2 Corinthians 12:19-21

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.

contentions (v.20) = quarrels, strife, wrangling

jealousies (v.20) = envious and contentious rivalry that causes outbursts and consequences

outbursts of wrath (v.20) = actions resulting from strong passions, impulsive anger

selfish ambitions (v.20) = rivalry, self-seeking, acting for one’s own gain regardless of the discord it causes

backbitings (v.20) = slander, defamation

whisperings (v.20) = gossip, secret slandering, secret attacks on a person’s character

conceits (v.20) = a puffing up, pride, arrogance

tumults (v.20) = disturbance, revolution, almost anarchy

humble (v.21) = bring low, humiliate, submit oneself in a lowly spirit to the power and will of God (in Paul’s case here, to have to resort to disciplining the Corinthians instead of building them up as he wished to do (v.19)

mourn (v.21) = to grieve over a personal hope that dies,

For a long time you are thinking that it is to you I am presenting my verbal defense. In the sight of God in Christ are we speaking. But all the things, beloved ones, [which we are speaking] are for your upbuilding. For I fear lest by any means, having come, I will find you such as I desire you not to be, and as for myself, i will be found by you such as you do not desire me to be [indignant to the point of severity at your backsliding], lest by any means there should be strife, jealousy, outbursts of boiling rage, factions, defamation of character, secret slanders, inflated egos, disorders, lest, having come again, my God should humiliate me before you, and I should grieve for many of those who have sinned previously and did not repent of their uncleanness, and fornication, and unbridled passionate craving which they committed. — Wuest, page 437


Had [Paul] been excusing his conduct toward them? Far from it! “We speak before God in Christ,” he says, “but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying” (v.19). They were the ones making excuses for their behavior, but he spoke “before God in Christ,” so as to “edify” them (build them up) and make of them the kind of Christians they ought to be.

This whole verbal spanking had stemmed from his fear that when he arrived at Corinth, he would not find them to be what he had hoped for and that they would not find him to be what they had hoped for: “lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults” (v.20). Such had been their past; would it still be so with him in their midst? — Stam, pages 228-229.

In essence, Paul was telling the Corinthians to shape up and quit sinning so that, when he arrived, he could encourage them and build them up. Otherwise, when he arrived, he would have to discipline them—and they would not like that and neither would he.

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