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19 Have you been thinking all along that we are defending[a] ourselves before you? In the sight of God we are speaking in Christ, and all for building you up, beloved. 20 For I fear that[b] when I come I may find you not such as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; that there may be rivalry, jealousy, fury, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.(A) 21 I fear that when I come again[c] my God may humiliate me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, immorality, and licentiousness they practiced.

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Footnotes

  1. 12:19 This verse looks back at the previous chapters and calls them by their proper name, a defense, an apologia (cf. 1 Cor 9:3). Yet Paul insists on an important distinction: he has indeed been speaking for their benefit, but the ultimate judgment to which he submits is God’s (cf. 1 Cor 4:3–5). This verse also leads into the final section, announcing two of its themes: judgment and building up.
  2. 12:20 I fear that…: earlier Paul expressed fear that the Corinthians were being victimized, exploited, seduced from right thinking by his opponents (2 Cor 11:3–4, 19–21). Here he alludes unexpectedly to moral disorders among the Corinthians themselves. The catalogue suggests the effects of factions that have grown up around rival apostles.
  3. 12:21 Again: one can also translate, “I fear that when I come my God may again humiliate me.” Paul’s allusion to the humiliation and mourning that may await him recall the mood he described in 2 Cor 2:1–4, but there is no reference here to any individual such as there is in 2 Cor 2:5–11. The crisis of 2 Cor 2 has happily been resolved by integration of the offender and repentance (2 Cor 7:4–16), whereas 2 Cor 12:21 is preoccupied with still unrepentant sinners. The sexual sins recall 1 Cor 5–7.

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