111I 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. 3
I 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. 9
And 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.
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. 23
Are 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. 24
Five times I was given the 39 lashes by the Jews; 25
three 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. 26
In 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. 32
When 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.
121I 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.
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.
This 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.