19 Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.
The point of verse 19 is that Paul wanted to disabuse the Corinthians of a possible misinterpretation of the defense of his apostleship. He did not deem himself on trial before them.
Paul’s point in this verse is that he was afraid that the Corinthians would add insult to injury by putting his team through humiliating accusations again.
do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? No
Just in case the Corinthians thought that the apostle’s self-defense was a sign of weakness, Paul wanted them to know that the justification of his apostleship was not self-preservation. His judge was God and no other (1 Co 4:3-4; 2 Co 5:10). He would not submit the team to be cross-examined by anyone; they had done nothing wrong.
We speak before [in the sight of] God in Christ.
Paul’s team’s integrity was more important to them than any person or group. They would not compromise themselves to any situation or group. It was God they pleased, not themselves. That is why they spoke before God (2 Co 2:17; 5:11; He 4:13). They did not yield themselves to the lower court of Corinthian opinion. In this, they became the prosecutors, not the defendants.
But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.
Paul’s team did everything for the edification [building up] of the Corinthian church. Their critique of the Corinthians was not meant to cut them down to size but to build and strengthen them as believers. That is the main goal for supporting Christians. The aim of 2 Corinthians was to build the church so that they could rectify their problems. As far as the team was concerned, the Corinthians were “beloved.” Their purpose was to build them up rather than tear them down.
We all will stand before God to account for what we have done.
God is the ultimate audience for faithfulness in ministry. That should be our primary concern (1 Co 4:3-5). One day we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to account for what we have done (2 Co 5:10). The best interests of the leader cannot be in the interest of prevailing opinions; it must be in what is in the best interest of God. Every ministry for the believer aims to edify him or her. Our primary concern is not what others think of our ministry but what God thinks of it.
At times defending self lends credibility to charges laid against us, as if we were guilty of the accusation. There was a point when Billy Graham refused to defend himself because it only fed his critics. Everything that a church leader does is to edify the church, not to tear it down.