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2 Corinthians 12:11-15

11. 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.

11. Factus sum insipiens gloriando: vos me coegistis: nam ego debueram a vobis commendari: nulla enim in er inferior fui summis Apostolis, tametsi nihil sum.

12. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

12. Signa quidem apostoli peracta fuerunt inter vos, in omni patientia, et signis, et prodigiis, et virtutibus.

13. For what is it wherein you were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.

13. Nam quid est, in quo fueritis inferiores caeteris Ecclesiis, nisi quod ego ipse non fui vobis onerosus? Condonate mihi hanc iniuriam.

14. 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.

14. Ecce, tertio propensus animo sum, ut veniam ad vos, neque vobis ero oneri: non enim quaero quae vestra sunt, sed vos: etenim non esd parentes filiis.

15. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

15. Ego vero libentissime impendam et expendar pro animabus vestris: licet uberius bos diligens, minus diligar.


11. I have become a fool Hitherto he had, by various apologies, solicited their forgiveness for what was contrary to his own custom and manner of acting, and contrary, also, to propriety, and what was due to his office as an Apostle — the publishing of his own praises. Now, instead of soliciting, he upbraids, throwing the blame upon the Corinthians, who ought to have been beforehand in this. 916916     “Qui deuoyent les premiers faire cet office — ascauoir de le loyer;” — “Who ought to have been the first to discharge that office — that of praising him.” For when the false Apostles calumniated Paul, they should have set themselves vigorously in opposition to them, and should have faithfully borne the testimony that was due to his excellences. He chides them, however, thus early, lest those, who were unfavorably disposed towards them, should put a wrong construction upon the defense which he brought forward, in consequence of his being constrained to it by their ingratitude, 917917     “The Apostle, in defending himself, was aware how near he approached the language of a fool, that is, a man desirous of vain glory, and how liable what he had written was to be attributed to that motive. It is on this account that he obviates the charge which he knew his adversaries would allege. ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘I speak as a fool [...] but ye have compelled me.’ This was owning that, as to his words, they might, indeed, be considered as vain glorying, if the occasion were overlooked: but, if that were justly considered, it would be found that they ought rather to be ashamed than he, for having reduced him to the disagreeable necessity of speaking in his own behalf.” — Fuller s Works, volume 3. — Ed. or should persist in calumniating him.

For in nothing We are ungrateful to God, if we allow his gifts, of which we are witnesses, to be disparaged, or contemned. He charges the Corinthians with this fault, for they knew him to be equal to the chiefest Apostles, and yet they lent an ear to calumniators, when they slandered him.

By the chiefest Apostles some understand his rivals, who arrogated to themselves the precedence. 918918     Qui s’attribuoyent le premier lieu et souuerain degre;” — “Who claimed for themselves the first place and highest rank.” I understand it, however, as meaning — those that were chief among the twelve. “Let me be compared with any one of the Apostles, 919919     “Qu’on m’accompare auec lequel qu’on voudra des Apostres;” — “Let them compare me with whom they choose among the Apostles.” I have no fear, that I shall be found inferior.” For, although Paul was on the best of terms with all the Apostles, so that he was prepared to extol them above himself, he, nevertheless, contended against their names when falsely assumed. 920920     Faussement vsurpez et controuuez;” — “When falsely claimed and counterfeited.” For the false Apostles abused this pretext, that they had been in the company of the twelve — that they were in possession of all their views 921921     Qu’ils entendoyent bien toute leur intention;” — “That they understood well their entire design.” — that they were fully acquainted with all their institutions, and the like. Hence Paul, perceiving that they falsely gloried in these masks and counterfeit titles, and were successful, to some extent, among unlearned persons, 922922     Et par ce moyen ils acqueroyent credit enuers les simples et idiots“ — “And by this means they gained credit among the simple and unlearned.” reckoned it necessary to enter upon a comparison of that nature. 923923     Ne pouuoit faire autrement qu’il ne veinst a faire ceste comparaison de soy et des plus excellens Apostres;” — “Could not do otherwise than enter upon this comparison between himself and the most eminent of the Apostles.”

The correction that he adds — though I am nothing, means, that Paul was not disposed to claim any thing as his own, but simply gloried in the Lord, (2 Corinthians 10:17,) unless, perhaps, you prefer to consider this as a concession, in which he makes mention of what is thrown out against him by adversaries and slanderers. 924924     Ce que les malueillans et detracteurs gazouilloyent de luy;” — “What malevolent persons and slanderers chirped respecting him.”

12. The signs of an Apostle By the signs of an Apostle he means — the seals, that tend to confirm the evidence of his Apostleship, or, at least, for the proofs and evidences of it. “God has confirmed my Apostleship among you to such a degree, that it stands in no need of proof being adduced.” The first sign he makes mention of is patience — either because he had remained invincible, 925925     Il a tousiours demure inuincible, et ferme sans se reculer;” — “He has always remained invincible and firm, without shrinking back.” by nobly withstanding all the assaults of Satan and his enemies, and on no occasion giving way; or because, regardless of his own distinction, he suffered all injuries patiently, endured in silence countless grievances, 926926     “Il a laisse passer beaucoup de fascheries sans en faire semblant de rien;” — “He has allowed many grievances to pass, without seeming to take any notice of them.” and, by patience, overcame indignities. 927927     Beaucoup de lasches tours;” — “Many base tricks.” For a virtue so heroic is, as it were, a heavenly seal, by which the Lord marks out his Apostles.

He assigns the second place to miracles, for while he makes mention of signs and wonders and mighty deeds, he makes use of three terms, as he does elsewhere, (2 Thessalonians 2:9,) for expressing one and the same thing. Now he calls them signs, because they are not empty shows, but are appointed for the instruction of mankindwonders, because they ought, by their novelty, to arouse men, and strike them with astonishment — and powers or mighty deeds, because they are more signal tokens of Divine power, 928928     Ce sont exemples et tesmoignages plus excellent et euidens de la vertu Diuine;” — “Those are signal and manifest instances and evidences of Divine power.” than what we behold in the ordinary course of nature. Farther, we know that this was the main design of miracles, when the gospel began to be preached — that its doctrine might have greater authority given to it. Hence, the more that any one was endowed with the power of working miracles, so much the more was his ministry confirmed, as has been stated in the fifteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. 929929     Calvin seems to refer here more particularly to the observations made by him, when commenting on Romans 15:18. “Hie nobilis est locus de miraculorum usu: nempe ut reverentiam obedientiamque Deo apud homines comparent. Sic apud Marcum (Mark 16:20,) legis, Dominum confirmasse doetrinam subsequentibus signis. Sic Lucas in Actis (Acts 14:3,) narrat, Dominum per miracula testimonium reddidisse sermoni gratiae suoe;” — “This is an admirable passage in reference to the use of miracles — that they may secure among men reverence and obedience towards God. Thus you read in Mark 16:20, that the Lord confirmed their doctrine by signs following. So also Luke, in Acts 14:3, relates that the Lord by miracles gave testimony to the word.of his grace.” — Ed.

13. What is there in which. Here is an aggravation of their ingratitude — that he had been distinguished, that they might receive benefit — that they had derived advantage from the attestation furnished of his Apostleship, and had, notwithstanding, given their concurrence to the slanders 930930     Aux injures et detractions;” — “The insults and slanders.” of the false Apostles. He subjoins one exception — that he had not been burdensome to them; and this, by way of irony, for in reality this was over and above so many acts of kindness, which he had conferred upon them — that he had served them gratuitously. To busy themselves after this, as they did, in pouring contempt upon him, what was this but to insult his modesty? Nay, what cruelty there was in it! Hence, it is not without good reason, that he sharply reproves pride so frantic. Forgive me this wrong, says he. For they were doubly ungrateful, inasmuch as they not only contemned the man, by whose acts of kindness they had been brought under obligation, but even turned his kind disposition into an occasion of reproach. Chrysostom is of opinion, that there is no irony implied, and that, instead of this, there is an expression of apology; but, if any one examines the entire context more narrowly, he will easily perceive, that this gloss is quite foreign to Paul’s intention.

14. Behold, this third time He commends his own deed, for which he had received a very poor requital from the Corinthians. For he says, that he refrained from taking their worldly substance for two reasons first, because he sought them, not their wealth; and secondly, because he was desirous to act the part of a father towards them. From this it appears, what commendation was due to his modesty, which occasioned him contempt among the Corinthians.

I seek not yours. It is the part of a genuine and upright pastor, not to seek to derive gain from his sheep, but to endeavor to promote their welfare; though, at the same time, it is to be observed, that men are not to be sought with the view of having 931931     Que les Ministres ne doyuent pas cercher les hommes a ceste intention d’auoir, chacun des disciples a soy en particulier;” — “That Ministers ought not to seek men with the intention of having, each one, disciples to himself peculiarly.” every one his own particular followers. It is a bad thing, to be devoted to gain, or to undertake the office of a pastor with the view of making a trade of it; but for a person to draw away disciples after him, (Acts 20:30,) for purposes of ambition, is greatly worse. Paul, however, means, that he is not greedy of hire, but is concerned only for the welfare of souls. There is, however, still more of elegance in what he says, for it is as though he had said: “I am in quest of a larger hire than you think of. I am not contented with your wealth, but I seek to have you wholly, that I may present a sacrifice to the Lord of the fruits of my ministry.” But, what if one is supported by his labors? Will he in that case seek the worldly substance of the people. 932932     Est-ce pourtant a dire que vn tel cerche la substance du peuple?” — “Must we then say, that such a man seeks the worldly substance of the people?” Unquestionably, if he is a faithful Pastor, he will always seek the welfare of the sheep — nothing else. His pay will, it is true, be an additional thing; but he ought to have no other aim, than what we have mentioned. Woe to those, that have an eye to any thing else!

Parents for their children Was he then no father to the Philippians, who supported him even when absent from them? (Philippians 4:15, 16.) Was there no one of the other Apostles that was a father, inasmuch as the Churches ministered to their support? He did not by any means intend this; for it is no new thing for even parents to be supported by their children in their old age. Hence, those are not necessarily unworthy of the honor due to fathers, who live at the expense of the Church; but Paul simply wished to show from the common law of nature, that what he had done proceeded from fatherly affection. This argument, therefore, ought not to be turned in a contrary direction. For he did this as a father; but, though he had acted otherwise, he would, notwithstanding, have been a father still.

15. And I will most gladly spend This, certainly, was an evidence of a more than fatherly affection — that he was prepared to lay out in their behalf not merely his endeavors, and everything in his power to do, but even life itself. Nay more, while he is regarded by them with coldness, he continues, nevertheless, to cherish this affection. What heart, though even as hard as iron, would such ardor of love not soften or break, especially in connection with such constancy? Paul, however, does not here speak of himself, merely that we may admire him, but that we may, also, imitate him. Let all Pastors, therefore, learn from this, what they owe to their Churches.

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