2 Corinthians 12:11-21

ingratitudeI have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your up building, beloved. For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Observation

  • Paul says he has been a fool but the Corinthians forced him into it.
  • The Corinthians should have commended Paul.
  • Paul was not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles”
  • Paul was superior to the “super-apostles” even though he is nothing. Making the “super-apostles” less than nothing.
  • Paul had performed the signs of a true apostle patiently for the Corinthians.
  • The Corinthians were not treated less than the rest of the churches.
  • Paul asked nothing of the Corithians.
  • Paul is ready to come to the Corinthians again.
  • This is the third time Paul has been ready to come to the Corinthians.
  • When Paul comes to the Corinthians, he still will not seek support from them.
  • Paul wanted the Corinthians themselves not what the Corinthians possessed.
  • Paul considered the Corinthians his children.
  • Children do not support their parents. Parents support their children.
  • Paul was glad to spend himself for the sake of the Corinthians souls.
  • It seemed the more Paul loved the Corinthians the less they loved him.
  • The Corinthians were claiming that by not requiring them to support him, Paul was being sneaky and deceiving them.
  • Neither Paul nor Titus asked the Corinthian for help in supporting the missionary quest.
  • Paul has not been defending himself before the Corinthians. Rather he has been preaching the gospel for the sake of the Corinthians.
  • Paul was afraid of what he would find when he came to Corinth,
  • Paul feared the Corinthians would not like what Paul would be forced to do when he came to Corinth.
  • Paul feared that he would be forced to mourn over those who had sinned and not repented for their practices.

Interpretation

Paul holds the Corinthians accountable for his needing to point out all his accomplishments. The Corinthians should have recognized the false teaching of the false apostles. The Corinthians should have opposed them when the attacked Paul’s authority. The Corinthians should have been the ones to point out the accomplishments of Paul.

The false apostles had been to Jerusalem. They had been in the company of the twelve. They knew who they were and associated with them. They knew James. They knew Peter and John. It is like showing a picture of yourself with the President. Then you claim you are buddies with the President. The reality is you went to one fund raising dinner. You paid a lot of money. You stood in line to have the picture made with a lot of other folks. Your personal interaction with the President was as long as it took to snap a picture. That was the situation with else false apostles.

Paul says they only have a picture of themselves with the twelve (so to speak). God had confirmed Paul’s Apostleship. God’s confirmation is all anyone needs.

God confirmed Paul’s Apostleship with signs and miracles. The first sign he mentions is patience. Paul suffered the assaults of Satan and his enemies without giving way. Plus Paul suffered a great many injuries with patience.

Second Paul mentions God confirmed his apostleship with miracles. He refers to them as signs, wonders and mighty works. He refers to them as signs because they are not empty shows. They were instructional. Paul calls them wonders because they were novel. That is, they were uncommon. Miracles do not happen every day. If they occurred every day we would not call them miracles. We would call them normal. The purpose of miracles is not to strike men with astonishment. Paul concludes by referring to them as might works. They express Divine power more than what we experience in the course of our daily lives.

Paul slams the Corinthians for their ingratitude. Paul had showed them with love and favor. The more love he showed the more ingratitude the Corinthians felt. Paul required and requested nothing from them. Then the sarcasm drips for his pen. Oh, please forgive me for mistreating you by not burdening you. The Corinthians should feel the shame of this. But the reality is they did not. The culture in Corinthian was such that I doubt they were capable of feeling shame. Clement of Rome writes to them years later and says, “Y’all need to read the letter Paul sent you years ago. Y’all are still having the same problems because you haven’t learned a darn thing!” (That’s a  paraphrase in case you couldn’t tell).

Paul says he did not take their possessions for two reasons. First, he wanted them, not their wealth. Second, he wanted to act the part of a father toward them. Anyone who becomes a pastor for, status, wealth or anything else defames the office. That person is not working for the cause of Christ. Rather he is creating his own band of disciples. He may use the name of Jesus. But he preaches a false Jesus just as the false apostles preached in Corinthian.

It would be wrong to look at verse 4b, “For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” and say children do not have an obligation to care for their aging parents. Or to assume from this passage parent are not to need anything from their children. That conclusion contradicts Paul in 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Additionally Paul would not be a father to the Philippians who supported him. That was not Paul’s intent.

When a child is young they depend on the parent for everything. The parent keeps them fed, clothed cleaned and sheltered.  Paul pointed out in his first letter to the Corinthians, they were spiritually weak. They could to withstand any demands on them just as a baby is too weak to expect anything from them.

The false teachers attacked Paul for not requiring anything from the Corinthians. They claimed Paul was up to something. He had to want something. What is in it for him? He was being sneaky. Rather than an honest open request. He was going to trick the Corinthians out of their wealth. He would send hired hands to get it rather than make the request himself. Evil men measure others by what they would do if they could.

Paul’s only concern was the Corinthian’s edification and salvation. As a result he fears they will have taken the gospel he preached and exchanged it for something less. Paul demonstrates the heart of a true pastor when he says, “I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.”

Application

Love is not always returned. Sometimes our purest of intentions are twisted and thought to be sinister.

Paul provides the example of how to respond. We respond by pointing to the cross and the work that Christ has done. Pray and mourn for those who have not repented. Continue to be a vessel of Christ’s love.

 

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