2 Corinthians 11:29
Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) Who is weak and I am not weak . . .?—The words obviously spring from a recollection of all that was involved in that “rush” of which he had just spoken. Did any come to him with his tale of body-sickness or soul-sickness, he, in his infinite sympathy, felt as if he shared in it. He claimed no exemption from their infirmities, was reminded by every such tale of his own liability to them. The words that follow have a still stronger significance. The word “offended” (better, made to stumblei.e., led to fall by a temptation which the man has not resisted) suggests the thought of some grievous sin, as distinct from weakness; and the dominant sense of the word, as in Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 18:8-9; Mark 9:42-43; Mark 9:45; Mark 9:47; 1Corinthians 8:13, is that of the sins to which men are led by the temptations of the senses. The other word—to “burn”—is even more startling in its suggestiveness. It had been used in 1Corinthians 7:9 of the “burning” of sensual passion, and it is scarcely open to a doubt that the associations thus connected with it mingle with its meaning here. Men came to the Apostle with their tales of shame, and told how they had been tempted and had fallen; and here, too, he, in that illimitable sympathy of his, seemed to have travelled with them on the downward road. He felt himself suffused, as it were, with the burning glow of their shame. He blushed with them and for them, as though the sin had been his own. Simply as a word, it should be added, it is equally applicable to any emotion of intense pain or fiery indignation, and it has been so taken by many interpreters. The view which has been given above seems, however, most in harmony with the Apostle’s character.

11:22-33 The apostle gives an account of his labours and sufferings; not out of pride or vain-glory, but to the honour of God, who enabled him to do and suffer so much for the cause of Christ; and shows wherein he excelled the false apostles, who tried to lessen his character and usefulness. It astonishes us to reflect on this account of his dangers, hardships, and sufferings, and to observe his patience, perseverance, diligence, cheerfulness, and usefulness, in the midst of all these trials. See what little reason we have to love the pomp and plenty of this world, when this blessed apostle felt so much hardship in it. Our utmost diligence and services appear unworthy of notice when compared with his, and our difficulties and trials scarcely can be perceived. It may well lead us to inquire whether or not we really are followers of Christ. Here we may study patience, courage, and firm trust in God. Here we may learn to think less of ourselves; and we should ever strictly keep to truth, as in God's presence; and should refer all to his glory, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore.Who is weak ... - I sympathize with all. I feel where others feel, and their sorrows excite deep sympathetic emotions in my bosom. Like a tender and compassionate friend I am affected when I see others in circumstances of distress. The word "weak" here may refer to any lack of strength, any infirmity or feebleness arising either from body or mind. It may include all who were feeble by persecution or by disease; or it may refer to the weak in faith and doubtful about their duty (see 1 Corinthians 9:22), and to those who were burdened with mental sorrows. The idea is, that Paul had a deep sympathy in all who needed such sympathy from any cause. And the statement here shows the depth of feeling of this great apostle; and shows what should be the feeling of every pastor; see the note on Romans 12:15.

And I am not weak? - I share his feelings and sympathize with him. If he suffers, I suffer. Bloomfield supposes that Paul means that in the case of those who were weak in the faith he accommodated himself to their weakness and thus became all things to all people; see my note on 1 Corinthians 9:22. But it seems to me probable that he uses the phrase here in a more general sense, as denoting that he sympathized with those who were weak and feeble in all their circumstances.

Who is offended - (σκανδαλίζεται skandalizetai). Who is "scandalized." The word means properly to cause to stumble and fall; hence, to be a stumbling-block to any one; to give or cause offence to anyone. The idea here seems to be, "who is liable to be led astray; who has temptations and trials that are likely to lead him to sin or to cause him to fall, and I do not burn with impatience to restore him, or with indignation against the tempter?" In all such cases Paul deeply sympathized with them, and was prompt to aid them.

And I burn not? - That is, with anger or with great agitation of mind at learning that anyone had fallen into sin. This may either mean that he would burn with indignation against those who had led them into sin, or be deeply excited in view of the disgrace which would be thus brought on the Christian cause. In either case it means that his mind would be in a glow of emotion; he would feel deeply; he could not look upon such things with indifference or without being deeply agitated. With all he sympathized; and the condition of all, whether in a state of feeble faith, or feeble body, or falling into sin, excited the deepest emotions in his mind. The truth here taught is, that Paul felt a deep sympathy for all others who bore the Christian name, and this sympathy for others greatly increased the cares and toils of the apostolic office which he sustained. But having given this exposition, candor compels me to acknowledge that the whole verse may mean, "Who is feeble in the faith in regard to certain observances and rites and customs 1 Corinthians 9:22, and I do not also evince the same? I do not rouse their prejudices, or wound their feelings, or alarm them. On the other hand, who is scandalized, or led into sin by the example of others in regard to such custom; who is led by the example of others into transgression, and I do not burn with indignation?" In either case, however, the general sense is, that he sympathized with all others.

29. I … weak—in condescending sympathy with the weak (1Co 9:22). "Care generates sympathy, which causes the minister of Christ personally to enter into the feelings of all his people, as if he stood in their position, so as to accommodate himself to all" [Calvin].

offended—by some stumbling-block put in his way by others: the "weak" is most liable to be "offended."

I burn not—The "I" in the Greek is emphatic, which it is not in the former clause, "I am not weak." I not only enter into the feeling of the party offended, but I burn with indignation at the offender, I myself taking up his cause as my own. "Who meets with a stumbling-block and I am not disturbed even more than himself" [Neander].

Who, may be either, what church? Or, what particular Christian in any church?

Is weak, asyenei, through outward afflictions, or in respect of inward spiritual troubles,

and I am not weak, and I do not sympathize with that church, or with that person?

Who is offended, or scandalized, under temptations to be seduced and fall into sin,

and I burn not, and I am not on fire with a holy zeal for the glory of God, and the good of his soul, if possible to keep him upright? By which the apostle doth not only show us what was his own holy temper, but what should be the temper of every faithful minister, as to his province, or that part of the church over which he is concerned to watch; viz. to have a true compassion to every member of it, to watch over his flock, inquiring diligently into the state of it; to have a quick sense of any evils under which they, or any of them, labour. This is indeed the duty of ever private member, but more especially of him whose office is to feed any part of the flock of Christ, Romans 12:15. In this the members of the spiritual, mystical body of Christ should answer to the members of the body natural, to which our apostle before resembled it. Who is weak, and I am not weak.... What church is so? or what particular believer is so? for he had not only the care of all the churches, but of all believers upon him; whoever was weak in the faith he was concerned for them, to instruct, establish, and strengthen them; and suited his discourses, reasonings, and language, to their capacity, that they might understand him, and take in right notions of things: or whoever was of a weak and scrupulous conscience about things indifferent, and fearful of using them lest they should sin in so doing, he was cautious of offending them, or doing anything by which their consciences should be defiled, and their peace be broken: or whoever was afflicted, either in body or mind, he sympathized and bore a part with them:

who is offended, and I burn not? whoever was stumbled and made to fall by anything he said or did, or by the words and actions of others, it gave him sensible pain, it made him very uneasy; he was as one in a flame, all on fire, full of grief and trouble till the cause of the offence was removed, and the person offended made easy and restored; the word here used answers to the Hebrew word used in Job 30:25 where it is said, "was not my soul grieved for the poor?" which Mr. Broughton renders, "did not my soul burn for the poor?" Now by all this which the apostle did and suffered, by all actions and sufferings, care and sympathy, he fully appeared to be a true and faithful minister of Christ, and abundantly more than the false apostles, who could produce none of these things as testimonies in their favour.

Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 11:29. Two characteristic traits for illustrating the μέριμνα πασῶν τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν. Chrysostom aptly says: ἐπήγαγε καὶ τὴν ἐπίτασιν τῆς φροντίδος, and that for the individual members (Acts 20:31).

As ἀσθενεῖ with σκανδαλίζεται, so also ἀσθενῶ with πυροῦμαι forms a climax—and in a way highly appropriate to the subject! For in point of fact he could not in the second clause say: καὶ οὐ σκανδαλίζομαι.

The meaning of the verse is to express the most cordial and most lively sympathy (comp. 1 Corinthians 12:26) of his care amidst the dangers, to which the Christian character and life of the brethren are exposed: “Who is weak as regards his faith, conscience, or his Christian morality, and I am not weak, do not feel myself, by means of the sympathy of my care, transplanted into the same position? Who is offended, led astray to unbelief and sin, and I do not burn, do not feel myself seized by burning pain of soul?” Semler and Billroth, also de Wette (comp. Luther’s gloss), mix up what is foreign to the passage, when they make ἀσθενῶ apply to the condescension of the apostle, who would give no offence to the weak, 1 Corinthians 9:22. And Emmerling (followed by Olshausen) quite erroneously takes it: “quem afflictum dicas, si me non dicas? quem calamitatem oppetere, si me non iis premi, quin uri memores?” In that case it must have run καὶ οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀσθενῶ; besides, σκανδαλίζεσθαι never means calamitatibus affici, but constantly denotes religious or moral offence; and lastly, σκανδαλίζεται and πυροῦμαι would yield a quite inappropriate climax (Paul must have repeated σκανδαλίζομαι).

ἀσθενεῖ] comp. Romans 4:19; Romans 14:1-2; Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Acts 20:35. The correspondence of σκανδαλίζεται in the climax forbids us to understand it of suffering (Chrysostom, Beza, Flatt).

πυροῦμαι] What emotion is denoted by verbs of burning, is decided on each occasion by the context (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:9; see in general on Luke 24:32), which here presents a climax to ἀσθενῶ, therefore suggests far more naturally the idea of violent pain (comp. Chrys.: καθʼ ἕκαστον ὠδυνᾶτο μέλος) than that of anger (Luther: “it galled him hard;” comp. Bengel, Rückert). Augustine says aptly: “quanto major caritas, tanto majores plagae de peccatis alienis.” Comp. on the expression, the Latin ardere doloribus, faces doloris, and the like (Kühner, ad Cic. Tusc. ii. 25. 61); also 3Ma 4:2, and Abresch, ad Aesch. Sept. 519.

Lastly, we have to note the change in the form of the antitheses, which emerges with the increasing vividness of feeling in the two halves of the verse: οὐκ ἀσθενῶ and οὐκ ἐγὼ πυροῦμαι. In the former case the negation attaches itself to the verb, in the latter to the person. Who is weak without weakness likewise occurring in me? who is offended without its being I, who is burning? Of the offence which another takes, I on my part have the pain.2 Corinthians 11:29. τίς ἀσθενεῖ κ.τ.λ.: who is weak, sc., in prejudice (as at Romans 14:1, 1 Corinthians 8:11), and I am not weak, i.e., in Christian sympathy (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:22 ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν ἀσθενής); who is made to stumble, and I burn not? i.e., with the fire of righteous indignation (cf. πυρωθείς = “inflamed” at 2Ma 4:38). The word ἀσθενῶ now suggests to him a new thought, that it is in his weakness as supported by God’s grace rather than in any strength of his own that his real boast may be made.29. Who is weak, and I am not weak?] St Paul goes on to explain in what that care consisted. It consisted in taking upon himself the anxieties of every individual member of the flock. We may see how true his words are by a reference to Romans 14:1 to Romans 15:7; 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Corinthians 10:25-33; the whole Epistle to the Galatians; Php 4:2-3, as well as ch. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, 2 Corinthians 7:12 of this Epistle.2 Corinthians 11:29. Τίς, who) He not merely cares for the churches, but for the souls of individuals.—ἀσθενῶ, I am weak) not only through condescension, συγκατάβασις, 1 Corinthians 9:22, but through compassion.—σκανδαλίζεται, is offended) To be weak and to be offended, at least in this passage, differ, comp. Romans 14:21, note. The former comes by itself; the latter, by means of others.—καὶ οὐκ ἐγὼ πυροῦμαι, and I burn not) He adds I, not in the former [no ἐγὼ before ἀσθενῶ], but in this part of the verse, for there he suits himself to the weak man; here he confesses that he bears no resemblance to the party offending, as he himself, for the sake of the offended party, takes up the duties neglected by the offender. The duties, neglected by the person offending, are love, prudence, etc. Paul however at the same time takes upon himself the part of the offended person, or the inconvenience, which the offended person feels. All these things thus follow from the force of the relatives [the things mutually related]. Πυροῦσθαι τοῖς θυμοῖς is read more than once in 2 Macc. They think or speak badly, who, seeing a scandal or offence, say in the mother tongue [alluding to a German saying], I have caused myself to offend.Verse 29. - Who is weak, and I am not weak? See, by way of example, 1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 Corinthians 9:22; Romans 14:21. Instead of stiffly maintaining my own prejudices, I am always ready to make concessions to weak brethren. Who is offended, and I burn not! That is, "who is ever caused to stumble without my burning with indignation?" In other words, "Is not the intensity of my sympathy whenever any scandal occurs an addition to the trials of my life?" Burn

With sorrow over the stumbling or with indignation over the cause. This and 1 Corinthians 7:9 are the only instances in which the word is used figuratively.

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