2 Cor. 12:11-21
Paul hoped, when he visited the Corinthians, to see two responses to his letter: (1) repentance (involving obedience to God) for wrong, and (2) an affirmation of loyalty to himself and his associates as authentic servants of Christ. Here in our lesson today, he defends his being an Apostle.
I. His Humility. (2 Cor. 12:11)
A. Paul says that in having to brag on his self accomplishments he felt as if he was a fool. In turn the foolishness of the critics forced him to speak forthrightly and he did not see the need to do this. The Corinthian’s should have been commending Paul for his sacrifices and his services.
B. Once again, he mentions those “chief apostles” that the Corinthian’s had deemed to be superior to Paul. He says that he may have been called after the real apostles; he did not need to take a back seat to any of the apostles. He definitely was not behind the false apostles that were only fleecing the church and burying them in bondage.
The critics were foolishly saying that Paul was nothing and that his ministry was in vain. Paul says that credentials and his character stood overwhelmingly far superior to any of them.
Illustration 1: The Test of a Truly Great Man
It was John Riskin who said, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in speaking his opinion. But really great men have a … feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them.” Andrew Murray said, “The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised while he is forgotten because … he has received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not Himself, and who sought not His own honor. Therefore, in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ he has
put on the heart of compassion, kindness, meekness, longsuffering, and humility.”
M. R. De Haan used to say, “Humility is something we should constantly pray for, yet never thank God that we have.”
II. Signs of his Apostleship (2 Cor. 12:12)
A. The supernatural acts accomplished through God’s grace should have sufficed to quiet all suspicion about Paul’s apostleship. Signs (semeiois, miracles with emphasis on their significance; e.g., Jesus’ seven “signs” in John); wonders (terasin, unusual events that engender awe); miracles (dynamesin, wonderworks resulting from supernatural power) – all these are the evidences that mark an apostle (cf. Acts 2:22,43; Heb. 2:4). Though no miraculous signs or wonders done in Corinth were recorded in the Acts account of Paul’s ministry in that city, such miracles certainly occurred (they were done among you). Paul also performed miracles before and
after the Corinthian ministry. A demon was cast out of the servant girl in Philippi (Acts 16:18), and Paul’s ministry in Ephesus was marked by numerous miracles (Acts 19:11). Of course, the greatest miracle was a church in Corinth planted by Paul but given life by God (1 Cor. 3:6). Remarkable too was his great perseverance, again a result of the empowerment of God (Acts 18:9-11). All these evidences pointed to Paul as a true apostle and to his opponents as “false apostles” (2 Cor 11:13).
III. Unselfish Service (2 Cor. 12:13-18).
A. “For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except…” (2 Cor. 12:13) The church at Corinth possessed every spiritual blessing as other church established by Paul except that he did not accept money from them for his services. He had the right to receive money from them for his support (1 Cor. 9:11, 14, 18). Stingy churches don’t deserve and generally don’t keep good preachers (Gal. 6:6-8). Paul asked the Corinthians to “forgive this wrong!” Christians who, like sponges, soak up every blessing which the sacrifice and service of others make possible will answer to God for their covetousness, which is idolatry (Eph. 5:5; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10). It is wrong not
to support gospel preaching.
1. The intention (2 Cor. 12:14, 15).
“Behold the third time I am ready to come to you…” (2 Cor. 12:14) Paul reminds them that this will be his third visit to them. On his first visit he founded the church and brought it to a position of great strength. Of his second visit we have no record in Acts. It is supposed to have been brief and painful. This second epistle was written to the Corinthians for his coming, so that he would be spared a repetition of his former distress, and would find the church ready to receive him with gladness and affection. He reminded them of the love that he had always borne toward them (verse 15). Always he had sought “not yours, but you!”
2. The backward look (2 Cor. 12:16-18).
“But be it so, I did not burden you…” (2 Cor. 12:16): His enemies charged that
even if Paul did not “burden” them by accepting a salary from then’, there was
“guile” about it and in some other way he would secure their substance. Neither he (verse 17), nor Titus, nor the “brother” sent with him made “a gain of” them (verse 18). All his dealings with them had been in devotion, self-forgetfulness and love! Was there any reason for doubting him, or of questioning the fact that he was a genuine apostle of Christ?
Illustration 2: The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is so salty that it contains no fish or plant life. What accounts for this unusual condition? There are absolutely no outlets! A great volume of water pours into this area, but nothing flows out. Many inlets plus no outlets equal a dead sea.
This law of nature may also be applied to the child of God, and it explains why many believers are so unfruitful and lacking in spiritual vitality. It’s possible for some people to attend Bible conferences, listen to religious broadcasts, study the Scriptures, and continually take in the Word as it is preached
from the pulpit, and yet seem lifeless and unproductive in their Christian lives. Such individuals are like the Dead Sea. They have several “inlets” but no “outlets.” To be vibrant and useful believers, we must not only “take in” all we can, but we must also “give out” in service to others!
Our Daily Bread, March-May, 1996, p. for May 22
Illustration 3: Do All Things Wholeheartedly
Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, believed that Christians should do all things wholeheartedly, not just those actions that can be seen. He reasoned, “As our Father makes many a flower to bloom unseen in the lonely desert, [let us] do all that we can do, as under His eye, though no other eye ever take note of it.”
Our Daily Bread, November 23, 1998
IV. The purpose of his writing (2 Cor. 12:19-21).
A. Their false view (2 Cor. 12:19a). “Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you?” (2 Cor. 12:19a) Lie is not just apologizing, but is in deadly earnest, as they will find out when lie comes. His passionate defence of his apostolic authority is concluded with a series of solemn warnings.
B. The truth (2 Cor. 12:19b). “We speak before God in Christ…” (2 Cor. 12:19b) The apostle is not defending himself before a human bar of justice. He “speaks before God in Christ.” He says what will “edify” or build them up.
C. His fear (2 Cor. 12:20-21). “For I fear, lest, when I come…” (2 Cor. 12:20) With graphic pen Paul describes eight unholy things which had been going on against him during his long absence. Unless there is repentance (verse 21), Paul will find it necessary to demonstrate his apostolic authority by exercising severe discipline, He hopes that such a course will not be necessary.
Paul truly was an Apostle of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. No matter what his enemies do or say, they cannot deny this fact.