2 Corinthians 5:13
For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) For whether we be beside ourselves.—The recollection of one sneer leads on to another. This also had been said of him, and the intense sensitiveness of his nature made him wince under it. Some there were at Corinth who spoke of his visions and revelations, his speaking with tongues as in ecstasy, his prophecies of future judgment, as so many signs of madness. “He was beside himself.” (Comp. Agrippa’s words in Acts 26:24, and Note there.) Others, or, perhaps, the same persons, pointed to his tact, becoming all things to all men, perhaps even insinuated that he was making money by his work (2Corinthians 9:12; 2Corinthians 12:10): “he was shrewd enough when it served his turn.” He answers accordingly both the taunts. What people called his “madness”—the ecstasy of adoration, the speaking with tongues (1Corinthians 14:18-23)—that lay between himself and God, and a stranger might not intermeddle with it. What people called his “sober-mindedness”—his shrewd common sense, his sagacity—that he practised not for himself, but for his disciples, to win them to Christ, remove difficulties, strengthen them in the faith.

2 Corinthians 5:13-15. For whether we be beside ourselves — As they affirm we are, because we expose ourselves to so many sufferings, and even to the danger of imprisonment and death, by persevering in our work of preaching the gospel. Or whether we appear to be transported beyond ourselves — By our speaking or writing with uncommon vehemence; it is to God — It is zeal for his glory that animates us; and he understands, if men do not, the emotion which himself inspires. Or whether we be sober — In shunning persecution as much as may be, or proceed in a more calm and sedate manner; it is for your cause — We have your good in view, and proceed in our course in order to promote your best interests. In other words, love to God and benevolence to man, are the grand principles by which we are actuated; and we cannot be cold and unaffected, while we have such grand and noble subjects under our consideration as those which we treat of among you. Mr. Locke, from comparing 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:16-21; 2 Corinthians 12:6; 2 Corinthians 12:11, is of opinion that the Corinthians censured Paul as a fool or madman, for what he said in commendation of himself. In that case the meaning is, “You say I am distracted for my present conduct, but this is between God and myself; I am sure you Corinthians ought not to say it, for all my sober thoughts and most painful labours are for you.” For the love of Christ — So illustriously displayed toward us in our redemption, and our love to him in return; constraineth us Ευνεχει, bears us on, with a strong, steady, prevailing influence, such as winds and tides exert when they waft the vessel to its destined harbour; κριναντας τουτο, judging thus, or while we thus judge — Thus consider and reflect; that if one died for all — Which Jesus assuredly did, even gave himself a ransom for all mankind, without exception, (1 Timothy 2:6,) yea, tasted death for every man, for every human being; (Hebrews 2:9;) then were all dead — Even the best of men were in a state of spiritual death entailed upon them by the sin of the first man, (see on Genesis 2:17,) and liable to death eternal. For had it been otherwise with any man, Christ would not have had need to die for him. And that he died for all — That all might be saved; that they who live — That all who live upon the earth, or all who, believing in him, are put in possession of spiritual life through his death and grace procured thereby; should not henceforth — From the moment they know and are united to him; live unto themselves — Seek their own honour, profit, or pleasure, or do their own will; but live unto him who died for them — And thereby procured for them pardoning mercy and renewing grace, to enable them so to live; and rose again — That he might receive for them, and confer upon them, these inestimable blessings.5:9-15 The apostle quickens himself and others to acts of duty. Well-grounded hopes of heaven will not encourage sloth and sinful security. Let all consider the judgment to come, which is called, The terror of the Lord. Knowing what terrible vengeance the Lord would execute upon the workers of iniquity, the apostle and his brethren used every argument and persuasion, to lead men to believe in the Lord Jesus, and to act as his disciples. Their zeal and diligence were for the glory of God and the good of the church. Christ's love to us will have a like effect upon us, if duly considered and rightly judged. All were lost and undone, dead and ruined, slaves to sin, having no power to deliver themselves, and must have remained thus miserable for ever, if Christ had not died. We should not make ourselves, but Christ, the end of our living and actions. A Christian's life should be devoted to Christ. Alas, how many show the worthlessness of their professed faith and love, by living to themselves and to the world!For whether we be beside ourselves - 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 altogether probable that he was charged with being deranged; that many who boasted themselves of prudence, and soberness, and wisdom, regarded him as acting like a madman. It has not been uncommon, by any means, for the cold and the prudent; for formal professors and for hypocrites to regard the warm-hearted and zealous 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, Mark 3:21. And at all times there have been many, both in the church and out of it, who have regarded the friends of revivals, and of missions, and all those who have evinced any extraordinary zeal in religion, as deranged. The object of Paul here is to show, whatever might be the appearance or the estimate which they affixed to his conduct, what were the real principles which actuated him. These were zeal for God, love to the church, and the constraining influences of the love of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. The word rendered here as "be beside ourselves" (ἐξέστημεν exestēmen, from ἐξίστημι existēmi) means properly, to put out of place; to be put out of place; and then to be put out of oneself, to astonish, to fill with wonder; Luke 24:22; Acts 8:9, Acts 8:11; and then 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 esteem Paul and his fellow-laborers deranged.

It is to God - It is in the Cause of God, and from love to him. It is such a zeal for him; such an absorbing interest in his cause; such love prompting to so 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 ardent desire to promote his honor, as to lead others to charge us with derangement. It does not prove however that a man is deranged on the subject of religion because he is unlike others, or because he pursues a course of life that differs materially 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 whether we be sober - Whether we are sane, or of sound mind; compare Mark 5:15. Tyndale renders this whole passage: "For if we be too fervent, to God we are too fervent; if we keep measure, for our cause keep we measure." 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 estimate in which we are held, we are influenced by love to God, and love to man. In such a cause, we cannot but evince 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 influenced by a sound mind. We seek your welfare. We labor for you. And we trust that you will appreciate our motives, and regard us as truly sober-minded."

13. be—rather as Greek, "have been." The contrast is between the single act implied by the past tense, "If we have ever been beside ourselves," and the habitual state implied by the present, "Or whether we be sober," that is, of sound mind. beside ourselves—The accusation brought by Festus against him (Ac 26:24). The holy enthusiasm with which he spake of what God effected by His apostolic ministry, seemed to many to be boasting madness.

sober—humbling myself before you, and not using my apostolic power and privileges.

to God … for your cause—The glorifying of his office was not for his own, but for God's glory. The abasing of himself was in adaptation to their infirmity, to gain them to Christ (1Co 9:22).

It should seem, that some amongst the Corinthians, amongst other reproaches, had reproached Paul for a madman; either taking advantage of the warmth and fervour of his spirit, or of those ecstasies in which he sometimes was; or of his speaking things which they could not apprehend and understand: as the Roman governor, in the Acts, told him:

Much learning hath made thee mad. The apostle tells them, that if indeed he was beside himself in any of their opinion, it was

to God, that is, for the honour and glory of God: or if he was sober, it was for their sake; in what temper soever he was, it was either for service to God, or them. For whether we be besides ourselves,.... As some took them to be, and as Festus thought the Apostle Paul was, because of the doctrines they preached, and the self-commendation they were obliged to enter into through the calumnies of their adversaries; in which they did not so much seek their own reputation, as the honour and glory of God, which was struck at through them:

it is to God; it is for his glory, and not our own, that we act this part, for which we are condemned as madmen.

Or whether we be sober; think and speak meanly of ourselves, and behave with all modesty and lowliness of mind: it is for your cause; for your instruction and imitation. The glory of God, and the good of his churches, were what concerned them in every part of life. Some refer this to the apostle's being, or not being, in an ecstasy or rapture. Others to his speaking, either of the more sublime doctrines of the Gospel, on account of which he was reckoned mad, though in the delivering of them he had nothing else but the glory of God in view; or of the lower and easier truths of it, which were more accommodated to meaner capacities; in doing which he sought their edification and advantage.

{7} For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.

(7) The meaning is: even when I am mad (as some men think of me), while I seem as a fool to boast about myself, I do it for your profit, to the same extent that I do when I preach only the Gospel to you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 5:13. And you have reason for making your boast on our behalf over against the adversaries!

That Paul is here dealing, and that not without irony, with an odious accusation of his opponents (perhaps of an overseer of the church, according to Ewald), is evident, since otherwise the peculiar mode of expression used by him would appear quite uncalled for. It must have been asserted that he had gone out of his senses, that he had become mad (observe the aorist),—an assertion for which narrow-mindedness as well as malice might find cause enough, or seize pretext, in the extraordinary heroism and divine zeal of his working in general, and especially in his sudden and wonderful conversion, in the ecstasies and visions[225] which he had had, in his anti-Judaism at times unsparing, in his ideal demands on the Christian life, in the prominence given to his consciousness of apostleship, to his sufferings, and the like. In reference to this accusation he now says: “For be it, that we have become mad (as our enemies venture to assert), it is a madness standing at the service of God (a holy mania, which deserves respect, not blame!); or be it, that we are of sound understanding, we are so for your service (which can only be found by you praiseworthy).” Comp. Aretius, Rückert, de Wette, Osiander, Hilgenfeld (in his Zeitschr. 1864, p. 170), who, however, abides only by the apostle’s assertion, that he had seen Christ and was a full apostle, as the ground for this opinion of his opponents. As early as the time of Chrysostom (he quotes an explanation: εἰ μὲν μαίνεσθαί τις ἡμᾶς νομίζει κ.τ.λ.) it was recognised that a glance at a hostile accusation was contained in ἐξέστημεν, and this is remarked by most of the older and the modern commentators; but there should have been the less hesitation at taking the word in its full sense (see on Mark 3:21; comp. Acts 26:24), whereas it was often weakened into: ultra modum agere,[226] or into: to be foolish (Chrysostom, Morus, Billroth), to seem to act foolishly (Flatt), and the like, in spite of the following σωφρονοῦμεν, which is the exact opposite of having become mad (Plato, Phaedr. p. 244 A). Comp. Acts 26:25. As regards the subject-matter, ἐξέστ. was mostly (as by Chrysostom and Theodoret) referred to the self-praise,[227] in which case θεῷ was taken as: to the honour of God, and then ὑμῖν was referred either to the salutary example (ἵνθ μάθητε ταπεινοφρονεῖν, Chrysostom, Flatt) or to the salutary condescension. So Erasmus,[228] Vatablus, Menochius, Estius, Bengel, Emmerling, Olshausen. Billroth takes it differently: “If, however, you put a rational construction on it (this boasting), in my case, I wish to have myself boasted of only for your advantage; I do it only in order that you may not be deceived by my opponents regarding me.” But the whole reference to the self-praise is after 2 Corinthians 5:12, where Paul has absolutely negatived the ἑαυτοὺς συνιστάνομεν ὑμῖν, contrary to the context; and those references of ὙΜῖΝ to the example shown, or to the apostolic condescension, or to a deception of the readers to be prevented, are not in keeping with the parallel ΘΕῷ; and there is no reason in the context for sacrificing the uniformity in compass of meaning of the two datives, so that ὙΜῖΝ is not to be taken otherwise than with Grotius in the comprehensive sense of in vestros usus. According to Hofmann, ἐξέστ. is to be referred to the self-testimony expressed loftily and in the most exalted tone at 2 Corinthians 2:14 ff.: “If it might there be said that he had gone out of himself, on the other hand, the succeeding explanation (begun in 2 Corinthians 3:1) could only produce the impression of sober rationality.” But in this way there is in fact assumed a retrospective reference for ἐξέστ., which no reader and, excepting Hofmann, no expositor could have conjectured, and this all the less that from 2 Corinthians 3:1 to the present passage Paul has been speaking of himself in a tone to a great extent lofty and exalted (e.g. 2 Corinthians 3:2 f., 12 ff., the whole of chap. 4, particularly after 2 Corinthians 5:7; also 2 Corinthians 5:1 ff.); so that we do not see on what so great a difference of judgment is to be based, as would be yielded by ἐξέστ. and ΣΩΦΡΟΝ. It remains far from clear, we may add, what more precise conception Hofmann has of “gone out of himself” (whether as insanity or merely as extravagance of emotion).

εἴτεεἴτε] does not here mark off two different conditions (Baur in the theol. Jahrb. 1850, p. 182 ff.) and times, nor the actual change of moods and modes of behaviour (Osiander) which Paul would scarcely have designated according to different references of aim (comp. rather τὰ πάντα διʼ ὑμᾶς, 2 Corinthians 4:15), but two different modes of appearance of the same state, which are both assumed as possibly right, but the latter of which is in 2 Corinthians 5:14 proved to be right and the former excluded.

[225] Grotius limits the reference of ἐξέστ. to the trances alone; but the word in itself does not justify this.

[226] So Bengel; and earlier Luther, who gives as gloss: “If we do too much, i.e. if we deal at once sharply with the people, we still serve God by it; but if we act gently and moderately with them, we do so for the people’s good, so that in every way we do rightly and well.”

[227] Comp. Pindar, Ol. ix 58: τὸ καυχᾶσθαι παρὰ καιρὸν μανίαισιν ὑποκρέκει, Plato, Protag. p. 323 B: ὅ ἐκεῖ σωφροσύνην ἡγοῦντο εἶναι, τἀληθῆ λέγειν, ἐνταῦθα μανίαν.

[228] “Si quid gloriatur P., id non ad ipsius, sed ad Dei gloriam pertinet; si mediocria loquitur, id tribuit infirmioribus, quorum affectibus et capacitati se accommodat.” Rückert also, who in other respects takes ἐξέστ. and σωφρ. rightly in their pure and full sense, refers ὑμῖν to accommodation.2 Corinthians 5:13. εἴτε γὰρ ἑξέστημεν κ.τ.λ.: for whether (see on 2 Corinthians 1:6 for constr.) we are beside ourselves, it is unto God; or whether we are of sober mind, it is unto you (note the dat. commodi). At a later period Festus told Paul that he was mad (Acts 26:24), so impressed was he with the Apostle’s enthusiasm; and it is probable that the anti-Pauline party at Corinth were not slow to point to the “visions and revelations of the Lord” which St. Paul claimed for himself (chap. 2 Corinthians 12:1-6), and to the facility with which he spoke “with tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:18), as proofs of his madness. A similar accusation was made against his Master (Mark 3:21). But St. Paul bids them (2 Corinthians 5:12) look a little deeper, and not judge by mere outward phenomena such as these. He repeatedly asks them to bear with his seeming foolishness (chap. 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:16-17, 2 Corinthians 12:6; 2 Corinthians 12:11). It is possible that a charge of a contrary nature had been also made by his opponents, and that his regard for other men’s prejudices (1 Corinthians 9:20), and the “craftiness” with which he caught the Corinthians “with guile” (chap. 2 Corinthians 12:16), were urged as savouring more of worldly wisdom than of true piety. His answer to both charges is contained in this verse. If he has exceeded the bounds of moderation, it is in his moods of highest devotion, when he is pouring out his soul to God and not to man; if he has exercised a sober prudence in his dealings with his converts, it is all for their sakes, and not for selfish ends.13. For whether we be besides ourselves] Literally, were beside ourselves, i.e. when we were with you. The reproach of madness was afterwards cast upon St Paul by Festus (Acts 26:24), and may well have been cast upon him before this. Cf. Acts 17.

it is to God] Better, for God, i.e. for His cause. See ‘for your cause’ below. Literally, for you.

or whether we be sober] The word here used signifies the quiet self-restraint characteristic of the Christian. Its original meaning is to have one’s thoughts safe, and hence to be of sound, healthy mind (cf. the Latin salvus and our ‘safe and sound’). Cf. Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35 (where the word is opposed to the idea of madness). Also Romans 12:3; Titus 2:2; Titus 2:4; Titus 2:6, &c.2 Corinthians 5:13. Εἴτε ἐξέστημεν ἔιτε σωφρονοῦμεν) The former is treated of 2 Corinthians 5:15-21 :—the latter 2 Corinthians 6:1-10. The force of the one word is evident from the other, to act without or with moderation. Paul might seem to be without moderation from the Symperasma,[29] which he gave in the preceding verse [namely, adorning his office with so many encominiums.—V. g.]—Θεῷ, it is to God) viz., that we have acted without moderation, although men do not understand us.—ὑμῖν, it is to you) Even godly men bear the moderation of their teachers with a more favourable feeling, than their ἔκστασις, excessive enthusiasm; but it is their duty to obey the Spirit.

[29] See App. A brief and summary conclusion from the previous premisses.—T.Verse 13. - For whether we be beside ourselves; rather, for whether we were mad. Evidently some person or some faction had said of St. Paul, "He is beside himself," just as Festus said afterwards, "Paul, thou art mad," and as the Jews said of Paul's Lord and Master (John 10:20). The fervour of the apostle, his absorption in his work, his visions and ecstasies, his "speaking with tongues more than they all," his indifference to externals, his bursts of emotion, might all have given colour to this charge, which he here ironically accepts. "Mad or self controlled -all was for your sakes." It is to God; rather for God. My "enthusiasm," "exaltation," or, if you will, my "madness," was but a phase of my work for him. We be sober. The word "sober" (sophron) is derived from two words which mean" to save the mind." It indicates wise self control, such as was represented also by the many-sided Latin word frugi. It is the exact antithesis to madness (Acts 26:25). What you call my "madness" belongs to the relation between my own soul and God; my practical sense and tact are for you. For your sakes; literally, for you. We are beside ourselves (ἐξέστημεν)

See on Luke 24:22; see on Acts 2:7; and see on the kindred ἔκστασις astonishment, Mark 5:42. Some such charge appears to have been made, as at Acts 26:24.

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