2 Corinthians 12:21
And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall mourn many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) And lest when I come again . . .—The words do not imply more than one previous visit (Acts 18:1), but it can scarcely be said that they exclude the supposition of another. (See Note on 2Corinthians 13:1.)

My God will humble me among you.—We lose the force of the Greek verb by not seeing that it reproduces the word which has been so prominent in the Epistle, and which has appeared in 2Corinthians 7:6, as “cast down;” in 2Corinthians 10:1 as “base;” in 2Corinthians 11:7 as “abasing.” There is something almost plaintive in the tone in which the Apostle speaks of the sin of his disciples as the only real “humiliation” which he has to fear. The readings vary; and one of them may be taken as a question: Will God humble me again? There is, however, it is believed, no adequate ground for altering the text.

That I shall bewail many which have sinned already.—Literally, who have sinned beforehand; leaving it uncertain what time is referred to. He may refer to sins before admission into the Church, of which men had never really repented, or to sins before the time of his writing, or before that of his arrival. On the whole, the first interpretation has most to commend it. He has in his thoughts such persons as those described in 1Corinthians 6:9, and suspects that some of them have not really renounced the sins which he there names. Of the three forms of evil, the first is generic and the two latter more specific; the last probably indicating the darker forms of evil. It is obvious that the words cannot refer to the incestuous offender who had repented (2Corinthians 2:7), nor to the Church generally in connection with that offence (2Corinthians 7:9-11). Probably he had in view the party of license, who maintained the indifference of “eating things sacrificed to idols,” and of “fornication,” just as, in the previous verse, he had chiefly in view the party of his Judaising opponents.

12:11-21 We owe it to good men, to stand up in the defence of their reputation; and we are under special obligations to those from whom we have received benefit, especially spiritual benefit, to own them as instruments in God's hand of good to us. Here is an account of the apostle's behaviour and kind intentions; in which see the character of a faithful minister of the gospel. This was his great aim and design, to do good. Here are noticed several sins commonly found among professors of religion. Falls and misdeeds are humbling to a minister; and God sometimes takes this way to humble those who might be tempted to be lifted up. These vast verses show to what excesses the false teachers had drawn aside their deluded followers. How grievous it is that such evils should be found among professors of the gospel! Yet thus it is, and has been too often, and it was so even in the days of the apostles.And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me ... - Lest I should be compelled to inflict punishment on those whom I suppose to have been converted under my ministry. I had rejoiced in them as true converts: I had counted them as among the fruit of my ministry. Now to be compelled to inflict punishment on them as having no religion would mortify me and humble me. The infliction of punishment on members of the church is a sort of punishment to him who inflicts it as well as to him who is punished. Members of the church should walk uprightly, lest they overwhelm the ministry in shame.

And that I shall bewail many ... - If they repented of their sin he could still rejoice in them. If they continued in their sin until he came, it would be to him a source of deep lamentation. It is evident from the word "many" here that the disorders had prevailed very extensively in the church at Corinth. The word rendered "have sinned already" means "who have sinned before," and the idea is, that they were old offenders, and that they had not yet repented.

The uncleanness - see note, Romans 1:24.

And fornication and lasciviousness ... - see the notes on 1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:18. This was the sin to which they were particularly exposed in Corinth, as it was the sin for which that corrupt city was particularly distinguished. See the introduction to the First Epistle. Hence, the frequent cautions in these epistles against it; and hence, it is not to be wondered at that some of those who had become professing Christians had fallen into it. It may be added that it is still the sin to which converts from the corruptions and licentiousness of paganism are particularly exposed.

21. my God—his God, however trying the humiliation that was in store for him.

will humble me—The indicative implies that the supposition will actually be so. The faithful pastor is "humbled" at, and "bewails" the falls of his people, as though they were his own.

sinned already—before my last coming [Bengel], that is, before the second visit which he paid, and in which he had much at Corinth to rebuke.

have not repented—shall not have repented [Alford].

uncleanness—for example, of married persons (1Th 4:7).

fornication—among the unmarried.

From hence it appeareth, that this church of Corinth, though it had many in it, without doubt, who were true and sincere Christians, yet had also many it which were otherwise; yea, many that were scandalous; for such are those mentioned in this verse. Again, the apostle’s mentioning of

many that had committed uncleanness, fornication, and lasciviousness, and not repented; wheras he had only given order for the excommunication of one incestuous person, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, and in this Epistle, 2 Corinthians 2:1-17, had given order for the restoring him upon his repentance; lets us know, that the governors of churches ought to use a great deal of prudence in the administering of church censures. We are also further taught, that nothing more afflicteth a godly person, who hath the charge of the souls of others, than to see them go on in courses of sin without repentance. Whether bewailing, in this verse, implieth proceeding to ecclesiastical censures, (as several interpreters think), I doubt; for as the word doth not necessarily imply it, so his sparing use of that rod, which he could (though absent) have as well used against other unclean persons as one incestuous person; and choosing rather that the sentence should be declared against him by the church in his absence, than by himself when present; inclineth me to think, that by bewailing, here, he only means a Christian, afflictive sense of their miscarriages; whereas his desire was, that he might have a cheerful, comfortable journey to and abode with them. But yet, in the next chapter, he seemeth to threaten something more against some particular offenders. And lest when I come again,.... Another thing which he feared would be the case when he came again to them, that he himself should be afflicted and distressed, seeing them in a disorderly and dissolute course of life, be obliged to punish them, which would be an humiliation and matter of grief to him:

my God will humble me; instead of rejoicing in the fruit of his labours, that they were not in vain, he signifies that he should have great sorrow of heart; and whereas he had promised himself much pleasure and comfort in visiting them, it would be the reverse; and inasmuch as he had boasted of them to others, he should be ashamed:

and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, or "before"; not before conversion, but before the writing of this or the former epistle; for nothing was more grieving, and occasioned more sorrow and humiliation to the apostle, than the unbecoming walk of professors; and nothing more sensibly affects a faithful minister of the Gospel:

and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication, and lasciviousness, which they have committed. The city of Corinth was famous, or rather infamous, for unclean practices; as fornication, adultery, lasciviousness in words and deeds, and other unnatural lusts; "Corinthian whores" was a common proverb; nor was it proper for persons to go to Corinth, there were so many snares for lust and uncleanness; there were said to be above a thousand prostitutes in the temple of Venus there (k); hence the very great impurities and wickedness, which many of the members of this church were guilty of, may be accounted for; some of them had repented, others not, which was the great concern of the apostle: and from hence we may learn, that gracious souls may be suffered to fall into great sins; and that when they are truly brought to repentance, they ought to be restored to communion with the church; but impenitent ones are to be cut off, and remain so, till brought to a due sense of their evils.

(k) Alex. ab Alex. Genial Dier. l. 4. c. 13. & 5. 15. & 6. 26.

And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 12:21. The interrogative interpretation (Lachmann, Lücke) is, viewed in itself, compatible not only with the reading ταπεινώσει (Lachmann), but also with the deliberative subjunctive of the Recepta (Lücke). Comp. Xenophon, Oec. iv. 4 : μὴ αἰσχυνθῶμεν τὸν Περσῶν βασιλέα μιμήσασθαι; see in general, Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 159 f.; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 203. But the usual non-interrogative explanation, which makes μή still dependent on φοβοῦμαι, not only makes the passage appear more emphatic (by the three parallels, μήπως

μήπως

μή), but is also the only interpretation suited to the context, since, in fact, after the apprehension quite definitely expressed in 2 Corinthians 12:20, the negative question, in the case of which a No is to be conceived as the answer (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:17-18), would be inappropriate.

In μή compared with the previous μήπως there lies a climax as regards the definiteness of the conceptio.

πάλιν] goes along with ἐλθόντος μον ταπεινώσῃ με ὁ θ. μ. πρὸς ὑμ. (comp. on 2 Corinthians 2:1), so that Paul reminds them how already at his second visit (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:9) he had experienced such humiliation. Connected merely with ἐλθόντος μου (Beza, Grotius, Flatt, de Wette, Wieseler, and many others), it would be without important bearin.

ἐλθόντος μου τάπ. με] a construction also of frequent occurrence in classical writers. Comp. on 2 Corinthians 9:14, and see Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 270 [E. T. 315].

ταπεινώσει με, not of bodily (Hofmann), but of mental bending, as in dejection. Comp. Polyb. iii. 116. 8, iv. 80. 3. “Nihil erat, quo magis exultaret apostolus, quam prospero suae praedicationis successu (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:20; Php 4:1); contra nihil erat, unde tristiore et demissiore animo redderetur, quam quum cerneret, se frustra laborasse,” Beza. Comp. Chrysostcm. The future ταπεινώσει (see the critical remarks), which expresses the apprehension that the sad case of this humiliation will withal actually still occur (see on Colossians 2:8), stands in a climactic relation to the previous subjunctives; the apprehension increases.

ὁ θεός μου] as Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4. In the humbling experiences of his office Paul sees paedagogic decrees of his Go.

πρὸς ὑμᾶς] not among you, for how superfluous that would be! but: in reference to you, in my relation to you. So also Rückert, who, however (comp. Chrysostom, Osiander, and several), explains ταπεινώσις of Paul’s seeing himself compelled “to appear before them not with the joyful pride of a father over his good children, but with the punitive earnestness of a judge.” But the punitive earnestness of the judge is in fact no ταπεινώσις, but an act of the apostolic authority, and only follows subsequently, after the ταπεινώσις has taken place by the observation of the punishment-deserving state, which has made him feel that his efforts have been without resul.

πολλοὺς τῶν προημαρτηκότων καὶ μὴ μετανοησάντων], On προημαρτ., comp. Herodian, iii. 14. 8 : ἀπολογεῖσθαι πρὸς τὰ προημαρτημένα. According to Rückert, Paul has written thus inexactly, instead of πολλοὺς τῶν προημαρτ. τοὺς μὴ μετανοήσαντας. How arbitrary! In that case he would have expressed himself with downright inaccuracy. Lücke, l.c. p. 20, explains it more ingeniously: “Cogitavit rem ita, ut primum poneret Christianorum ex ethnicis potissimum τῶν προημαρτηκότων καὶ μὴ μετανοησάντων genus universum, cujus generis homines essent ubique ecclesiarum, deinde vero ex isto hominum genere multos eos, qui Corinthi essent, designaret definiretque.” But the reference to the unconverted sinners, who ubique ecclesiarum essent, is quite foreign to the context, since Paul had simply to do with the Corinthians (comp. previously πρὸς ὑμᾶς), and hence these could not seek the genus of the προημαρτηκότων κ.τ.λ. here meant elsewhere than just in their own church. The right interpretation results undoubtedly from the order of the thoughts specified at 2 Corinthians 12:20, according to which ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ κ.τ.λ. cannot belong to μετανοησ. (comp. Lucian, de salt 84: μετανοῆσαι ἐφʼ οἷς ἐποίησεν), as it is usually taken, but only to πενθήσω: and that I will lament[388] many of those, who have previously sinned and shall not have repented, on account of the uncleanness, etc. Thus Paul passes over from the sinful states named in 2 Corinthians 12:20 to quite another category of sins, and the course of thought accordingly is: “I fear that I shall not only meet with contentions, etc., among you, but that I shall have also to bewail many of the then still unconverted sinners among you on account of the sins of impurity which they have committed (Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 13:17).” Not all προημαρτηκότες καὶ μὴ μετανοήσαντες in Corinth were impure sinners, but Paul fears that he will encounter many of them as such; hence he could not write at all otherwise than: πολλοὺς τῶν προημαρτηκότων καὶ μὴ μετανοησάντων.[389] This explanation is adopted by Winer, p. 590 [E. T. 792], Bisping, and Kling.

The perfect participle προημαρτ. denotes the continuance of the condition from earlier times; and καὶ μὴ μετανοησάντων has the sense of the futurum exactum: and who shall not have repented at my arrival. The προ in προημαρτ. expresses the sinning that had taken place in earlier times, which Lücke (comp. Olshausen) refers to the time before conversion (comp. the passages of Justin, Apolog. 1:61; Clement, Strom. iv. 12 in Lücke, p. 18 f.). But as the evils adduced in 2 Corinthians 12:20 only set in after the conversion, we are not warranted (see the plan of the passage specified at 2 Corinthians 12:20) to assume for the sins named in 2 Corinthians 12:21 the time before conversion, as, indeed, 1 Corinthians 5:1 also points to the time after conversion. But if we ask how far Paul with his προ looks back into the past of the Corinthians that had elapsed since their conversion, it might, if we regard 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 by themselves, appear as if he referred not further back than to that time, in which the contentions (2 Corinthians 12:20) and the sins of impurity censured in 1 Corinthians 5:1 (2 Corinthians 12:21) emerged. But as this happened only after his second visit, and as he says in 2 Corinthians 13:2 that he had foretold (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:1) punishment to the προημαρτηκόσι already at his second visit, it follows that with his προ he glances back from the present to the time before his second visit. After his first visit there had already emerged in Corinth evils, which humbled him at his second visit (2 Corinthians 12:21), and on account of which he at that time threatened (see on 2 Corinthians 13:2) these προημαρτηκότες with punishment; after his second presence there had now broken out, in addition, the contentions and sins of impurity which we know from his Epistles; and to all this, consequently to the whole time till after his first and before his second visit, he looks back, inasmuch as he says not merely ἡμαρτηκότων, but προημαρτηκότων Consequently Billroth is wrong in restricting the word merely to those “whom I already, through my second sojourn among you, know as sinners;” and Estius says too indefinitely, and also quite arbitrarily, as regards προ, not starting from the present time: ante scriptam priorem epistolam, while many others, like Rückert, do not enter on the question at al.

ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ κ.τ.λ.] if connected with μετανοησάντων, would be in respect or on account of. But, apart from the fact that μετανοεῖν (which, we may add, Paul has only here) is in the N. T. never connected with ἐπί (as Joel 2:13; Amos 7:3, LXX.), but with ἀπό (Acts 8:22; Hebrews 6:1) or ἐκ (Revelation 2:21 f., Revelation 16:11), in this particular case the necessary and correct connection (see previously on πολλ. τ. προημ. κ. μὴ μετανοησ.) is with πενθήσω, the ground of which it specifies: o2Co 12:Just so Aeschin. p. 84, 14; Plut. Agis, 17; Revelation 18:11; 1 Samuel 15:35; Ezra 10:6, al. Ἀκαθαρσία, here of licentious impurity, Romans 1:24; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19. Then: πορνεία, fornication in specie. Lastly: ἀσέλγεια, licentious wantonness and abandonment (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19; 2 Corinthians 12:21. μὴ πάλιν ἐλθόντος μου κ.τ.λ.: lest when I come, my God should humble me again before you, sc., because of the scanty fruit of his preaching (as had been the case on his second visit), and I should mourn for many (observe, not “all”) that have sinned heretofore, i.e., before my second visit, and did not repent, i.e., after my second visit (we thus retain the force of the aorist part; for μετανοέω see on 2 Corinthians 7:9, and for μετανοεῖν ἐπὶ cf. Joel 2:13, Amos 7:3), of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they committed. There is nothing in the anxiety here expressed which is inconsistent with the language of 2 Corinthians 7:9 ff. There he expresses his satisfaction that in the matter of the incestuous person the Corinthians had obeyed his directions; but their proneness to sins of the flesh he is fully alive to. See, e.g., 2 Corinthians 6:14, 2 Corinthians 7:1.21. among you] Or, with some interpreters, in reference to you. The literal translation is to you.

which have sinned already] Literally, those who have sinned before, i.e. either (1) before their conversion and who did not cast off their evil habits when they became Christians, or (2) those who sinned before the Apostle’s letter came, and who did not pay any attention to his rebukes. The latter seems to fall in best with the tenor of the first Epistle and with ch. 2, 7, and 2 Corinthians 10:1-6.

and have not repented] This makes it clear that, as 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 would imply, there were other offenders in the particular sin here mentioned beside the incestuous person. It also appears that the Apostle was willing to forgive such offenders as soon as they had abandoned their sin. For repentance see ch. 2 Corinthians 7:9. The literal rendering of his sentence is many of those who have sinned and did not repent. Many commentators have asked, Why many and not all? But they have overlooked the difference of tense in the original. There were many who had sinned, and who, up to the arrival of the second Epistle, had not repented. But it is quite clear that St Paul hoped that his second Epistle would have much influence upon those whom his first Epistle and the visit of Titus had failed to move.

lasciviousness] The term in the original has reference to the unnatural condition of restless excitement which licentious habits produce in their victim.2 Corinthians 12:21. Μὴ πάλιν, lest again) There is here an Anaphora,[89] lest haply, lest haply, lest [μὴ πωςμή πωςμή]. And indeed in this verse he speaks with greater severity.—ταπεινώσῃ, will humble) A Metonymy [Substitution] of the consequent [for the antecedent].—ὁ Θεός μον, my God) He by this expression gives the reason, why he considers acts committed against God, as appertaining to himself.—τῶν προημαρτηκότων) who have sinned before my last coming.—ἀκαθαρσίᾳ) the uncleanness; for example, of married persons: 1 Thessalonians 4:7.—πορνείᾳ, fornication) among the unmarried, ἀσελγείᾳ, lasciviousness) sins contrary to nature.

[89] See App. The frequent repetition of the same word in beginnings.Verse 21. - Humble me among you; rather, in my relation to you. Many which have sinned already, and have not repented; rather, who have sinned before and did not repent. Many had sinned (1 Corinthians 6:12-20); some only had repented.



Among you (πρὸς ὑμᾶς)

Better, as Rev., before. In my relation to you.

Shall bewail (πενθήσω)

Lament with a true pastor's sorrow over the sin.

Many (πολλοὺς)

With special reference to the unchaste.

Sinned - already (προημαρτηκότων)

Rev., heretofore. Only here and 2 Corinthians 13:2. The perfect tense denotes the continuance of the sin. Heretofore probably refers to the time before his second visit.

Have not repented (μὴ μετανοησάντων)

The only occurrence of the verb in Paul's writings. Μετάνοια repentance, occurs only three times: Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:9, 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Of the uncleanness (ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ)

Connect with bewail, not with repent. There are no examples in the New Testament of the phrase μετανοεῖν ἐπί to repent over, though such occur in the Septuagint.

Lasciviousness (ἀσελγείᾳ)

See on Mark 7:22.

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