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Summary: Paul is responding to a question raised in the minds of the Corinthians about Paul’s lack of commitment to the Church in Corinth or his supposed lack of sincerity.

March 15, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

Lesson II.A.1.a: His Concern. (1:12–14)

2nd Corinthians 1:12-14 (NKJV)

12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

13 For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end

14 (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Introduction

To paraphrase Paul’s words: “I dare to ask for your prayers because my conscience assures me that I have always acted honestly, especially where you are concerned (12). I am sincere in all I write; I hope you will give me credit for this (13)—you have to a certain extent done so already—and realize that there is nothing in my conduct you need be ashamed of. By God’s grace I will be able to be just as proud of you at Christ’s judgment seat (14).

Paul is responding to a question raised in the minds of the Corinthians about Paul’s lack of commitment to the Church in Corinth or his supposed lack of sincerity. No one knows for sure who broached the subject, but a reasonable conclusion is that the idea was proposed by the false apostles (vv. 11:4, 13) who hoped to discredit their chief rival. Though Paul reserved his open confrontation with these opponents for the conclusion of this letter, the controversy pervades even these early chapters.

Commentary

12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

Here we begin to catch the undertones of the accusations that the Corinthians were leveling against Paul and of the slanders with which they were trying to besmirch him. They must have been saying that there was more in Paul’s conduct than met the eye. Happy is the man whose every action will bear the light of day and who, like Paul, can claim that there are no hidden actions in his life.

For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience. Paul often used the word boasting, and it can also be rendered “proud confidence.” Used negatively, it refers to unwarranted bragging about one’s own merits and achievements; but Paul used it positively to denote legitimate confidence in what God had done in his life (see Jer. 9:23-24; Rom. 15:18; 1 Cor. 1:31; 15:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:12-17). He had to counter the boasts of his opponents in Corinth.

Paul faced his critics’ many accusations against his character and integrity (they had accused him of being proud, self-serving, untrustworthy, and inconsistent, mentally unbalanced, incompetent, unsophisticated, and an incompetent preacher) by appealing to the highest human court, his conscience. Paul might have spoken of his conscious here because it was a term frequently used by the Corinthians. The Stoics* were known for referring to their conscience as the voice of God within them. Conscience is the soul’s warning system, which allows human beings to contemplate their motives and actions and make moral evaluations of what is right and wrong. But Paul made it clear that even his conscience was judged by God (see 1 Cor, 4:4-5). In the end, a person’s conscience will not justify him or her before the Almighty. God—and God alone—will judge each person’s actions. In order to work as God designed it, the conscience must be informed to the highest moral and spiritual level and best standard, which means submitting it to the Holy Spirit through God’s Word (see Rom. 12:1, 2: 1 Tim. 1:19; 2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 9:14; 10:22). Paul could ask for their sympathetic prayers with a clear conscience, for with God’s help his conduct in Corinth before pagan and Christians alike had been irreproachable. Paul’s fully enlightened conscience exonerated him completely (see Acts 23:1; 24:16; 1 Tim. 1:5; 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3). But ultimately, only God can accurately judge a person’s motives (1 Cor. 4:1-5). If we are honest, we will have to admit that we rarely do anything with absolutely unmixed motives. Even when we do something good, there may be entangled with it motives of pride, of prestige, of self-promotion, of fear, of scheming. Men may never see these motives, but God sees every intention. Purity of action may be difficult, but purity of motive is more difficult.

*Stoic: a member of a school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium about 300 b.c. holding that the wise man should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law. One apparently or professedly indifferent to pleasure or pain.

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