2 Corinthians 12:11–21 (NKJV)
11 I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!2 corinthians 12:11-13
Paul proffers an apology to the Corinthians, considering his boasting as an offense, although sarcastically. He says that they compelled him to answer the claims of his insufficiency to lead them in response to his enemies’ claims. In essence, he reminds them of his status and works, but asks their forgiveness for the wrong of not making these things clear before. This barb is meant to drive the point home that the Corinthians should recognize the gifts and sacrifices of their leaders without needing to be reminded.
14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.2 Corinthians 12:14-21
16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning! 17 Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?
19 Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification. 20 For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; 21 lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.
Paul shifts gears slightly here and announces his upcoming third visit to Corinth. He affirms that his practice will continue: he will not require them to pay him or supply his needs. He then refers to a known principle that parents should provide an inheritance for their children, not the other way around. So, unlike his opponents in Corinth, he will not ask for money or provision, but will gladly spend his own money and be spent physically, mentally, and emotionally for the good of the church in Corinth. He asks the questions of Corinth “Did I take advantage of you? …Did Titus take advantage of you?” He knows in good conscience that neither of them did. He then shifts quickly to certain practices that he opposes and prays he will not find in Corinth when he comes. His only desire is the edification of Corinth. So he opposes “contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults” and mourns that they may be found among the Corinthians in the church. He calls for their repentance of uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness, and leaves an ominous tone at the end of this passage.
The sarcasm, irony, and rebuke of this passage and the former passage speak of Paul’s desire for the church to act according to the nature of Christ by following the leader who brought them Christ, rejecting the false doctrines of those desiring to displace him, and living the life of holiness taught to them by Paul. If they would win the race, they must run well. This is the call of Paul and should be the call of any competent minister when their sheep are being led astray. Strike the enemy, discipline the sheep, and walk forward. Good advice for anyone leading others in their walk with God. Invest in your flock, and see them thrive!