I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!
2 Corinthians 12:11-13
In these verses, Paul has begun his transition into the reasons for his having written this entire section of the letter. He loves the people of Corinth and has been grieved by their willingness to be led astray by those he has come to call “super-apostles”, clearly a derisive term. Paul does not believe that he has treated the Corinthians any differently than any other congregation he has dealt with, even though his critics have apparently told them that he was trying to take advantage of them financially. On that score he actually has treated them differently; he didn’t take any support from them, and so, he apologizes for that. Do I detect the slightest little hint of sarcasm?
Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?
2 Corinthians 12:14-18
Things are starting to clear up for us in this paragraph, for now it is clear that the super-apostles have claimed that Paul took the people in by tricks to part them from their money… only Paul didn’t accept any of their money. Yet they, some of them at least, believed the lies. Much like our politicians, it appears that the super-apostles also claimed that Paul was dishonest with them because while he was tricking them out of their money, he didn’t take any from them. Oh yes, we see people in the news do this all the time, claiming both sides of a question at the same time, and expecting us not to notice.
Paul seems to have noticed.
Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. (12:19)
With these words, Paul has another transition. In the remaining verses of chapter 12, Paul makes it clear that his larger concern is that when he returns to Corinth he will discover that nothing has changed, that those opposing him and spreading falsehood about him will still persist in their sin. In chapter 13 we will see that if this is the case, he won’t be so nice as he was last time…