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"But be it so, I did not myself burden you, but, being crafty, I caught you with guile"
(12: 16, R.V.).
The latter part of the verse must not be misunderstood. The Apostle had stated in
chapter 4: 2 that he had renounced craftiness (panourgia), so he certainly was not being
crafty (panourgos) in his dealings with the Corinthian church. Rather he is quoting what
some at Corinth were saying about him. The R.S.V. makes this clear by supplying the
words `you say'.
He challenges them to say if he had taken advantage of them in financial or other
matters through any of his messengers:
"Did Titus take any advantage of you?"
The question is expressed so as to require the answer "No", for it is introduced by the
negative me. Paul had urged Titus to visit them in connection with their money gift for
the poor saints at Jerusalem (cp. 8: 6 and 17). Only one brother is mentioned here
accompanying him, whereas two are mentioned in chapter 8: 18. One is probably
omitted here because he was not Paul's representative, but sent as a delegate from one of
the other churches who were contributing. Titus' companions are called `messengers of
the churches' in 8: 23.
Paul now further challenges them:
"Ye think all this time that we are excusing ourselves unto you. In the sight of God
speak we in Christ. But all things, beloved, are for your edifying" (12: 19, R.V.).
This could be read as a question "Have you been thinking . . . . .?" The Apostle was
not concerned about his own reputation. As one sent by Christ he knew what constituted
his ministry and this was principally the building up of believers everywhere. What he
desired above all things was their spiritual growth and maturity.
The last thing he wanted was to find them in the same state as when he made the
`painful' visit. This would not only be painful to them, but to him also. He would
certainly feel humbled if he continued to find some of them indulging in the sins listed in
verse 20. He would then `mourn for many who had sinned and not repented' (verse 21)
for this would probably means excommunication.
Once again, in the first verse of chapter 13:, he refers to his proposed third visit and
also to Deut. 19: 15 (and compare 17: 6 and Numb. 35: 30), where accusation
must be backed up by more than one witness to avoid a false charge. Again he warns
them that he will be forced to deal ruthlessly with those who ignored him and continued
in their evil ways, just as he did on his second visit (verse 2), and this statement shows us
that this upsetting visit actually took place although we only have allusions to it.