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Paul’s Concern for the Corinthians February 25, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 12:11-21.

Summary: Paul begins by noting that his boasting has been foolish – yet the actions of some of the Corinthians forced him to boast; they should have vindicated him from the attacks of the false teachers, as he – though inherently unworthy – is on par with the chief apostles. This is the case, as:

  • the external evidence of his apostleship arose from adverse circumstances that required him to be faithful
  • the Corinthian church is on par with the other churches – except that he does not accept aid from them; he implores them to not view this as a lack of confidence in their love for him.

Paul then notes that he will visit the Corinthians for the third time, and he will not accept aid from them on that visit, since:

  • he only desires to win their souls
  • he views his relationship with them as that of a parent to their children, and so he desires to exercise a parent’s privilege in this case.

Thus, he will give not only his property but himself for them, even if they stop loving him. Yet his opponents accuse him of deceiving the Corinthians in this regard. To refute this accusation, he appeals to them to recall Titus’ previous visit to them; on that occasion, Titus followed Paul’s instructions and refrained from accepting aid from them. In this way, both Titus and Paul followed Christ, being led by the Holy Spirit.

Now Paul asks some of the Corinthians if they assume that he is pleading his case before them; instead, he is speaking in God’s presence as a Christian; in fact, his self-vindication is designed for their good. This stems from the fact that he wants them to be acceptable to him when he arrives; he does not want to see the following:

  • quarrels between church factions
  • feelings of alienation
  • bursts of anger
  • cabals
  • backbiting and secret calumnies
  • pride and insolence
  • the disorder that arises from the above-mentioned issues.

Paul concludes by stating that he fears that God will humble him – in relation to them – on his next visit, and he may have to mourn those Corinthians who have not repented of their corruption.

Thoughts: In verse 11, we see that Paul exhorts some of the Corinthians to vindicate him from the attacks of the false teachers. Hodge offers some intriguing thoughts on this:

It is an imperative duty of all who have the opportunity to vindicate the righteous. For us to remain silent when aspersions are cast on good men or when their character and services are undervalued is to make ourselves share the guilt of unjust accusations.

This reminds me of the time when one of the members of a church that I attended essentially accused the pastoral staff of being Freemasons. This was a rather serious charge, and I actually responded to him in an attempt to refute it – especially as I could not uncover concrete evidence to support it. Unfortunately, my experience is that it is relatively easy for believers to stand by idly while other believers are being slandered. In such instances, believers avoid conflict by remaining silent, hoping that the accuser(s) will eventually drop their charges. Yet Paul tells us that when it is necessary, we should – possibly painfully – take a stand and prevent “good men” from being rendered incapable of serving the Lord.

In verse 20, we see that Paul feared that some of the Corinthians would be ensnared by a multitude of sins when he arrived for his third visit. Hodge offers some enlightening thoughts on this:

This is a formidable list of evils, and it seems hard to reconcile what is said here with the glowing description of the repentance and obedience of the church found in chapter 7…The common and sufficient explanation of the difficulty is that part of the congregation, probably the majority, was penitent and obedient, while another part was just the opposite. When the apostle was thinking of one group, he used the language of commendation, and when he was thinking of the others, the language of censure.

Indeed, I experienced the difficulty that Hodge notes at the beginning of this quote. Now I wonder what it must have been like to attend the Corinthian church at that time. Those believers who Paul would have counted among the first group that he commended must have been incredibly frustrated, as they were probably attacked and harassed on a consistent basis by those in the second group that he criticized. Those Corinthians who Paul would have counted among this second group probably approached every church meeting with a hostile mindset, which hampered their ability to worship God. The leaders of the Corinthian church probably spent many sleepless nights wondering how they could preserve church unity in the face of secret and open conflict between these two groups.

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