Study Notes

2Corinthians 12:11-13:14


Remember last week Paul was using irony and sarcasm to point out the ignorance of the false teachers in Corinth who were exalting themselves. Since they had been boasting of their greatness, Paul, in foolishness, began boasting of his weaknesses. Now he begins to switch gears, pointing out that they never should have let things get to this point.

12:11-12 Paul's Apostleship

Paul is saying that he never should have had to stoop to this level of foolishness to defend himself. He was, after all, an apostle of Jesus Christ. And this had been proven to them time and again.

What is an apostle? The word "ap-OS-tol-os" in Greek means, "one who is sent out, a delegate, a messenger." Twelve of Jesus' disciples were made apostles, being sent out in pairs to preach. But those twelve were not the only apostles. After Judas killed himself, we read in Acts 1 that Peter said another must take his office. They cast lots...

Acts 1:26 ...and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Later, in Acts 14, Barnabas and Paul are called apostles as well.

Acts 14:14 But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out

In Romans, Paul mentions two more apostles, saying,

Rom. 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

In Galatians, Paul mentions that Jesus' half-brother James, who formerly did not believe, was an apostle in Jerusalem.

Gal. 1:19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother.

So there were not just twelve apostles. But Paul found himself constantly having to defend his apostleship. He should not have had to at all, at least among the Corinthians. The very fact that there were Christians in Corinth, that there was a Corinthian church, was due to Paul coming and preaching the gospel in that region.

12:13-18 Not A Burden

Having said, "I'm not inferior to the greatest, most famous apostles," he points out, "Nobody has viewed your church as inferior to the ones started by those guys, have they?"

Then he says, "Well, yes, you were treated as inferior in one way: the fact that I would not let you pay me for my labor in the Lord, as apostles have the right to do. Please forgive me!"

Then he tells them that he is coming to see them again, and again will not be a financial burden to them. For, as their father in the faith, he says, "I'd rather expend myself than have you expend yourselves for me."

He also points out that the other ministers he sent to them followed in the same footsteps. "Hey, when I sent Titus, he didn't take advantage of you either, did he?"

12:19-21 Sin At Corinth

Sin was rampant in Corinth. It was the "Sin City" of that time period. Unfortunately, where sin is business as usual for the world, the church often finds it easy to compromise in carnality as well. This does not excuse it. God never grades sin on a curve, comparing us with the world around us. He has called us to be holy as He is holy.

Paul lists eleven sinful practices that he hoped he would not find in the church on his next visit to Corinth. Let's examine them quickly, to hopefully expose, eradicate, and ultimately avoid them in our lives and our church.

Strife, Angry Tempers, Disputes, Disturbances

A sure sign of someone in the flesh is when they're angrily arguing about something. Disputing and causing disturbances. Demanding their own way is right, and refusing to listen to others. This happens in churches all too often. Petitions are circulated, pastoral review meetings are held, secret conferences at people's houses.

Saints, this is the way of the world, not the church. The Bible makes it clear how to deal with argumentative people that cause division in the church.

Titus 3:10-11 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

For divisive people, it's three strikes and they're out. The church must never be allowed to be a breeding ground for strife and disputes, and disturbances. Jesus said,

John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

That's what the church should be a breeding ground for.

Jealousy, Arrogance

Paul also lists jealousy and arrogance. The world talks about low self-esteem, but I find that many people usually think more highly of themselves than they do anyone else. Romans says,

Rom. 12:3 ...I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think

People tend to be self-centered, self-serving, self-indulgent, self-seeking, and selfish. Jealousy and arrogance are selfish sins. They mean that someone is setting their wants, their needs, their concerns, themselves, above others'. Philippians 2 says,

Phil. 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

We need to stop being self-centered and start being others-centered.

Slanders, Gossip

There are few sins more painful, insidious, and destructive than slander and gossip. These are the sins that hurt the worst, spread the fastest, and destroy with unilateral completeness. The problem with slander and gossip is that we only recognize it when it is directed towards us. Somehow, we don't see it as gossip or slander when we are repeating it.

"I'm just saying this so we can get people praying." "This isn't gossip. I'm just telling you what happened." "It's common knowledge. I just wondered what you thought about it."

Here's a good measure of what's gossip: Before you say it, stop and think how the person you're talking about would react. If they knew what you were about to say, would they call it gossip? If they knew why you were about to say it, would they call it gossip? And If they knew what would happen once it was said, would they call it gossip? You'd be surprised at how much of what you say about other people won't stand up to this test.


There are plenty of things that make us impure. Things we put into our bodies, and things we put into our minds. Are you drinking? Are you smoking? Are you taking drugs? These things pollute your body, making it impure. Romans says that impurity dishonors your body.

What about your mind? What impurities are you putting into that? Immoral music? Pornography? Movies full of profanity, nudity, and adultery? You're polluting your mind. Impurity is a sin. We are supposed to be presented to Christ as a pure virgin bride. Ephesians tells us that impurity is not proper among saints. Also,

1Ths. 4:7 ...God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.

Be set apart from the world, and set apart for God - be pure.

Immorality, Sensuality

Finally, Paul lists immorality and sensuality. Remember what he told the Corinthians in his first letter:

1Cor. 6:13 ...the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord...

1Cor. 6:18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.

And even stronger words are found in Ephesians,

Eph. 5:5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

You think you're just exercising your freedom? If you've got no conviction regarding immorality and sensuality, you'd better make sure that you actually do have an inheritance in the kingdom of God. Paul's going to address that in a few moments.

Paul's Next Visit

Paul is hoping that the people in Corinth will repent, but knows that it's likely that they won't. If that is the case, two things will happen.

#1: Paul will be humiliated. It's hard to explain Paul's humiliation unless you've led someone to Christ and discipled them. There are few things more awful than to see someone you've brought to Christ fall into a backslidden or lukewarm state. It tears your heart out. As a minister, if those you've discipled and taught are living in carnality, it is awful. You feel sorrow, shame, humiliation, and hurt. If the Corinthians are found to be living in strife, gossip, and all the other things Paul lists, Paul says he will be humiliated before them.

#2: The second thing that will happen if he finds them in that unrepentant state, is he will exercise his apostolic authority and bring discipline to the people in the church. In that case, he says,

2Cor. 12:20 ..."when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish..."

He doesn't want them to be found in carnality, and they certainly don't want him showing up and bringing discipline.

13:1-4 How Will Paul Use The Power Of God?

Paul explains that he was been meek in the past, but as an apostle and representative of Christ, he will be mighty, bold, and powerful if he needs to be. He says,

2Cor. 13:4 ...He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we shall live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.

Paul's point here is, "Hey, I've been meek and I've been weak, just as Christ allowed Himself to be crucified for people's sakes, I've let myself be abused as well. But after the resurrection, Christ was raised in power, and I can be powerful in Christ as well."

You might be thinking, "Hey, how can a bow-backed, single-eyebrowed, swollen-eyed, short, hook-nosed, unimpressive man bring discipline to anyone in that church?" Not by his own power, but the power of God. You see, as an apostle, or I as a pastor for that matter, have never been told to whip anybody into submission. That's between God and the person. The power we have as Christian leaders is simple. Where there is unrepentant sin, and it has been dealt with biblically, as outlined in Matthew 18, we simply remove the person from the church. Jesus instructed us,

Matt. 18:15-17 "And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen {to you,} take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.

Paul had already done this on a previous occasion, had a man living in unrepentant immorality removed from the church. He said,

1Cor. 5:5 {I have decided} to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Without Christian fellowship, the man stood alone. It was up to him - repent or live in a terrible limbo. Stuck between having salvation, yet being at the mercy of the world. It wasn't up to Paul to bring the guy to a point of repentance. He just said, "Hey God, he's all yours now." And as the writer of Hebrews said,

Hebr. 10:31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

This is the power of God that Paul will use to bring discipline to those unrepentant people in the Corinthian church.

13:5-10 Test Yourselves

Now, before he shows up and brings discipline, he gives them direction and exhortation, saying,

2Cor. 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!...

This is a question we must all ask ourselves when we are in sin: "Am I in the faith?" Is this a temporary setback of sin that I feel terribly convicted over, or is this something that I really have no intention of changing?

Dear saint, don't you realize that Christ is in you? When you sin, you're dragging the Lord into your mess. As it says,

1Cor. 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be!

If Christ lives in you, you are convicted over sin. You despise it. Yes, you may enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time, but when it's over, you feel horrible, awful. You cry out to God and say, "Lord, I can't believe I did that again. Please forgive me. I don't want to be separated from you." The agony of sin is something that Christ in you brings out. But if you don't feel conviction over sin, that's a good indication that Christ does not live in you. So test yourself, to see if you are in fact in the faith.

13:11-12 Parting Encouragements

Paul begins to wrap up this weighty letter with some encouragements


He tells them to rejoice. As Jesus said,

Luke 10:20 "...Rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."

Life's rough and times are tough, but if you've got a reservation listed up in heaven, you've got reason to rejoice.

Be made complete

He tells them to be made complete. James tells us that to be complete is to be lacking in nothing - not in wisdom, not in faith, not in works.

Be comforted

He tells them to be comforted. Jesus said,

Matt. 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

If you are sorrowful over your sin, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will comfort you.

Be like-minded

He tells them to be like-minded. That doesn't mean to feel the same about every issue, to have the same taste in clothing, and lose your individuality. Remember that Romans 15:5 says,

Rom. 15:5-7 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

Be accepting of one another, glorify God with one voice.

Live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you

He tells them to live in peace. No longer in disputing, quarreling, and arguing. If they live in peace, Paul tells them

2Cor. 13:11 ...the God of love and peace shall be with you.

Don't expect to have the peace of God if you're not at peace with your Christian brothers and sisters.

Greet one another with a holy kiss

Translation in today's culture: When you're at church, give people a big hug. Let them know they're loved by the Lord and by you.

13:13-14 Benediction

And finally, Paul's final closing to the epistle of 2Corinthians, pointing to the nature of God and the work of God.

He points to the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And in parting, reminds us of the incredible work that the Lord has done for us.

The Love of God reminds us that the Father loves us and wants to have fellowship with us.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ reminds us that because God's only begotten son, Jesus, died for our sins, we can be restored to the Father by receiving Him by faith.

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith...

And lastly, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit reminds us that we have been given the Holy Spirit to live inside of us.

1Cor. 3:16 ...You are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you

We'll never be apart from God, or alone again.

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