What does 2 Corinthians 5:12 mean?
ESV: We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.
NIV: We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.
NASB: We are not commending ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart.
CSB: We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to be proud of us, so that you may have a reply for those who take pride in outward appearance rather than in the heart.
NLT: Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart.
KJV: For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.
Verse Commentary:
This returns to the issue of those in Corinth who opposed Paul and his co-workers. Critics seem to have been challenging his legitimacy as an apostle of Jesus, perhaps even suggesting that he was being deceptive. Paul insists here that the purpose of his letter is not to re-state the case for himself to the Corinthians. He doesn't feel the need to re-prove his credentials to them. He wrote in the previous verse that he hoped they knew, from experience, that he was a genuine apostle (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Instead of trying to start from scratch with them, Paul has been describing his outlook and his motives. His hope is to remind the Corinthians of his unique role as representing Christ to them. He wants them to boast about him and his co-workers in this sense: Christ cared about us so deeply that He sent Paul to tell us how to receive eternal life through faith in Christ!

Those opposed to Paul among the Corinthians were focused on outward appearances. This may imply they were Jewish religious leaders insisting that the Corinthians "look good" by following the law of Moses. Or it may mean they were describing the outer appearance of Paul's life as one of public defeat instead of public victory. This criticism would strike at the fact that Paul spent so much time suffering and under threat of violence.

Paul wants the believers in Corinth to be able to answer those opposed to him. He wants them to be able to tell Paul's detractors that it is not the outer appearance that matters, but it is what is going on in a person's heart that is truly important. This echoes God's words to the prophet Samuel about choosing a new king for Israel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
Verse Context:
Second Corinthians 5:11–21 describes an appeal to those in Corinth who know Paul. It's important they understand he is not crazy for continuing to preach the gospel, even though it leads to so much suffering for him. Christ's love compels Paul to continue to tell all people that they be reconciled to God through faith in Christ, just as he was. In Christ, God is not counting people's sins against them, but instead giving them credit for Christ's righteous life. As Christ's ambassador, Paul begged all people to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ.
Chapter Summary:
Why does Paul endure so much suffering for preaching about Christ? He continues here his discussion of eternity, comparing our earthly bodies to living in a tent. Paul would rather live in the eternal body God has prepared for those who trust in Christ, free from the groaning and burden that afflicts everyone here. With that to look forward to, he preaches with courage that all in Christ are new creations. In Christ, God is reconciling people to Himself, not counting their sin against them. Paul implores everyone to be reconciled to God in this way through faith in Christ.
Chapter Context:
Second Corinthians 5 follows Paul's confident declarations in the previous chapter. His suffering, though severe, is only a light, momentary affliction preparing him for eternal glory beyond all comparison. He would rather occupy his eternal body, which gives him the courage to continue his mission to preach the gospel that God is reconciling people to Himself, forgiving their sin, through faith in Christ. Those in Christ become a new creation. He concludes by imploring all to be reconciled to God, which he continues to do in the following chapter.
Book Summary:
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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