2 Corinthians 12:19
Again, think you that we excuse ourselves to you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you?—Many of the best MSS. present the reading palai (long ago), instead of palin (again). In this case the sentence is better taken as an assertion, not as a question—”You are thinking, and have been thinking for a long time, that it is to you that we have been making our defence.” The Greek verb for “excuse,” is that which is always used of a formal apologia, or vindication (Luke 12:11; Luke 21:14; Acts 19:33; Acts 24:10). St. Paul deprecates the idea that he has any wish to enter on such a vindication. He is anxious to explain his conduct, as in 2Corinthians 1:15-24; 2Corinthians 8:20-24; 2Corinthians 11:7-12, but he does not acknowledge that he stands at the bar before their judgment-seat. He speaks, i.e., in the same tone of independence as in 1Corinthians 4:3-5. The motive which really prompts him to speak as he has spoken is not the wish to clear himself from aspersions, but “before God in Christ,”—under a profound sense that God is his Judge, and that Christ is, as it were, the sphere in which his thoughts revolve,—he is seeking to “edify,” i.e., to build them up in the faith or love of God. He has the same end in view in all this perturbed emotion as in the calm liturgical directions of 1Corinthians 14:12-26.

2 Corinthians 12:19-21. Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves — That I say all this to insinuate myself into your esteem for any secular ends? We speak before God in Christ — As if he had said, I have a higher end in view, namely, the glory of God, in whose presence I speak it; for we do all things for your edifying — Your edification is the end I have in view, in this and all other things that I do concerning you. For I fear — And have I not reason so to do? lest when I come — With a heart full of Christian tenderness, and with all imaginable readiness to do every thing in my power to comfort and refresh your spirits; I shall not find you such as I would — Namely, truly reformed persons; and that I should be found unto you — By inflicting necessary censures and punishments upon you; such as ye would not — I should be. I fear I shall have some work before me of a very unpleasant kind, and which I would desire, if possible, by this admonition to prevent. Lest there should be debates Ερεις, contentions; envyings — Or emulations, as ζηλοι also signifies; wraths

For injuries received; strifes — Arising from a clashing either of opinions or secular interests; backbitings — Speaking evil of the absent; whisperings — Insinuations uttered secretly against others; swellings — Vain boastings, by which proud and ambitious men endeavour to make themselves look big in the eyes of their fellows; tumults — Factions, disorderly parties raised against me, and your proper authorized ministers; lest when I come my God will humble me — By showing me your church, which I planted, corrupted with many vices; and I shall bewail — Shall mourn over; many who have sinned, and have not repented — Notwithstanding my many admonitions. The incestuous person was not of this number; for he had repented, 2 Corinthians 2:7-8. Those of whom the apostle speaks, were probably such as had not refrained from partaking in the idolatrous sacrifices of the heathen, and from the lewd practices connected with idolatry, to which, by their former customs and habits, they were still addicted. Of the uncleanness, &c., which they have committed — By uncleanness, Estius thinks the apostle meant those sins of the flesh, which are against nature; by fornication — The conjunction of male and female out of marriage; lasciviousness — He says, consists in lustful looks, touches, motions, and other things of that kind. But by lasciviousness, Bengelius understands sodomy, bestiality, and other vices contrary to nature. But, says Macknight, “although some of the faction at Corinth may have been guilty of uncleanness, fornication, and lasciviousness, in the ordinary sense of these words, fancying, through the prejudices of their education, that these things were no sins, I scarcely think that any of them, after their conversion, would continue in the commission of the unnatural crimes mentioned by Estius and Bengelius.” One thing is evident: in the absence of the apostle, the exercise of a proper Christian discipline must have been awfully neglected in this church, otherwise such scandalous sinners would have been excluded from it. 12:11-21 We owe it to good men, to stand up in the defence of their reputation; and we are under special obligations to those from whom we have received benefit, especially spiritual benefit, to own them as instruments in God's hand of good to us. Here is an account of the apostle's behaviour and kind intentions; in which see the character of a faithful minister of the gospel. This was his great aim and design, to do good. Here are noticed several sins commonly found among professors of religion. Falls and misdeeds are humbling to a minister; and God sometimes takes this way to humble those who might be tempted to be lifted up. These vast verses show to what excesses the false teachers had drawn aside their deluded followers. How grievous it is that such evils should be found among professors of the gospel! Yet thus it is, and has been too often, and it was so even in the days of the apostles.Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? - see the note on 2 Corinthians 5:12. The sense is, Do not suppose that this is said from mere anxiety to obtain your favor, or to ingratiate ourselves into your esteem. This is said doubtless to keep himself from the suspicion of being actuated by improper motives. He had manifested great solicitude certainly in the previous chapter to vindicate his character; but he here says that it was not from a mere desire to show them that his conduct was right; it was from a desire to honor Christ.

We speak before God in Christ - We declare the simple and undisguised truth as in the presence of God. I have no mere desire to palliate my conduct; I disguise nothing; I conceal nothing; I say nothing for the mere purpose of self-vindication, but I can appeal to the Searcher of hearts for the exact truth of all that I say. The phrase "before God in Christ," means probably, "I speak as in the presence of God, and as a follower of Christ, as a Christian man." It is the solemn appeal of a Christian to his God for the truth of what he said, and a solemn asseveration that what he said was not for the mere purpose of excusing or apologizing for (the sense of the Greek) his conduct.

But we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying - All that I have done has been for your welfare. My vindication of my character, and my effort to disabuse you of your prejudices, has been that you might have unwavering confidence in the gospel and might be built up in holy faith. On the word "edify," see the Romans 14:19 note; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 10:23 notes.

19. Again—The oldest manuscripts read, "This long time ye think that we are excusing ourselves unto you? (Nay). It is before God (as opposed to 'unto you') that we speak in Christ" (2Co 2:17). English Version Greek text was a correction from 2Co 3:1; 5:12. Think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? Some of you may think, that I speak all this in my own defence, and seek only my own credit and reputation amongst you. I do not so.

We speak before God in Christ; I speak as a Christian, as one who knows that God knoweth, seeth, and observeth what I say; searching my heart, and trying my reins.

But we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying; all that I say I speak for your good, that you may be built up in faith, and love, and all other graces: a great hinderance to which, is prejudice against me, and such as are the ministers of the gospel to you; which I therefore desire (what in me lieth) to prevent and obviate: The apostle, not only here, but in several other parts of these and other his Epistles, declares what ought to be the great end of him, and all other ministers, viz. the edification of people; the conversion of the unconverted, and the perfecting of those in whom the foundation is laid, building them up in all good spiritual habits; both of these come under the notion of edification. If we consider Christ as the Foundation, conversion is edification; the building up of souls upon Christ, who is the gospel foundation; and other foundation can no man lay. If we consider the infusion of the first habits of grace into the soul as the foundation, edification signifies a going on from faith to faith; a growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, a going on to perfection. The true minister of Christ ought to make edification in both of these senses his end, and his great end; for by this means is God glorified, the souls of his people benefited, and eternally saved. Again, think you that we excuse ourselves to you?.... The apostle would not have the Corinthians imagine, that by what he had said once and again in this epistle, he meant to excuse himself from coming to them, for he really and sincerely intended it; or that by this long defence of himself against the false apostles, he designed so much an apology for himself, or that he used any feigned words, or artful methods, to exculpate himself from any charge against him, particularly that of covetousness just mentioned; for he had no view to cover himself by studied apologies, and set orations, and evade anything exhibited against him, and make himself look innocent when guilty; it was not with any such intention he had dwelt so long on this subject:

we speak before God in Christ; in all sincerity and uprightness of soul, without colour, guile, or deceit, calling God and Christ to witness the truth of what was said; the apostle spoke all he did, as in the presence of the omniscient God; and as one in Christ, and a preacher of his Gospel, that would not deliver an untruth knowingly, for the whole world:

but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edification; it was not for himself so much, for his own credit, reputation, and glory, he did what he did; had this been the case, he would not have said the half part of what he had; but it was for their sake, out of love to them, that they might be built up and established in the faith of the Gospel, and not be carried away with the error of the wicked.

{7} Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in {n} Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.

(7) He concludes that he does not write these things to them as though he needed to defend himself, for he is guilty of nothing: but because it is appropriate for them to doubt nothing of his fidelity, who instructed them.

(n) As it becomes him to speak truly and sincerely, that professes himself to be in Christ, that is to say, to be a Christian.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 12:19. His vindication itself is now concluded. But in order that he may not appear, by thus answering for himself, to install the readers as judges over him, he further guards his apostolic dignity against this risk. Carrying them in mediam rem, he says: For long you have been thinking that we are answering for ourselves to you! Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:3. Correction of this opinion: Before God we speak in Christ; it is God in presence of whom (as Judge) we speak in Christ’s fellowship (as the element in which we subsist and live). ἐν Χ. gives to λαλοῦμεν its definite Christian character (which, with Paul, was at the same time the apostolic one). Comp. 2 Corinthians 2:17. But, that he may not suppress the proper relation of his apology to the readers, he adds lovingly: but the whole, beloved, (we speak) for your edification, for the perfecting of your Christian lif.

πάλαι δοκεῖτε ὅτι ὑμῖν ἀπολογ.] After adopting the reading πάλαι (see the critical remarks) this sentence is no longer to be taken interrogatively, because otherwise an unsuitable emphasis would be laid on πάλαι. Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Rückert have also deleted the mark of interrogation. πάλαι means nothing else than for a long time, in which, however, the past to be thought of may be very short according to the relative nature of the notion of time, as e.g. Hom. Od. xx. 293 f. μοῖραν μὲν δὴ ξεῖνος ἔχει πάλαι, ὡς ἐπέοικεν, ἴσην Plat. Gorg. p. 456 A; Phaed. p. 63 D, al.; see Stallbaum, ad Plat. Apol. p. 18 B; Xen. Anab. iv. 8. 14, iv. 5. 5; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 481. So also the Latin dudum, jamdudum. Here the meaning is, that the readers are already for long, during the continuation of this apology, remaining of opinion, etc. As respects the connection with the present, see further, Plato, Phaedr. p. 273 C; Xen. Anab. vii. 6. 37. There exists no reason for attaching πάλαι to 2 Corinthians 12:18 (Hofmann, then taking δοκεῖτε interrogatively), and it would, standing after ἴχνεσι, come in after a tame and dragging fashion, while it would have had its fitting position between οὐ and τῷ αὐτῷ.

ὑμῖν] Dative of destination. Comp. Acts 19:33; Plato, Protag. p. 359 D; Pol. x. p. 607 B. Vobis, i.e. vobis judicibus, has here the chief emphasis, which Rückert has aptly vindicated. The earlier expositors, not recognising this, have accordingly not hit on the purpose and meaning of the passage; as still Billroth: “It might seem that he wished to recommend himself” (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:1, 2 Corinthians 5:12). To this his answer is: “I speak before God in Christ, i.e. my sentiments in what I say are not selfish, but upright and pure.” Comp. Chrysostom, Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Grotiu.

κατέναντι τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν Χρ. λαλοῦμεν] to be taken together,[384] as in 2 Corinthians 2:17.

ΤᾺ ΔῈ ΠΆΝΤΑ
] sc. λαλοῦμεν. Grotius and others, including Griesbach, Scholz, Olshausen, and Ewald, read ΤΆΔΕ as one word, and connect it with the previous ΛΑΛΟῦΜΕΝ. But for what end? The mode of expression in the usual way of writing it is quite Pauline, and makes the important thought more emphatically prominent; ὍΔΕ never occurs with Paul, and the reference of τάδε to what goes before would at least not be in accordance with the common usage (comp. on Luke 10:39).

[384] So that the chief emphasis is laid on κατέναντι τοῦ θεοῦ, opposed to the previous ὑμῖν.2 Corinthians 12:19-21. HIS GLORYING HAS NOT BEEN BY WAY OF APOLOGY, BUT TO EDIFY THEM UNTO REPENTANCE.2 Corinthians 12:19 to 2 Corinthians 13:10. The Apostle’s intentions on his arrival

19. Again, think you that we excuse ourselves]. Rather, Do ye think that we are defending ourselves again? Many MSS. and versions read, Do you think (or You think) that we have been defending ourselves to you this long time? The word excuse gives a false impression, as though the Apostle were exculpating himself from blame rather than meeting accusations by sufficient answers. If we take the first reading the reference will be to the former Epistle or the commencement of this one. Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1. If the second, the meaning will be ‘you think that I have been making a long and perhaps tedious defence of myself, yet I can assure you that I shall not stand upon my defence when I come. I only desire your improvement. But if words will not suffice, I shall have, when I come, to proceed to deeds.’

we speak before God in Christ] This sense of saying and doing everything in the sight of God and Christ, Who will avenge all deceit by unmasking the deceiver, is a characteristic of St Paul’s whole nature, but is never more clearly displayed than in this Epistle. See ch. 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 2:17, 2 Corinthians 3:4, 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 4:6, 2 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 7:12, 2 Corinthians 8:21, 2 Corinthians 11:10-11; 2 Corinthians 11:31.

edifying] See 1 Corinthians 8:1, and ch. 2 Corinthians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 10:8.2 Corinthians 12:19. Πάλιν δοκεῖτε) Some read πάλαι δοκεῖτε:[88] a reading indeed, which would imply a more determined aversion of mind from Paul on the part of the Corinthians; comp. ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1; for πάλαι, with a verb in the present tense, denotes long-continued perseverance. Plato in Gorgias, ἀλλʼ ἔγωγε καὶ πάλαι λέγω, but as I said long before, so I still say. The more approved reading is πάλιν δοκεῖτε; comp. again ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1.—ὑμῖν, to you) as if it were necessary for our own sake in this way to retain your favour.—ὑπὲρ τῆς ὑμῶν οἰκοδομῆς, for your edification) that you may rather see, than experience with sorrow, how much I am an apostle.

[88] ABGf Vulg. read πάλαι. Only D (Λ) g of the oldest authorities support the πάλιν of the Rec. Text.—ED.Verse 19. - Again, think you that we excuse ourselves unto you? The best reading is not palin, again, but palai, long ago. This word with the present is an elegant classical idiom, and means, "You have, perhaps, been imagining all this time that I am pleading with you by way of self-defence. Do not think it! You are no judges of mine. My only object is to speak before God in Christ, not to defend myself since I need no defence so far as you are concerned - but to help in building you up, by removing the falsehoods that alienate you from me."
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