Paul’s Motives - Page 2 of 5 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart.

We do not commend ourselves again to you:
Was Paul just bragging? Was he just trying to glorify himself before the Corinthians? Not at all. Though Paul has been glorying in his weakness, his trials, and his struggles, he is not doing it to brag before the Corinthian Christians. He did not “commend” (“praise”, or “brag about”) himself, for he presumed that he had already been made manifest (clearly perceived by their eye of understanding) to their consciences. I am already assured of your confidence, therefore I am not commending myself in order to recommend myself to you. Paul had already addressed the charge made against him by the Judaizers that he was a braggart. In 2 Corinthians 3:1-3, we read, “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” And then, in the verse coming just prior to this one he said, “And I also trust are well known in your consciences.” It’s clear that he believed that the Corinthians knew him well enough, so he did not need to defend himself to them, but it is equally clear that there was a movement in the assembly to discredit him and his ministry.

But give you opportunity to boast on our behalf
Paul spoke of his weakness, his trials, and his struggles, because he wanted to give the Corinthian Christians the opportunity to be proud of him and to give them a starting point for something “to boast of on our behalf.” There is, however, some irony in Paul’s words, because the Corinthian Christians were not interested in glorying in Paul, or in seeing anything good in any of his trials. They thought the trials made Paul less of an apostle and man of God, not more of an apostle and man of God, and they accused him of self-praise. Paul knew this well, but he is happy to give them the opportunity to “boast on our behalf,” none the less! He hoped they would defend him from the accusations, scandals, and rebukes of his enemies; and give him the honor due for his faithful and sincere labors in planting and sustaining the Church. He has already said (2 Co. 1:4{2]) that the teachers and the taught in their mutual affection ought to have some ground for “boasting” of each other. The Corinthians were being robbed of this by the lies of Paul's opponents, who thought only about outward appearances. This is why he has expressed to them the aim and glory of his ministry. Nothing could be more gentle and tolerant than such a mode of stating his object. Paul certainly didn’t hold back when it came to bragging about the Corinthians: “for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready” (2 Co. 9:2-3; also see 4:7, 14; 8:24; 12:5).

That you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart.
One problem with the Corinthian Christians is that they liked those who had an attractive appearance and not a lovely heart. They preferred those who had no true inward cause for glorying, though they have reason to glory in outward appearance, and in respect to their riches, personality, wisdom, or the like. The apostle wanted to give them something to use to respond to the false claims made by those who looked down on Paul because his glory was not in appearance, only in heart. By telling the Corinthian Christians how God is working through his struggles and trials, Paul has given them something to say in his defense. The object of their boasting was in the holiness, the zeal, the love, etc., which might be seen in a man’s presence, not what existed in the heart. Paul is contrasting those who are destitute of all of that which they boasted (hypocrites), and who put their confidence in their personal relationships, connections, influence, ancestors, and particularly their external relationship with Christ, with those who possess the only proper ground for boasting, that which is internal and noblest in man, that which God looks upon (1 Sam. 16:7{3]) as the seat of faith, the heart of a born again believer—not the face and physique. The grounds of their boasting, whatever they were, were superficial and external (2 Corinthians 10:7{4]), not deep and sincere. But those who would rightly judge Paul must look into his very heart, and not on his face.

Dear reader, if I may be so bold to ask, “What do you glory in? Are you among those who glory in appearance and not in heart?” Remember what the Lord said to Samuel: “The LORD does not see as a man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We are so easily impressed by a person’s image, we often do not see or care about their substance. It isn’t that appearance is completely unimportant, but compared to the heart it almost is.

13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you.

For if we are beside ourselves
The Holman Christian Standard Bible may add clarity to this verse: “For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you.” Again, as with the previous verse, this is probably designed to meet some of the charges which the false teachers in Corinth brought against him, and to furnish his friends there with a ready answer, as well as to show them the true principles on which he acted, and his real love for them. It is very likely that he was charged with being “deranged” or “out of his mind.” There were many who boasted of good judgment, and attentiveness, and wisdom, who regarded the apostle as acting like a madman. It has not been uncommon, by any means, for the unkind and the short-sighted; for formal professors and for hypocrites to regard the warm-hearted and passionate friends of religion as maniacs. Festus thought Paul was deranged, when he said, "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad" (Acts 26:24); and the Saviour himself was regarded by his immediate relatives and friends as beside himself: “But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.” (Mark 3:21). And there have always been many, both in the church and out of it, who have regarded those who support revivals, and missions, and all those who have displayed an extraordinary interest in religion, as deranged. Paul had in mind here to show the real principles which motivated him, regardless of whatever might be the appearance or the assessment which they affixed to his conduct. These principles were zeal for God, love for the church, and the compelling influences of the love of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The word rendered here as “beside ourselves” sometimes means to put out of place; and then to be put out of oneself, to astonish (Luke 24:22; Acts 8:9, Acts 8:11), to fill with wonder; and then, as it is used here, to be out of one's mind, to be deranged. Here it means that they were charged with being deranged, or that others esteemed, or professed to regard Paul and his fellow-laborers deranged.

It is to God
That is, it is in the cause of God, and out of love for Him. It is such a zeal for Him; such an absorbing interest in his cause; such love prompting to such great self-denial, and teaching us to act so much unlike other people as to lead them to think that we are deranged. The doctrine here is that there may be such a zeal for the glory of God, such an active and fervent desire to promote his honor, as to lead others to charge us with being a fanatic and thus deranged. It does not prove however that a man is deranged on the subject of religion simply because he is unlike others, or because he pursues a course of life that differs substantially from that of other professors of religion, and from the man of the world. He may be the truly sane man after all; and all the madness that may exist may be where there is a profession of religion without zeal; a professed belief in the existence of God and in the realities of eternity, that produces no difference in the conduct between the professor and other people; or an utter unconcern about eternal realities when a man is walking on the brink of death and of hell. There are a few people that become deranged by religion; there are millions who have no religion who act as madmen. And the highest instances of madness in the world are those who walk over an eternal hell without apprehension or alarm.

Or if we are of sound mind, it is for you
The sense seems to be, "if we are esteemed to be sane, and sober-minded, as we trust you will admit us to be, it is for your sake. Whatever may be the opinion which others have of us, we are influenced by our love for God, and our love for man. Therefore, we cannot help but show the zeal and self-denial which may expose us to the charge of mental derangement; but still we trust that by you we shall be regarded as being of sound mind. We seek your welfare. We labor for you. And we trust that you will appreciate our motives, and regard us as truly rational and sensible."

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