2 Corinthians 11:7
Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that you might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?
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(7) Have I committed an offence (literally, a sin) in abasing myself . . .?—The rival teachers apparently boasted of their disinterestedness. “They didn’t come for what they could get.” St. Paul, we know, more than most men, had acted on the law of which they boasted as their special distinction, and in 1Corinthians 9:1-18, in the discussion on the question of eating things sacrificed to idols, had dwelt with a pardonable fulness on his own conduct in this matter, as an example of foregoing an abstract right for the sake of a greater good. His enemies were compelled to admit this as far as his life at Corinth was concerned; but they had detected what they looked on as a grave inconsistency. He had accepted help from the churches of Macedonia (2Corinthians 11:9), and in this they found ground for a two-fold charge: “He wasn’t above taking money from other churches—he was only too proud to take it from that of Corinth;” and this was made matter of personal offence. To take money at all was mean; not to take it from them was contemptuous.

He does not deny the facts. He repeats the irritating epithet, abasing myself”; he adds the familiar antithesis (Matthew 23:12; Luke 1:52; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:11), “Yes, but I did it that you might be exalted,” perhaps with reference to elevation in spiritual knowledge, perhaps, because the fact that he laboured for them without payment was the greatest proof of disinterested love for them which could be given.

2 Corinthians 11:7-9. Have I committed an offence — Will any turn this into an objection; in abasing myself — Stooping to work at my trade; that ye might be exalted — To the dignity of being the children of God; because I have preached the gospel to you free of expense. “This the apostle’s enemies said was a presumption, that he knew himself to be no apostle; or, if he was an apostle, it showed that he did not love the Corinthians. The first of these objections he had answered in his former epistle, (1 Corinthians 9:3-19,) by proving his right to a maintenance, and by declaring that he declined using that right, merely to make his preaching the more acceptable and successful. The second objection he answers in this chapter, 2 Corinthians 11:11-15.” I robbed — Greek, εσολησα, I spoiled, as it were, other churches — (It is a military term;) taking wages Οψωνιον, pay, (another military word,) of them, when I first came to you; to do you service — To serve your best interests by converting you to, and instructing you in, the faith of the gospel. It appears from Php 4:15-16, that it was from the church at Philippi that he received the support here spoken of. For the brethren there, “being strongly impressed with a sense of the advantages which mankind derived from the gospel, were so anxious to render the apostle’s preaching in Corinth successful, that, during his residence there, they sent him money, to prevent his being burdensome to the Corinthians. His acceptance of these presents he called a spoiling of the Philippians, because, as he was not labouring among them, he took their money without giving them any thing in return for it; and a taking of wages: but it was for a service performed, not to the Philippians, but to the Corinthians.” And when I was present with you and wanted — The gains of my labour not quite supplying my necessities; I was chargeable to no man — Of your church, or of Corinth. The word here used, κατεναρκησα, appears to be derived from ναρκη, which, Elian says, is the name of a fish, called by the Latins torpedo, because it deprives those who touch it of the sense of feeling. According to this derivation of the word, the apostle’s meaning is, I benumbed, or oppressed, or hurt, no one. See the notes of Joach. Camerar. For what was lacking — For my support; the brethren from Macedonia supplied — Though it seems the apostle generally maintained himself by his own labour, he was sometimes so occupied in preaching, and in the other functions of his ministry, that he had little time for working. This was the case when he was first at Corinth, at which time the Philippians relieved him. For he chose to receive help from the poor of that place, rather than from the rich Corinthians. In all things I have kept myself from being burdensome to you — In any way whatever; and will keep myself — So long as God shall enable me. 11:5-15 It is far better to be plain in speech, yet walking openly and consistently with the gospel, than to be admired by thousands, and be lifted up in pride, so as to disgrace the gospel by evil tempers and unholy lives. The apostle would not give room for any to accuse him of worldly designs in preaching the gospel, that others who opposed him at Corinth, might not in this respect gain advantage against him. Hypocrisy may be looked for, especially when we consider the great power which Satan, who rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience, has upon the minds of many. And as there are temptations to evil conduct, so there is equal danger on the other side. It serves Satan's purposes as well, to set up good works against the atonement of Christ, and salvation by faith and grace. But the end will discover those who are deceitful workers; their work will end in ruin. Satan will allow his ministers to preach either the law or the gospel separately; but the law as established by faith in Christ's righteousness and atonement, and the partaking of his Spirit, is the test of every false system.Have I committed an offence - Have I done wrong. Greek, "Have I committed a sin." There is here a somewhat abrupt transition from the previous verse; and the connection is not very apparent. Perhaps the connection is this. "I admit my inferiority in regard to my manner of speaking. But this does not interfere with my full understanding of the doctrines which I preach, nor does it interfere with the numerous evidences which I have furnished that I am called to the office of an apostle. What then is the ground of offence? In what have I erred? Wherein have I shown that I was not qualified to be an apostle? Is it in the fact that I have not chosen to press my claim to a support, but have preached the gospel without charge?" There can be no doubt that they urged this as an objection to him, and as a proof that he was conscious that he had no claim to the office of an apostle; see the notes on 1Co. 9:3-18. Paul here answers this charge; and the sum of his reply is, that he had received a support, but that it had come from others, a support which they had furnished because the Corinthians had neglected to do it.

In abasing myself - By laboring with my own hands; by submitting to voluntary poverty, and by neglecting to urge my reasonable claims for a support.

That ye might be exalted - In spiritual blessings and comforts. I did it because I could thus better promote religion among you. I could thus avoid the charge of aiming at the acquisition of wealth; could shut the mouths of gainsayers, and could more easily secure access to you. Is it now to be seriously urged as a fault that I have sought your welfare, and that in doing it I have submitted to great self-denial and to many hardships? See notes on 1 Corinthians 9:18 ff.

7. Have I—literally, "Or have I?" Connected with 2Co 11:6, "Or will any of you make it an objection that I have preached to you gratuitously?" He leaves their good feeling to give the answer, that this, so far from being an objection, was a decided superiority in him above the false apostles (1Co 9:6-15).

abasing myself—in my mode of living, waiving my right of maintenance, and earning it by manual labor; perhaps with slaves as his fellow laborers (Ac 18:3; Php 4:12).

ye … exalted—spiritually, by your admission to Gospel privileges.

because—"in that."

gospel of God—"of God" implies its divine glory to which they were admitted.

freely—"without charge."

What is it that hath made you take such offence at me; seeing you cannot say, that either in my call, or in my gifts and graces, or in my labours, or in the success of my labours, I have been inferior to the chiefest of the apostles? Doth this offend you, that for your sake I have veiled my authority, and departed from my right? Which makes some of you say, I am base in presence. Is it for my putting you to no charge in my preaching the gospel? This was a thing wherein he gloried, and told them, 1 Corinthians 9:6,12,15, that he would rather die, than have his glorying void in this particular. Have I committed an offence in abasing myself,.... Either by behaving among them, when he was first with them, in a very modest and humble manner, in much fear and trembling, without pride and haughtiness, or affectation of power and authority over them; or by using a popular style, suited to the capacity of the common people; or by labouring with his own hands, exercising his trade of tent making among them, that he might provide food for himself, and not be chargeable to them; and which he suggests was so far from being criminal in him, that he ought rather to be commended for it; since it could not be thought to be with any view to himself, and his own advantage, but purely for their good:

that you might be exalted; that nothing might lie in their way of receiving the Gospel of Christ, or prejudice them against it; that they might the more easily be brought to listen to it, come to the knowledge of it, and embrace it, and so be exalted, as they were, to a participation of the grace of Christ; to fellowship with him; to the honour and dignity of being a church of Christ; to an enjoyment of the privileges of God's house; to have a name better than that of sons and daughters, and to have a right and title to the heavenly glory: "because", or is it

because I have preached to you the Gospel of God freely? The Gospel he preached was not his own, but God's; of which he was the author; his grace was the subject of it, and his glory the end of its ministration; which he had given to the apostle to preach; to which he had separated him, for which he had abundantly qualified him, and in which he was greatly succeeded by him. This he preached "freely" to the Corinthians at his first coming among them, without putting them to any expense, or receiving anything from them; which though he might lawfully have done, yet he judged it most advisable, at that time, to minister to his own necessities, by working with his hands, lest he should be burdensome to them; and this be an objection to the Gospel he preached, that he sought rather theirs than them; and for so doing he was not to be blamed, but to be praised: and yet such was the weakness of many at least in this church, that they highly valued the false apostles, who made merchandise of them, and treated with contempt this excellent servant of Christ, who had freely imparted the Gospel to them.

{4} Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

(4) Another slander, that is, that he was a rascal, and lived by the labour of his own hands. But in this, the apostle says, what can you lay against me, except that I was content to take any pains for your sakes? For when I lacked, I travailed for my living with my own hands. And also when poverty forced me, I chose rather to seek my sustenance than to be any burden to you, even though I preached the Gospel to you.

2 Corinthians 11:7. That Paul meant by his ἐν παντὶ φανερωθ. an advantageous manifestation, was obvious of itself; comp. 2 Corinthians 5:11. Hence, in order now to make good a distinctive peculiar point of his φανέρωσις, he continues with a question of bitter pain, such as the sense of being maliciously misunderstood brought to his lips: Or have I committed sin—abasing myself in order that ye might be exalted—that I gratuitously preached to you the gospel of God? No doubt the opponents had turned this noble sacrifice on his part, by way of reproach, into un-apostolic meannes.

ἐμαυτὸν ταπεινῶν] namely, by my renouncing, in order to teach gratuitously, my apostolic ἐξουσία, 1 Corinthians 9, and contenting myself with very scanty and mean support (comp. Acts 18:3; Acts 20:34). Chrysostom and others exaggerate it ἐν στενοχωρίᾳ διήγαγον, for καὶ ὑστερηθείς, 2 Corinthians 11:8, is only a temporary increased degree of the ταπείνωσις.

ἵνα ὑμεῖς ὑψωθῆτε] viz. from the lowness of the dark and lost pre-Christian condition through conversion, instruction, and pastoral care to the height of the Christian salvation. It is much too vague to take it of prosperity in general (Schulz, Rosenmüller, Flatt); and when Zachariae explains it: “in order to prefer you to other churches,” or when others think of the riches not lessened by the gratuitous preaching (Mosheim, Heumann, Morus, Emmerling), they quite fail to see the apostle’s delicate way of significantly varying the relations. Comp. 2 Corinthians 8:9. Chrysostom already saw the right meaning: μᾶλλον ᾠκοδομοῦντο καὶ οὐκ ἐσκανδαλίζοντο.

ὅτι] that, belongs to ἁμαρτ. ἐποίησα (to which ἐμαυτ. ταπεινῶν is an accompanying modal definition), inserted for the sake of disclosing the contrast of the case as it stood to the question. Ὅτι may also be taken as an exegesis of ἐμαυτ. ταπειν. κ.τ.λ., so that already with the latter the committing of sin would be described as regards its contents; comp. Acts 21:13; Mark 11:5 (so Luther, Beza, and many others, also Osiander). But our view interweaves more skilfully into one the question with its contradictory content.

δωρεάν] has the emphasi.

τοῦ θεοῦ] Genitivus auctoris. Note the juxtaposition: δωρεὰν τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγ.: gratuitously the gospel of God (“pretiosissimum,” Bengel).2 Corinthians 11:7. ἢ ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησα κ.τ.λ.: or did I commit a sin (note the irony) in abasing myself (cf. Php 4:12), that ye might be exalted, sc., in spiritual privileges (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:11), because I preached to you the Gospel of God for nought?7. Have I committed an offence] Literally, committed sin (don sinne, Wiclif. Did I therein synne? Tyndale, Cranmer and the Geneva version). This passage is ironical. The Corinthians had allowed St Paul’s anxious desire not to be burdensome to them to be used against him (see 1 Corinthians 9:1-14). He asks if such an anxiety for their welfare was to be imputed to him as a sin. Cf. the very similar passage in ch. 2 Corinthians 12:13.

abasing myself] i.e. by working for his living, when he might have enjoyed what men are apt to regard as a dignified ease at their expense. For the word see note on ch. 2 Corinthians 10:1.

that you might be exalted] He speaks, not of temporal exaltation, for his coming made no difference, unless perhaps for the worse, in their temporal condition, but of the “height of Christian salvation” (Meyer) to which they had been lifted.

freely] Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:12-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; Matthew 10:8. There is a contrast intended between the greatness of the gift, the Gospel of God, and the cost for which it was imparted, for nothing (literally, as a gift). Cf. Isaiah 55:1.2 Corinthians 11:7. Ἢ ἁμαρτίαν) Or have I committed a sin? So, an objection might be raised against that assertion of the apostle in last verse, ἐν παντὶ, in everything.—ταπεινῶν, abasing myself) in my mode of living. [He had waived his apostolic right in this matter.—V. g.]—ὑψωθῆτε, ye might be exalted) spiritually.—τὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ εὐαγγέλιον, the Gospel of God) divine, most precious.Verse 7. - Have I? literally, or have I? An ironical exception to his manifestation of knowledge; "unless you think that I committed a sin in refusing to accept maintenance at your hands." It is clear that even this noble generosity had been made the ground for a charge against the apostle. "If he had not been conscious," they said, "that he has no real claims, he would not have preached for nothing, when he had a perfect right to be supported by his converts" (1 Corinthians 9:1-15). Abasing myself. The trade of tentmaker was despised, tedious, and mechanical, and it did not suffice to provide even for Paul's small needs (Acts 18:3; Acts 20:34). That ye might be exalted; namely, by spiritual gifts (Ephesians 2:4-6). The gospel... freely. Some of them would feel the vast contrast between the words. The gospel was the most precious gift of God, and they had got it for nothing. Compare the fine lines of Lowell -

"For a cap and bells our lives we pay,
Bubbles we earn with our whole soul's tasking;
Tis only God who is given away,
Tis only heaven may be had for the asking."
To be a free and unpaid missionary was St. Paul's pride (2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8, 9; Acts 20:33). Abasing myself

By working at his trade.

Preached the Gospel - freely (δωρεὰν)

Gratuitously. Rev., for nought, is not an improvement, but is quite as ambiguous as freely. Without charge would be better. Paul's very self-denial in this matter had been construed to his injury by his opponents, as indicating his want of confidence in the Corinthian Church, and his making gain for himself under the guise of disinterestedness. It was also urged that a real apostle would not thus relinquish his right to claim subsistence from the Church. Hence his question, Did I commit a sin, etc.?

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