What does 2 Corinthians 1:12 mean?
ESV: For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
NIV: Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God's grace.
NASB: For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.
CSB: Indeed, this is our boast: The testimony of our conscience is that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with godly sincerity and purity, not by human wisdom but by God's grace.
NLT: We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.
KJV: For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
From the context of this letter, it seems Paul's value as an apostle, his integrity, and his approach to ministry were all under attack in Corinth. At the very least, some in the church were challenging him. This might have come at the prompting of other teachers that had come in among them and gained their favor.
Paul has already addressed one concern of the people: that someone who is truly an apostle of Jesus should not experience so much suffering (2 Corinthians 1:8–11). He has shown that the opposite is true. Now he begins to defend his integrity.
In the typical context, boasting is presented as sinful or foolish in the New Testament, since the term most often means a person bragging about their own positive traits. Paul taught that boasting in one's own abilities and achievements was wrong (1 Corinthians 1:29; 4:7; Ephesians 2:9). Paul did, however, "boast" in what the Lord had done, including in what the Lord had done through him (Romans 15:17; 1 Corinthians 1:31). Here he declares his only boast: that by God's grace his conscience confirms his right conduct. Paul and his co-workers have behaved with "simplicity," meaning with integrity, openness, and honesty, and not according to the standards of worldly wisdom.
Paul adds that he and his team have behaved in this honorable way, by God's grace, especially with the Corinthians. That does not mean Paul cut corners on integrity with other people. Rather, it suggests that because of the sometimes confrontational nature of his relationship with the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:10–17), he has been careful to avoid even the hint of inappropriate behavior.
Second Corinthians 1:12–24 contains a defense against accusations. Apparently, some claimed Paul had acted without integrity, openness, or commitment to his stated plans to visit the Corinthians. Those were referenced near the end of his letter of 1 Corinthians. Paul insists that, especially with them, he and his co-workers have behaved with simple integrity and transparency, as well as sincerity. His change in plans has not been a case of frivolously saying ''yes and no'' to them at the same time. He has responded to the leading of the Holy Spirit and delayed his most recent visit for their own good.
Paul begins another letter to the Corinthians following a series of tumultuous events with them. He begins by praising God for His comfort to those who are in affliction, connecting Christian suffering to the sufferings of Christ. Paul insists that his suffering and the comfort he has received from God have been for the Corinthians' benefit. He defends both his integrity and sincerity in dealing with them and explains that he delayed his planned trip to visit them again for their sake.
Second Corinthians 1 follows about a year after the end of 1 Corinthians, and much has happened between the two letters. Paul has had a painful visit with the Corinthians before traveling to Macedonia, where he wrote a painful letter. The text of which has not been kept. He writes this new letter from Macedonia, as well, after learning about a positive change of heart on their behalf. Paul begins by praising God for His comfort for those who are afflicted and defending himself against several complaints from some in the church.
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
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