1Our brothers and sisters, we want you to know what God's grace has accomplished in the churches in Macedonia. 2They have been severely tested by the troubles they went through; but their joy was so great that they were extremely generous in their giving, even though they are very poor. 3I can assure you that they gave as much as they could, and even more than they could. Of their own free will 4they begged us and pleaded for the privilege of having a part in helping God's people in Judea. 5It was more than we could have hoped for! First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God's will they gave themselves to us as well. 6So we urged Titus, who began this work, to continue it and help you complete this special service of love. 7You are so rich in all you have: in faith, speech, and knowledge, in your eagerness to help and in your love for us. And so we want you to be generous also in this service of love.
8I am not laying down any rules. But by showing how eager others are to help, I am trying to find out how real your own love is. 9You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; rich as he was, he made himself poor for your sake, in order to make you rich by means of his poverty.
10My opinion is that it is better for you to finish now what you began last year. You were the first, not only to act, but also to be willing to act. 11On with it, then, and finish the job! Be as eager to finish it as you were to plan it, and do it with what you now have. 12If you are eager to give, God will accept your gift on the basis of what you have to give, not on what you haven't.
13-14I am not trying to relieve others by putting a burden on you; but since you have plenty at this time, it is only fair that you should help those who are in need. Then, when you are in need and they have plenty, they will help you. In this way both are treated equally. 15As the scripture says, “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
Titus and his Companions
16How we thank God for making Titus as eager as we are to help you! 17Not only did he welcome our request; he was so eager to help that of his own free will he decided to go to you. 18With him we are sending the brother who is highly respected in all the churches for his work in preaching the gospel. 19And besides that, he has been chosen and appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this service of love for the sake of the Lord's glory, and in order to show that we want to help.
20We are taking care not to stir up any complaints about the way we handle this generous gift. 21Our purpose is to do what is right, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of others.
22So we are sending our brother with them; we have tested him many times and found him always very eager to help. And now that he has so much confidence in you, he is all the more eager to help. 23As for Titus, he is my partner and works with me to help you; as for the other brothers who are going with him, they represent the churches and bring glory to Christ. 24Show your love to them, so that all the churches will be sure of it and know that we are right in boasting about you.
1There is really no need for me to write to you about the help being sent to God's people in Judea. 2I know that you are willing to help, and I have boasted of you to the people in Macedonia. “The brothers and sisters in Achaia,” I said, “have been ready to help since last year.” Your eagerness has stirred up most of them. 3Now I am sending these brothers and sisters, so that our boasting about you in this matter may not turn out to be empty words. But, just as I said, you will be ready with your help. 4However, if the people from Macedonia should come with me and find out that you are not ready, how ashamed we would be — not to speak of your shame — for feeling so sure of you! 5So I thought it was necessary to urge these brothers and sisters to go to you ahead of me and get ready in advance the gift you promised to make. Then it will be ready when I arrive, and it will show that you give because you want to, not because you have to.
6Remember that the person who sows few seeds will have a small crop; the one who sows many seeds will have a large crop. 7You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly. 8And God is able to give you more than you need, so that you will always have all you need for yourselves and more than enough for every good cause. 9As the scripture says:
“He gives generously to the needy;
his kindness lasts for ever.”
10And God, who supplies seed to sow and bread to eat, will also supply you with all the seed you need and will make it grow and produce a rich harvest from your generosity. 11He will always make you rich enough to be generous at all times, so that many will thank God for your gifts which they receive from us. 12For this service you perform not only meets the needs of God's people, but also produces an outpouring of gratitude to God. 13And because of the proof which this service of yours brings, many will give glory to God for your loyalty to the gospel of Christ, which you profess, and for your generosity in sharing with them and everyone else. 14And so with deep affection they will pray for you because of the extraordinary grace God has shown you. 15Let us thank God for his priceless gift!
1I, Paul, make a personal appeal to you — I who am said to be meek and mild when I am with you, but harsh with you when I am away. By the gentleness and kindness of Christ 2I beg you not to force me to be harsh when I come; for I am sure I can deal harshly with those who say that we act from worldly motives. 3It is true that we live in the world, but we do not fight from worldly motives. 4The weapons we use in our fight are not the world's weapons but God's powerful weapons, which we use to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; 5we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 6And after you have proved your complete loyalty, we will be ready to punish any act of disloyalty.
7You are looking at the outward appearance of things. Is there someone there who reckons himself or herself to belong to Christ? Well, let them think again about themselves, because we belong to Christ just as much as they do. 8For I am not ashamed, even if I have boasted somewhat too much about the authority that the Lord has given us — authority to build you up, not to tear you down. 9I do not want it to appear that I am trying to frighten you with my letters. 10Someone will say, “Paul's letters are severe and strong, but when he is with us in person, he is weak, and his words are nothing!” 11Such a person must understand that there is no difference between what we write in our letters when we are away and what we will do when we are there with you.
12Of course we would not dare to classify ourselves or compare ourselves with those who rate themselves so highly. How stupid they are! They make up their own standards to measure themselves by, and they judge themselves by their own standards! 13As for us, however, our boasting will not go beyond certain limits; it will stay within the limits of the work which God has set for us, and this includes our work among you. 14And since you are within those limits, we were not going beyond them when we came to you, bringing the Good News about Christ. 15So we do not boast about the work that others have done beyond the limits God set for us. Instead, we hope that your faith may grow and that we may be able to do a much greater work among you, always within the limits that God has set. 16Then we can preach the Good News in other countries beyond you and shall not have to boast about work already done in someone else's field.
17But as the scripture says, “Whoever wants to boast must boast about what the Lord has done.” 18For it is people of whom the Lord thinks well who are really approved, not people who think well of themselves.
1I wish you would tolerate me, even when I am a bit foolish. Please do! 2I am jealous for you, just as God is; you are like a pure virgin whom I have promised in marriage to one man only, Christ himself. 3I am afraid that your minds will be corrupted and that you will abandon your full and pure devotion to Christ — in the same way that Eve was deceived by the snake's clever lies. 4For you gladly tolerate anyone who comes to you and preaches a different Jesus, not the one we preached; and you accept a spirit and a gospel completely different from the Spirit and the gospel you received from us!
5I do not think that I am the least bit inferior to those very special so-called “apostles” of yours! 6Perhaps I am an amateur in speaking, but certainly not in knowledge; we have made this clear to you at all times and in all conditions.
7I did not charge you a thing when I preached the Good News of God to you; I humbled myself in order to make you important. Was that wrong of me? 8While I was working among you, I was paid by other churches. I was robbing them, so to speak, in order to help you. 9And during the time I was with you I did not bother you for help when I needed money; the brothers and sisters who came from Macedonia brought me everything I needed. As in the past, so in the future: I will never be a burden to you! 10By Christ's truth in me, I promise that this boast of mine will not be silenced anywhere in all Achaia. 11Do I say this because I don't love you? God knows I love you!
12I will go on doing what I am doing now, in order to keep those other “apostles” from having any reason for boasting and saying that they work in the same way that we do. 13Those men are not true apostles — they are false apostles, who lie about their work and disguise themselves to look like real apostles of Christ. 14Well, no wonder! Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light! 15So it is no great thing if his servants disguise themselves to look like servants of righteousness. In the end they will get exactly what their actions deserve.
Paul's Sufferings as an Apostle
16I repeat: no one should think that I am a fool. But if you do, at least accept me as a fool, so that I will have a little to boast of. 17Of course what I am saying now is not what the Lord would like me to say; in this matter of boasting I am really talking like a fool. 18But since there are so many who boast for merely human reasons, I will do the same. 19You yourselves are so wise, and so you gladly tolerate fools! 20You tolerate anyone who orders you about or takes advantage of you or traps you or looks down on you or slaps you in the face. 21I am ashamed to admit that we were too timid to do those things!
But if anyone dares to boast about something — I am talking like a fool — I will be just as daring. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. 23Are they Christ's servants? I sound like a madman — but I am a better servant than they are! I have worked much harder, I have been in prison more times, I have been whipped much more, and I have been near death more often. 24Five times I was given the 39 lashes by the Jews; 25three times I was whipped by the Romans; and once I was stoned. I have been in three shipwrecks, and once I spent 24 hours in the water. 26In my many travels I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from fellow-Jews and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends. 27There has been work and toil; often I have gone without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty; I have often been without enough food, shelter, or clothing. 28And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29When someone is weak, then I feel weak too; when someone is led into sin, I am filled with distress.
30If I must boast, I will boast about things that show how weak I am. 31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus — blessed be his name for ever! — knows that I am not lying. 32When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas placed guards at the city gates to arrest me. 33But I was let down in a basket through an opening in the wall and escaped from him.
1I have to boast, even though it doesn't do any good. But I will now talk about visions and revelations given me by the Lord. 2I know a certain Christian man who fourteen years ago was snatched up to the highest heaven (I do not know whether this actually happened or whether he had a vision — only God knows). 3-4I repeat, I know that this man was snatched to Paradise (again, I do not know whether this actually happened or whether it was a vision — only God knows), and there he heard things which cannot be put into words, things that human lips may not speak. 5So I will boast about this man — but I will not boast about myself, except the things that show how weak I am. 6If I wanted to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will not boast, because I do not want anyone to have a higher opinion of me than he has as a result of what he has seen me do and heard me say.
7But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan's messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me. 10I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul's Concern for the Corinthians
11I am acting like a fool — but you have made me do it. You are the ones who ought to show your approval of me. For even if I am nothing, I am in no way inferior to those very special “apostles” of yours. 12The many miracles and wonders that prove that I am an apostle were performed among you with much patience. 13How were you treated any worse than the other churches, except that I did not bother you for financial help? Please forgive me for being so unfair!
14This is now the third time that I am ready to come to visit you — and I will not make any demands on you. It is you I want, not your money. After all, children should not have to provide for their parents, but parents should provide for their children. 15I will be glad to spend all I have, and myself as well, in order to help you. Will you love me less because I love you so much?
16You will agree, then, that I was not a burden to you. But someone will say that I was crafty, and trapped you with lies. 17How? Did I take advantage of you through any of the messengers I sent? 18I begged Titus to go, and I sent the other Christian brother with him. Would you say that Titus took advantage of you? Do he and I not act from the very same motives and behave in the same way?
19Perhaps you think that all along we have been trying to defend ourselves before you. No! We speak as Christ would wish us to speak in the presence of God, and everything we do, dear friends, is done to help you. 20I am afraid that when I get there I will find you different from what I would like you to be and you will find me different from what you would like me to be. I am afraid that I will find quarrelling and jealousy, hot tempers and selfishness, insults and gossip, pride and disorder. 21I am afraid that the next time I come my God will humiliate me in your presence, and I shall weep over many who sinned in the past and have not repented of the immoral things they have done — their lust and their sexual sins.
1This is now the third time that I am coming to visit you. “Any accusation must be upheld by the evidence of two or more witnesses” — as the scripture says. 2I want to say to those of you who have sinned in the past, and to all the others; I said it before during my second visit to you, but I will say it again now that I am away: the next time I come nobody will escape punishment. 3You will have all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me. When he deals with you, he is not weak; instead, he shows his power among you. 4For even though it was in weakness that he was put to death on the cross, it is by God's power that he lives. In union with him we also are weak; but in our relations with you we shall share God's power in his life.
5Put yourselves to the test and judge yourselves, to find out whether you are living in faith. Surely you know that Christ Jesus is in you? — unless you have completely failed. 6I trust you will know that we are not failures. 7We pray to God that you will do no wrong — not in order to show that we are a success, but so that you may do what is right, even though we may seem to be failures. 8For we cannot do a thing against the truth, but only for it. 9We are glad when we are weak but you are strong. And so we also pray that you will become perfect. 10That is why I write this while I am away from you; it is so that when I arrive I will not have to deal harshly with you in using the authority that the Lord has given me — authority to build you up, not to tear you down.
11And now, my brothers and sisters, goodbye! Strive for perfection; listen to my appeals; agree with one another; live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
12Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All God's people send you their greetings.
13The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.