Despite the claims of many detractors in Corinth, Paul’s integrity as an Apostle was really beyond all doubt. Paul says as much in 2 Corinthians 5:11, where he argues that his evangelistic ministry was motivated by a holy fear of the Lord and nothing else, not even a desire to advance himself. Moreover, the same verse indicates that the Apostle had good reason to believe that the Corinthian church, or at least many in the Corinthian church, would be able to see the clear evidence of Paul’s Apostolic call and would regard him as the Lord did—namely, as a true Apostle.
In saying these things about his ministry, however, Paul ran the risk of being accused yet again for commending himself to others. Remember that Paul’s opponents in Corinth alleged that he was a self-promoter interested in advancing himself, not the gospel (3:1). For him to say anything good about his ministry might lend credence to that charge. Thus, the Apostle makes clear in today’s passage that his intent in describing the positive aspects of his ministry was not to commend himself. Instead, he wanted to give the Corinthians something that they could say to Paul’s opponents when they accused him of self-promotion (5:12). When the enemies of the Apostle were attacking him for his suffering and poor outward appearance, stating that these things demonstrated that he was not truly sent by God, the Corinthians could then say: “No, you are in error. Paul has plainly been called as an Apostle of Jesus Christ because he tirelessly seeks to convince people that Jesus is the Savior. He is motivated by a heart that loves God, which demonstrates the truth of his calling.”
The second verse we are looking at today, 2 Corinthians 5:13, is very difficult to interpret. After denying that he was acting in self-interest in verse 12, Paul seems to be saying that whether people think of him as acting irrationally or rationally in his ministry, he was in no way motivated by a desire to make his own name great. In other words, no matter how one evaluated his actions, he had a pure motivation to serve God and advance the Lord’s kingdom. What exactly Paul means by “beside ourselves” and “in our right mind,” however, is not clear. Likely he is referring in the first case to an ecstatic experience such as speaking in tongues and in the second case to the clear, intelligible presentation of the gospel. In both cases, Paul was motivated to serve the Lord and love his neighbor, not to advance his own self-interest.