessitate(d)" it (Strong 315) or have forced him to boast about his work in order to protect his reputation as an apostle of Jesus Christ and to influence the Corinthians to listen to Paul as he preaches Jesus’ message.
for I ought to have been commended of you: The fact is he should not have had to compliment his own work; instead, the Corinthian Christians should have "commended" (sunistao) him to others, that is, they should have expressed their "approv(al)" (Strong 4921) of him and his message about Jesus; and therefore, there should have been no reason for him to talk about his life or his work.
for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing: Paul, again, speaks sarcastically of the "chiefest apostles," having reference to the false, self-proclaimed apostles in Corinth. These men are not actually apostles of Jesus, but Paul’s point is that he is not behind or inferior to any of them, regardless of who they claim to be. Even though he is not inferior to them, he considers himself to "be nothing" (oudeis), that is, he does not elevate himself, but instead claims to be a "nobody" (Strong 3762). His personal boasting is done only out of concern for the Corinthian Christians. They are in spiritual danger of being corrupted by the false apostles when they criticize him or claim he is not a true apostle of Jesus and that his messages are not from the Lord. The truth of the matter is that Paul, while claiming to be a "nobody," is the very instrument God is using to teach the gospel to the Corinthians. Paul states this same fact in his last letter:
By the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed (1 Corinthians 15:10-11).
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you: The Corinthians should have never abandoned Paul nor should they have denied his apostleship. He brought the gospel to them; the signs he wrought in their presence should have undeniably convinced them he is a true apostle. By the word "signs" (semeion), Paul means the "indication (or) token" (Strong 4592) of his apostleship has been "wrought" (katergazomai), that is, his apostleship has been "perform(ed)" (Strong 2716) among the Corinthians. They mistreated him, they made false accusations against him, but he still did not forsake them. Instead, he sent several letters to them and also sent men such as Titus to them to plead with them to return to Jesus.
in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds: "Patience" (hupomone) as used here means "continuance" (Strong 5281), referring to Paul’s "persistence" (Bratcher 136) in working miracles to benefit them. In his first letter to them, Paul mentions the grace of God and the miracles performed among them as sources of their spiritual enrichment. In doing so, he gives Jesus the credit for that enrichment: "In every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge" (1 Corinthians 1:5). Paul consistently proves his apostleship with "signs, and wonders (teras) (Strong 5059), and mighty deeds" (dunamis) (Strong 1411). This expression refers to "all kinds of miraculous deeds, extraordinary happenings, which no human power can accomplish" (Bratcher 136). Paul does not suggest the signs, wonders, and mighty deeds are miracles of his own because all miracles Paul has performed have been done to prove that God is working through him—to prove that he speaks God’s message.
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.
For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches: Again, as Paul has often done in this letter, he speaks with sarcasm. Apparently, he has been accused of not treating the Corinthians as well as he treated other churches; therefore, in this question, he is asking for details about how he treated others better, causing the Corinthians to feel "inferior" (hettao) to or made "worse" (Strong 2274) than other churches. It is a rhetorical question because he knows he has not treated them worse, and they cannot give examples of such treatment.
except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you?: Paul continues his sarcastic tone, asking the Corinthians if he mistreated them by not being "burdensome" (katanarkao), meaning not being "chargeable" (Strong 2655) to them. The only difference in treatment was that he did not accept financial assistance from them when he worked among them. When he needed financial assistance, he received it from others:
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 (11:9).
forgive me this wrong: Continuing his sarcastic tone, he says "forgive me this wrong." He is simply attempting to shame them by making them think seriously about the criticism they have had for a man who has given them spiritual hope by teaching them the gospel as well as by helping them in many other ways.
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.
Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: Paul is soon to return to Corinth for the third time to teach the messages of Jesus to them. The scriptures record only one of his three visits to Corinth, and that is his original when he went there to establish the church of Jesus Christ. From what he says here, he also visited a second time, but there is no written record of that visit; however, he plans now to return the third time. He is determined that this third visit will be the same as the previous two visits in that he will refuse any financial support from them. He is not coming to them to benefit himself but to benefit them spiritually.
for I seek not yours but you: Paul does "seek" (zeteo), that is, he "desire(s)" (Strong 2212) something from these Corinthians when he returns to Corinth, but it is not their money or any form of earthly treasures. The only thing he desires from them is them personally. He wants them to be Christians who please God so that he will not have to punish them when he comes. He has already assured them that he is prepared to punish any of them who continue to teach false doctrine, who continue to live according to false doctrine, or who hinder the gospel in any way.
for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children: Paul explains to the Corinthians that he loves them just as parents love their children. In his illustration, he pictures them as being children and himself as their father. The expression "lay up" (thesaurizo) means to "keep in store" (Strong 2343). Paul says children do not provide for their parents, but parents provide for their children. His meaning is that he (as their spiritual parent) does not want any financial support from them (his spiritual children); instead, he will provide what they need the most—he will provide the gospel of Jesus Christ for them, thus leading to their salvation.
And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you: Paul emphasizes that it is his pleasure to "spend and be spent" for the Corinthians, that is, he willingly will come and give his time freely to them without cost in order to teach Jesus to them.
though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved: This phrase, though not indicated in the King James Version, is actually a question. The New American Standard Bible, for example, translates it: "…If I love you more, am I to be loved less?" In other words, Paul is asking, Why do you love me less knowing that I love you more? He has reference to the fact that he does not treat them worse but that he loves them more, a fact that is proved by his coming to them for the third time without accepting support from them.
But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.
But be it so, I did not burden you: The words "be it so" indicate that Paul is quoting the Corinthians who oppose him, even though they have been forced to admit that Paul was not a burden to them—he refused to receive financial support from them while at the same time encouraging them to give financial help to assist others, such as the needy believers in Judea.
nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile: Paul continues to refer to statements made by his adversaries. They have been saying, Yes, Paul did not receive financial support from us, but he was "being crafty." Being "crafty" (panourgos) means "shrewd" (Strong 3835) or "unscrupulous" (Bratcher 138). They were making a false accusation against Paul, claiming that even though he had not personally received finances from them, his encouragement for them to collect money for those in Judea was done with "guile" (dolos). This word means he was "deceit(ful)" (Strong 1388). They are saying that, though he claimed this collection was for Christians in Judea, they were actually for himself.
Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?
The word "gain" (pleonekteo) means "defraud" (Strong 4122). Paul responds to their false accusation with a question: Have I made a gain from you when I sent others to you? He wants them to know that he has no intention of using part of their funds collected for Judea for himself and that he has never committed such fraud against them or anyone else. Paul’s proof that his intent was never to keep back part of the money for personal use is that when he sent others to them, he did not use any of those funds for himself.
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?
I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you: The reference here does not appear to be related to the present need in Judea but probably to the need Paul refers to during his first missionary journey. Paul uses this example to prove again that he did not benefit from any of the money collected. His major proof is that Titus did not go alone with the money, but instead Paul "sent a brother" with him. This brother, whom Paul does not call by name, was obviously one well known, respected, and trusted in Corinth. Sending this brother with Titus was a wise move because it was proof the funds were used as intended.
walked we not in the same spirit: The words "walked…in the same spirit" mean Paul and Titus always had the same motives—their behavior was the same. The word "spirit" (pneuma), as used here, means their "desire" (Thayer 523-1-4151) was always the same and that was to help other needy Christians.
walked we not in the same steps: Paul causes his adversaries to acknowledge that Titus always acted the same way and had the same motives as he does and yet, they never accused Titus of doing anything wrong. Again, Paul’s intent in these words is to make the Corinthians think logically for themselves.
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.
Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you: The word "excuse" (apologeomai) means to "make defence" (Strong 626). Paul is now speaking to the Corinthian Christians who have repented of their sins. He has been persistent in defending himself to the repentant Christians against the false charges made against him. He is explaining to them the seriousness of the injustice he has had to endure because they had allowed the false apostles/teachers to continue making their false accusations against him.
we speak before God in Christ: To "speak before God in Christ" is to say only things that Christ would have spoken if He were personally with them.
but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying: Here Paul comes down to the crux of the matter. He wants to explain the purpose behind his visits and letters to the Corinthians as well as behind his continually proving their false accusations against him to be wrong. Paul’s persistence in clearing his name from the false accusations made against him was not only for himself but for the message of Jesus Christ that he preached. If a person has doubts about the trustworthiness of Paul, he would also doubt his message; therefore, he informs the Corinthians that his persistence of fighting against the false teachers is for the purpose of "edifying" them. The word "edifying" (oikodome) means "confirmation." His letters are written to the Corinthians to build them up spiritually by confirming that his teaching is the same as the teachings of Jesus.
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:
For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would: The word "fear" (phobeo) is used in the sense of being "alarmed" (Strong 5399) about what will happen when he returns to Corinth. He has written all of his letters to the Corinthians pleading with them to repent of their sins and return to their faithfulness to Jesus. This concern is what he has reference to when he says he is alarmed or concerned that when he returns to Corinth that he "shall not find you such as I would,"—he will not find all the Corinthians living faithful Christian lives.
and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: Paul loves all of these Corinthian Christians; however, even to those whom he loves, he assures them they do not want him to return "such as ye would not," referring to the fact that he will be forced to discipline the unrepentant Christians when he returns to Corinth because of the seriousness of the sins of which they are guilty.
Sins of the Corinthians
lest there be debates: The sin of "debates" (eris) of which some of the Corinthians are guilty means "quarrel(ing), i.e. (by implication) …contention" (Strong 2054). Paul could not allow constant contention to remain in the Corinthian church because as long as the members are quarreling, there will never be peace and the faithful will be in danger of being weakened. Paul gives a specific example of how one unrepentant sinner can affect the whole congregation when he speaks about the fornicator who refuses to repent:
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:4-7).
envyings: Much of the contention of which the Corinthian Christians are guilty is caused by "envyings" (zelos), which means "jealousy" (Strong 2205). An example of the Corinthians’ contention over who is the greatest teacher is written about in 1 Corinthians:
It hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 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. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1:11-13).
wraths: Sins generally build one upon another. For example, the Corinthians’ contentions caused by their jealousy of one another causes them to be guilty of the sin of "wraths" (thumos), meaning "fierceness, indignation" (Strong 2372). The meaning is they have become angry and, therefore, resent each other.
strifes: The Corinthians’ sin of wraths created "strifes" (eritheia) and jealousy, causing "factions" (Strong 2052) to be formed within the congregation. Instead of being one in Christ, they appeared to be in competition with one another (see 1 Corinthians 1:12-13).
backbitings: The longer strife, jealousy, and contention remain in the church, the more "backbitings" (katalalia) or "evil speaking" (Strong 2636) or slanderous talk there is found among them.
whisperings: The particular slanderous talk Paul knows about is the sin of "whisperings" (psithurismos), meaning spreading "secret detraction" (Strong 5587) or false rumors about one another.
swellings: Whenever the above-named sins are found among Christians, others sins are always found. For example, the sin of contention creates "swellings" (phusiosis), which figuratively means "haughtiness" (Strong 5450) or "arrogance" (Bratcher 140). Different teachers in Corinth believed they were better than other teachers and other Christians.
tumults: Obviously, these sins’ creating arrogance create "tumults" (akatastasia), meaning constant "instability, i.e. disorder (and) confusion" (Strong 181).
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.
And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already: Paul obviously wants the Corinthians to understand that his actions of punishing those who have refused to repent are done with God’s blessing. He is emphasizing that his actions when he returns to Corinth will be done by the authority of God, not by his own authority. He says, "God will humble me among you." The word "humble" (tapeinoo) as used here figuratively means to "humiliate" (Strong 5013); that is, God will make Paul shame those who have not repented.
Therefore, to protect the faithful Christians and the church in Corinth from the sins mentioned above, he will severely discipline the unrepentant by turning them over to Satan (see 1 Corinthians 5:5). Paul says, he "shall bewail many which have sinned already." To "bewail" (pentheo) means that Paul’s disciplinary actions will "grieve" (Strong 3996) those who continue in sin.
and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed: All three sins ("uncleanness," "fornication" and "lasciviousness") refer to sexual misconduct. The word "uncleanness" (akatharsia) is any form of immoral conduct. "Fornication" (porneia), however, is a specific sin, meaning "harlotry" (Strong 4202), that is, "sexual intercourse by an unmarried couple" (Bratcher 140). Such sins as uncleanness and fornication create a sense of shame. "Lasciviousness" (aselgeia) means "wantonness" (Strong 766) or the lack of decency and "the lack of restraint" (Bratcher 140).