Greeting

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God in Corinth, together with all the other saints living throughout Achaia: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The God of All Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, so that we may comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow into our lives,1 so too does the comfort that comes to us through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which enables you patiently to endure the same sufferings that we also suffer. And our hope for you is steadfast, for we know that just as you share our sufferings, so too you share our comfort.

For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia, how we were exceedingly burdened, far beyond our strength, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt like men who were sentenced to die,2 so that we might not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead, 10  who rescued us from so great a peril of death, and who will rescue us again. Yes, we have placed our hope in him, that he will keep on rescuing us, 11 as you too join in helping us through prayer to God on our behalf. And as a result of this, many will give thanks to God on our behalf for the favor granted to us through the prayers of the many.

12 For this is our boast: Our conscience bears witness3 that we have conducted ourselves in the world with the honesty4 and sincerity that come from God; not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, and all the more so towards you. 13 For we are not writing you anything other than what you can read and understand. And I hope you will fully understand— 14even as you already have understood us in part—that we are your boast, just as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Plans, Promises, Purposes

15 And in this confidence I planned to come to you first, so that you might receive a double benefit. 16 That is, I planned to pass by way of you into Macedonia, and then to come to you again from Macedonia and be helped by you on my way to Judea. 17 So then: When I was planning this, did I do so frivolously? Or the things that I plan, do I plan them according to the flesh, so that I can first say,5 “Yes, Yes,” and then “No, No,”6 all at the same time? 18 But as God is faithful, our word to you is not “Yes and No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—was not “Yes and No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For as many as the promises of God may be, in Christ7 they are “Yes.” Therefore it is also through him that the Amen is spoken to God, so that he may be glorified through us.8 21 Now the One who establishes us with you in Christ—and who anointed us—is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.9

23 Now I call on God as a witness against my soul, that it was in order to spare you that I didn’t come to Corinth again. 24 Not that we have lordship over your faith, but we labor together with you for your joy; for by faith you stand. 

Notes

  1. Lit. to us
  2. Lit. we had the sentence of death within ourselves
  3. Or our boast: the testimony of our conscience
  4. Or simplicity, transparency; many mss holiness
  5. Lit. so that with me there should be
  6. Some translators: “Yes,” “Yes and No,” and “No”
  7. Lit. him
  8. Lit. Therefore also through him (is) the Amen to God, for glory through us
  9. Or pledge, down payment

 

2 So I made up my mind that I would not come to you again in sorrow. For if I cause you to sorrow, who is left to bring me gladness if not the one I caused to sorrow? And I wrote you this very thing, so that when I came to you I would not be forced to grieve over those who should be bringing me joy, for I had confidence in you all, that my joy would be the joy of all. For in deep distress and anguish of heart I wrote you with many tears, not to make you sad, but to make known to you the love I have for you in such abundance.

But if anyone has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow, not so much to me, but in a measure (not to put things too severely) to all of you. The punishment agreed upon by the majority is sufficient for someone like this, so that now, by contrast, you should forgive and comfort him, so that such a man will not be swallowed up by excessive grief. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is another reason I wrote you: to test you, to see if you would be obedient in all things. 10 Now anyone whom you forgive, I forgive as well; for truly, what I have forgiven—if I have forgiven anything at all1I have forgiven for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that Satan will not take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

12 Now when I came to Troas intending to proclaim2 Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me in3 the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, for I didn’t find my brother Titus waiting for me. So I bid them farewell and left for Macedonia. 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ, and who in every place manifests through us the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For to God we are a fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma of death leading to death, and to the other an aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17 For unlike so many, we are not peddling the word of God; rather, as men with pure motives—as men sent from God—we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

Notes

  1. Or possibly if there was anything to forgive
  2. Lit. Troas for
  3. Or by

 

Living Epistles

3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men. You yourselves reveal that you are a letter of Christ, delivered1 by us; a letter not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not written on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts, tablets made of flesh.

Such is the confidence we have through Christ towards God. Not that we in ourselves are able to think of anything as coming from ourselves; rather, our ability is from God, who has also made us able ministers of a new covenant: not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

But if the ministry of death, engraved in letters on stone tablets, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not gaze steadily at the face of Moses due to the glory of his countenance—a glory that was passing away—how shall the ministry of the Spirit not come2 with still more glory? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness abounds in glory far more. 10 For in a sense, what once had glory, actually had no glory at all, due to the glory that now surpasses it. 11 For if what is now passing away came with3 glory, how much more will what remains be with glory!

12 Therefore, having a hope such as this, we use great boldness of speech, 13 unlike Moses who would put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel could not gaze steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this very day the same veil remains unlifted at the reading of the Old Testament; for only in Christ is it removed.4 15 Yes, to this day when Moses is read a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.5 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But all of us, with unveiled faces, beholding6 the glory of the Lord as if in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; and this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.7

Notes

  1. Lit. revealing that you are an epistle of Christ, ministered (cared for)
  2. Lit. be
  3. Lit. through
  4. Lit. done away with, set aside, abolished, destroyed
  5. See Ex. 34:34
  6. Or possibly reflecting
  7. Lit. even as from the Lord, the Spirit

 

The Way of an Apostle  

4 Therefore, because we have received this ministry by the mercy of God,1 we do not lose heart. But we have renounced shameful, underhanded ways,2 not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by an open proclamation of the truth3 commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whom4 the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, so that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ—who is the image of God—will not shine on them. For we are not proclaiming ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For the God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power may be from God, and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, yet not in despair; persecuted, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed— 10 always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus as well may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then: Death is at work in5 us, but life in you.

13 Now it is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke out.”6 And since we have that same spirit of faith, we too believe, and therefore also speak out, 14 knowing that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will bring us into his presence together with you.7 15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which now is spreading through so many8 may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 

16 This is why we don’t lose heart. For even if our outer man is subject to decay, the inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 as we fix our eyes, not on the things that are seen, but on the things that are not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.

Notes

  1. Lit. Therefore having this ministry, as we received mercy
  2. Lit. the hidden things of shame
  3. Lit. by the manifestation of the truth
  4. Or among whom, in whose case
  5. Or among
  6. Ps. 116:10
  7. Lit. and will present (us) with you
  8. Lit. increasing through the many

 

The Hope of an Apostle  

5 For we know that if the earthly tent which serves as our home1 is torn down, we have a building that comes from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For here in our present dwelling2 we continually groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, since once we have put it on, we will never again be found naked.3 For truly, as long as we live in this tent, we groan like men bearing burdens,4 not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now he who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also gave us the Spirit as a down payment and a guarantee.

Therefore, being confident at all times, and knowing that as long as we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord 7 (for we walk by faith, and not by sight), we are both confident and well pleased rather to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore we also make it our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be well pleasing to him. 10 For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for the things he has done in5 the body, whether good or bad.

The Plea of an Apostle 

11 Knowing, then, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. But we are well known to God; and I trust we are also well known in your consciences. 12 For we are not commending ourselves to you again, but rather giving you an opportunity to boast on our behalf, so that you may have an answer for those who boast only in appearance, and not in heart. 13 For if we were beside ourselves, it was for God; and if we now are sound in mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, having reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died.6 15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose again in their behalf.

16 Accordingly, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh. Even if we have known Christ according to the flesh, now we do so no more. 17 Therefore, if any man is in Christ, there7 is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come to be! 18 And all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 namely, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them; and he has entrusted the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Thus, we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God himself were pleading through us. On behalf of Christ we implore you: Be reconciled to God. 21 For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Notes

  1. Lit. our earthly house of the tent
  2. Lit. in this
  3. Or if indeed, when we put it on, we will not be found naked
  4. Lit. we groan, being burdened
  5. Lit. through
  6. Lit. having judged this, that one died for all, therefore all died
  7. Or he

 

The Credentials of an Apostle

6 Moreover, as those who co-labor with him, we also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I have heard you, and in a day of salvation I have brought you help.”1 Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation! We give no opportunity for finding fault, so that our2 ministry will not be discredited. Rather, in every way we commend ourselves as servants of God: in deep3 endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in uprisings, in labors, in sleeplessness, and in frequent hunger;4 in purity, in knowledge, in longsuffering, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love, in the word of truth, and in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, yet true; as unknown, yet well known; as dying, yet behold, we live; as scourged, yet not executed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all.

11 O Corinthians! Our mouth has spoken freely to you,5 our heart is opened wide. 12 You are not restrained by us, but you are indeed restrained in your own affections. 13 Now in a fair exchange (I speak as to children), you also should open wide to us!

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 And what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said: “I will live in them and walk among them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.6 17 Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.7 18 And I will be a father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord, the mighty ruler over all.”8 7:1 Beloved friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Notes

  1. Is. 49:8
  2. Lit. the
  3. Lit. much, great
  4. Lit. fastings
  5. Lit. our mouth is opened to you
  6. Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ezek. 37:27
  7. Is. 52:11; Ezek. 20:34, 41
  8. Or Lord, the Almighty; 2 Sam. 7:8, 14; Is. 43:6; Jer. 31:9

 

The Corinthians Absolved and Commended

7 Make room for us in your hearts. We wronged no one, we corrupted no one, and we exploited no one. I am not saying this to condemn you, for I told you earlier that you are in our hearts, both to die together and to live together. Great is my confidence in you,1 and great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in the midst of all our afflictions. For even2 when we came into Macedonia, our flesh found no rest; rather, we were afflicted on every side: fights without and fears within. Yet God, who encourages3 the downcast, encouraged us with the coming of Titus; and not only with his coming, but also with the same encouragement with which you had encouraged him, as he told us about your longing, your mourning, and your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced all the more. For even if I saddened you with my letter, I don’t regret it (though I did regret it), for I see that the letter did indeed sadden you (though only for a little while).4 Now I rejoice, not that you were saddened, but that you were saddened to the point of repentance; for you were saddened with a godly sorrow,5 so as not to suffer loss from us in any way. 10 For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret; but the sorrow of the world only produces death. 11 For look at what this very thing—this godly sorrow—has produced among6 you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what yearning, what zeal, what readiness to avenge all wrongs!7 In every way you have shown yourselves innocent in this matter. 12 So then: Though I did indeed write you, it was not simply because of the one who committed the wrong, or because of the one who suffered it, but also so that your devotion to us8 might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

13 For all these reasons9 we are greatly encouraged. And in addition to our own encouragement, we rejoiced still more to see the joy of Titus, because you all have refreshed his spirit. 14 For if in any way I boasted to him about you, I was never put to shame; but just as everything we spoke to you was spoken in truth, so our boasting to10 Titus has proven true as well. 15 And his affections for you abound all the more when he remembers how you all obeyed, and how you welcomed him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice that in all things I have complete confidence in you.

Notes

  1. Or great is my boldness in speaking to you
  2. Or For truly
  3. Or comforts, consoles
  4. Or (though I did regret it, for I see . . . a little while).
  5. Lit. with a sorrow according to God
  6. Or in
  7. Lit. what vengeance!
  8. Lit. earnestness in our behalf
  9. Lit. For this reason
  10. Or before

 

The Grace of Giving

8 Now we want to make known to you, brothers, the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia, how in a great test marked by severe affliction their abundant joy and deep poverty overflowed in the riches of their liberality. For I can testify that according to their ability—yes, and beyond their ability—they gave freely, 4 earnestly entreating us for the favor of participating in this ministry to the saints. And they did so, not as we had expected,1 but instead gave themselves first to the Lord, and then to us, by the will of God. Therefore, since Titus had previously initiated this gracious work among you, we have urged him to complete it for2 you as well. But just as you excel in all things—in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in the love we inspired in you3see to it that you also excel in this work of grace.

I am not saying this by way of command, but rather as one who is testing the genuineness of your love through the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich. 10 Therefore, since this opportunity is much to your advantage, I will give you my view on the matter: A year ago you not only began to do this work, but also to desire it. 11 But now you must finish the work as well, so that just as you earnestly desired to do it, so too you will actually bring it to completion, drawing on whatever resources you may have.4 12 For if the willingness is present, the gift is received according to what a person has, not according to what he doesn’t have. 13 Now I say all this, not so that others may be eased and you burdened, 14 but rather as a matter of equity.5 For your abundance at this present time will make up for their lack, so that one day their abundance may likewise make up for your lack—so that equity may prevail. 15 As it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”6

16 But thanks be to God, who placed in the heart of Titus the same earnest care that I myself have for you. 17 For not only did he agree to our request, but being quite eager for the task, he is coming to you7 of his own free will. 18 Moreover, we have sent with him the brother whose praise in the ministry of the gospel has spread throughout all the churches. 19 And not only that, but the churches have chosen him to travel with us as we administer this gracious gift for the glory of the Lord himself, and also to show how eager we are to help. 20 We have made these arrangements as a precaution, so that no one will8 discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; 21 for we always keep in mind what is right, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22 And we have sent with them our brother whom we have proven many times, and found eager9 in many matters, but now all the more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 If there are questions about Titus, he is my companion and fellow worker for your good; and if there are questions about our brothers, they are messengers of the churches and the glory of Christ. 24 So then: In full view of the churches, you must show these men the depth of your love, and why we are constantly boasting about you.

Notes

  1. Lit. hoped
  2. Or possibly among
  3. Or imparted to you; lit. the love from us in you; some mss, your love for us
  4. Lit. out of what (is yours) to have
  5. Or fairness
  6. Or had no lack; see Ex. 6:18
  7. Lit. he departed to you
  8. Lit. avoiding this, that anyone should
  9. Or diligent

 

Wisdom in Giving

9 For concerning this ministry to the saints, there is really no need for me to write you, since I know how eager you are to help. Indeed, on this subject1 I keep boasting about you to the Macedonians, saying that Achaia has been ready to give since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. Nevertheless, I’ve sent the brothers on ahead so that our boasting over you in this matter will not prove to be hollow; so that, as I said, you may be ready. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) would be put to shame with respect to this confidence. 5 For this reason I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to come to you in advance and prepare ahead of time the generous gift you had previously promised, so that it may indeed be ready as a generous gift, and not as an obligation tainted by covetousness.2

The Manifold Fruits of Giving

But remember this:3 He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Let each one of you give just as he has purposed in his heart, neither grudgingly nor out of compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that you yourselves, always having everything that you need, will overflow in every kind of good work. As it is written, “He has scattered far and wide, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 4 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and will increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way5 for a lavish6 generosity which, through us, will result in7 thanksgiving to God. 12 For the administration of this gift not only meets the needs of the saints, but also overflows in many expressions of gratitude to God. 13 Because this ministry is a proof of your faith,8 they will glorify God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them, and with everyone else. 14 Moreover, in their prayers on your behalf they will long for your welfare9 because of the surpassing grace of God at work within you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Notes

  1. Lit. concerning which
  2. Lit. and not as covetousness
  3. Or But this (I say)
  4. Ps. 112:9
  5. Or in all things
  6. Lit. for all
  7. Lit. through us produces
  8. Lit. Because of the proof of this ministry
  9. Lit. for you

 

Paul Defends His Ministry

10 Now I myself, Paul, (the man who is timid when he’s with you face to face, but bold towards you when absent) plead with you, 2 asking that when I am present with you again I will not have to be bold with the confidence I expect to display1 towards those who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty through God for the destruction of fortresses. We are pulling down arguments2 and every high thing that is lifted up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive for obedience to Christ; and we are ready to punish all disobedience whenever your obedience is complete.

You are only looking on the face of things.3 If anyone is confident within himself that he belongs to Christ, let him look within and remind himself of this:4 Just as he belongs to Christ, so too do we! For though I could boast even more about our authority—authority the Lord gave us for building you up, not tearing you down—I will not be put to shame by doing so; otherwise I might seem to be terrifying you with my letters. 10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and forceful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech beneath contempt.” 11 Let such a man consider this: What we are in word by our letters when we’re away, we also will be in our deeds when present.

12 For we dare not classify or compare ourselves with any5 of those who are commending themselves; for6 when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are acting in ignorance.7 13 We, however, will not boast beyond our proper measure,8 but only within the measure of the sphere of service that God has assigned to us as our measure—a sphere that reaches all the way to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves (as indeed we would be if we hadn’t come to you); for we were the first to reach you—far off as you were9—with the gospel of Christ. 15 No, we are not boasting beyond our measure: that is, in other men’s labors. But we do have this hope, that as your faith grows, you will enlarge us even more in our own sphere, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not boast about work previously accomplished in another man’s sphere of service. 17 Rather, let him who boasts boast in the Lord.10 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who stands approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Notes

  1. Lit. the boldness with which I expect to be bold
  2. Or speculations, lines of reason
  3. Or Look at things straight in the face!
  4. Lit. let him consider this again within himself
  5. Or some
  6. Lit. but
  7. Or are not wise; lit. do not understand
  8. Or limit, boundary
  9. Lit. to reach even until you
  10. Jer. 9:24

 

True and False Apostles

11 I hope you will bear with me in a little foolishness (though in fact you already are bearing with me).1 For I am jealous for you with God’s own jealousy, seeing that I betrothed you to one husband in order to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I fear that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, so too your minds will somehow be drawn away from a pure, single-hearted devotion to Christ.2 For if someone comes to you and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached; or if you receive a different spirit than the one you originally received, or a different gospel than the one you originally accepted—you put up with it all too well!

For I do not consider myself at all inferior to these “super-apostles” in your midstBut even if I am untrained in speaking, I am not in knowledge, as indeed we have already made clear to you in every possible way.3 Or did I commit a sin when I humbled myself so that you could be exalted—that is, when4 I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches, taking wages from them so that I could minister to you. And when I was present with you and stood in need, I was a burden to no one, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied me with all that I lacked.5 Indeed, in every respect I kept myself from being a burden to you, and I will continue to do so. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no one will keep me from boasting about this6 in the regions of Achaia! 11 Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows!

Compulsory Boasting

12 But what I am doing, I will certainly7 continue to do, in order to cut off every opportunity from those who are looking for a way to be considered our equals in the things8 they boast about. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light; 15 therefore it is no great surprise9 if his servants also transform themselves into servants of righteousness—whose final end will be according to their deeds.

16 I will say it again: Let no one think me a fool. But if you do, at least receive me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 (What I am about to speak in this boastful confidence, I do not speak according to the Lord, but rather as one who speaks like a fool.)10 18 Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I will do so as well. 19 For you—wise as you are—gladly put up with fools! 20 For if someone brings you into bondage, if someone devours you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone exalts himself, if someone slaps you in the face, you actually put up with it! 21 Though it be to our disgrace, I confess that we were too weak for that!

Suffering for Christ

But whatever anyone else may dare to boast about (I am speaking like a fool),11 I dare to do the same. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am speaking like a madman!) I far more: in labors more abundant, in imprisonments more frequent, in stripes beyond measure, in deaths often. 24 Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I spent in the deep. 26 On my frequent journeys I’ve been in danger from rivers, in danger from robbers, in danger from my countrymen, in danger from the Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, in danger at sea, and in danger among false brothers. 27 I have been in toil and hardship, in many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, in frequent fasts, and in cold and lack of proper clothing.12 28 And besides all these outward things,13 there is that which comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

30 If I must boast, I will boast about the things that display my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is blessed forever, knows I am not lying: 32 In Damascus, the governor under king Aretas was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, trying to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped from his hands.

Notes

  1. Or possibly and indeed, bear with me!
  2. Lit. from the sincerity (simplicity) and purity which (is) to Christ
  3. Lit. in all things in all ways
  4. Lit. because
  5. Or for when the brothers came . . . they fully supplied
  6. Lit. this boast will not be stopped for me
  7. Lit. also, even, indeed
  8. Lit. the thing, the matter
  9. Or matter
  10. Lit. but as in foolishness
  11. Lit. I speak in foolishness
  12. Lit. in cold and nakedness
  13. Or besides everything else

 

Further Boasting

12 Further boasting is necessary. Though it profits little,1 I will now proceed to visions and revelations from the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know, only God knows—this man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know that this man—whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know, only God knows—4was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words which are not lawful for anyone to speak. About such a man I will indeed boast; but about myself I will not boast, unless it pertains to my weaknesses. For even if I did decide to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be telling the truth. But I choose to refrain, so that no one’s idea of me will be based on something beyond what he actually sees in me or hears from me—7that is, on the surpassing greatness of these revelations.

And so, in order to keep me from becoming proud, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan sent to buffet me, to keep me from being lifted up with pride. Three times I pleaded with the Lord concerning this affliction, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, rather than complain, I will gladly boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Accordingly, I now take pleasure in the weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties that I suffer in the cause of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

11 I’ve become a fool; and you yourselves drove me to it. Actually,2 I should have been commended by you, for in no way did I fail to compare3 with these super-apostles,4 even though I am nothing. 12 Indeed, the things that mark a true apostle—signs, wonders, and miraculous works of power5—were all performed among you with the utmost6 patience and perseverance. 13 In what respect were you inferior to the rest of the churches, except that I myself was not a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!

Crafty Love, Holy Fear

14 Take note: I am ready to come to you a third time. And I will not be a burden to you; for I don’t want what belongs to you, but rather you yourselves. For the children should not save up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, will I be loved less? 16 Be that as it may, I didn’t burden you (though, crafty as I am, I did take you in by trickery!). 17 Did I take advantage of you through anyone I sent you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you, and I sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not conduct ourselves7 in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?

19 Have you been thinking all this time8 that we are defending ourselves to you? Actually, we are speaking to you in Christ in the sight of God. Moreover, everything we do, beloved friends, we do for your edification. 20 For I fear that when I come to you I might not find you such as I wish, and that you might not find me such as you wish. I fear that there will be strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes,9 backbiting, gossip, arrogance, and disturbances. 21 I fear that when I come again my God will humble me in your midst, and that I will mourn10 over many of those who previously sinned, and who still have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness in which they have been engaged.11

Notes

  1. Lit. It does not truly profit, but
  2. Lit. for
  3. Or was I inferior to; lit. lag behind
  4. Or the most eminent apostles
  5. Lit. powers
  6. Lit. all
  7. Lit. walk
  8. Or All this time you have been thinking
  9. Or selfish ambitions, factions
  10. Or grieve
  11. Lit. that they practiced

 

Test Yourselves Before I Come!

13 This will be the third time I have come to you: “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every controversy will be resolved.”1 I said it before when I was present with you the second time, and now, while absent, I say it again to those who previously sinned, and to all the rest who continue in sin: If I come again, I will spare no one— since you are looking for proof of the Christ who speaks through2 me, and who is not weak towards you, but mighty among you. For he was indeed crucified due to weakness; but now he lives because of the power of God. For in him we too are weak, but we will live with him because the power of God directed towards you.

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves. Or don’t you realize that Jesus Christ lives within you3—unless, of course, you fail the test? But I hope you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test. Now we pray to God that you will do no wrong—not so that we ourselves will appear to have passed the test, but so that you will do what is right, even if we seem to have failed it. For we can do nothing against the truth, only for it. For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak and you are strong (indeed, we pray for this very thing: your spiritual strengthening).4 10 This is why I am writing you these things while still absent, so that when I arrive I will not have to use severity in the exercise of5 the authority the Lord has given me for building you up, and not for tearing you down.

Admonitions and Benediction

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice! Strive for perfection,6 encourage one another,7 be like-minded, and live in peace—and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship8 of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

Notes

  1. Lit. every matter will be established; Deut. 19:15
  2. Lit. in, by
  3. Lit. Or do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you
  4. Lit. this also we pray (wish): your strengthening (completeness, perfection)
  5. Lit. in accordance with
  6. Or become complete; aim for restoration; set things in order
  7. Or be encouraged
  8. Or communion