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2 Corinthians 11:1-33

M.           Paul's Defense of his Apostolic Authority - 10:1-13:14

1.              Obedience and Discipline - 10:1-6

2.              Personal Obedience and Apostolic Commission - 10:7-18

3.              An Appeal for Acceptance - 11:1-6

[Note concerning Paul's aversion to boasting - In light of Paul's concluding observation in 10:17-18, how are we to explain his opening words in 11:1? See also 11:10,16-18; 12:1. Observe the following explanations:

"Paul is very conscious that it is no business of an apostle, or indeed of any Christian, to praise himself. Such self-commendation is only justified, in the present instance, because his affection for his converts is so great, that he will go to almost any length to prevent them from becoming dupes of unscrupulous men, and to keep them loyal to Christ" (Tasker).

"It is concern, loving anxious concern, for the spiritual welfare of those who are his children in Christ which moves him so strongly – so much so that he is prepared to appear to indulge in what he calls 'a little foolishness' by speaking about himself, in order to counteract the impact of the intruders who in their foolishness have been extolling themselves" (Hughes).

"It is not the genuine Paul who figures here; it is Paul playing a part to which he has been compelled against his will, acting in a character which is as remote as possible from his own. It is the character native and proper to the other side; and when Paul . . . assumes it, . . . he not only preserves his modesty and his self-respect, but lets his opponents see what he thinks of them. He plays the fool for the occasion, and of set purpose; they do it always, and without knowing it, like men to the manner born" (Denney).]

Another key to Paul's comments is the recurring vocabulary of "foolishness" in this passage (11:1,16[2],17,19,21,23; 12:6,11).

a.              the appeal - v. 1

There is an unmistakable twinge of sarcasm in Paul's words. Most likely Paul was accused by his opponents of being a "fool" whom the Corinthians must "bear with", i.e., humor or tolerate or put up with. In effect, Paul says, "'Since you Corinthians think I am an idiot anyway, there is nothing much to lose, is there? I am already the object of your patronizing contempt, so it is not much to ask you to tolerate a little more of poor old Paul's buffoonery'" (Clements, 175-76). But note well: this is not Paul trying to vindicate himself out of some petty concern for his own reputation. Paul does not "take on" the so-called "super-apostles" primarily because they were trying to undermine his influence or to defame him. They were proposing what Paul regards as a "different" Christianity, which he contends is no Christianity, hence no gospel, at all. The stakes are much higher here than merely one man's position in the community. Eternal destiny is the heart of the matter.

b.              the basis - vv. 2-6

1)             because of Paul's godly jealousy for the Corinthian believers - vv. 2-3

On the marriage metaphor, see Isa. 50:1; 54:1-6; Ezek. 16; Hosea 1-3; Eph. 5:22-23; Rev. 19:7; 21:2,9; 22:17. Paul envisions three stages in the marriage which speak of three stages in our salvation experience:

First, there is the betrothal = conversion.

Second, there is the engagement period = this present age, between the two advents of Jesus.

Third, there is the wedding = the second coming of Jesus (Rev. 19:7-9).

Paul is concerned lest they become spiritually promiscuous during the period of engagement. He envisions himself as "The Father of the Bride" (!) who longs to present the Corinthian church as a chaste virgin to her bridegroom, Jesus.

The symbolism of v. 3 must be noted: "Eve represents the church at Corinth and the serpent those 'ministers of Satan,' the 'superlative' apostles (v. 5), who have come preaching 'another Jesus,' to divert the Corinthians from the Christ to whom Paul had joined them" (Barnett, 501).

Note Paul's emphasis on the importance of the "mind". The simplicity and purity of their devotion or love for Christ issues from their minds! What one thinks about Jesus, how you understand or envision him, in a word, your Christology, is key to your Christian life and love.

Excursus on Divine Jealousy

Observe the translation of v. 2a - "For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy" (NASB). This could also be rendered, "I am jealous for you with God's own zeal," i.e., the zeal or jealousy comes from God himself: it is God's own jealousy that now fills Paul's heart.

"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me" (Ex. 20:4-5).

"For you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God . . ." (Ex. 34:14).

"Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel, in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy" (Num. 25:11).

"For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God" (Deut. 4:24).

"You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth" (Deut. 6:14-15; cf. 29:20)

"They made him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger" (Deut. 32:16; cf. 32:21).

"And He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located" (Ezek. 8:3).

"Therefore thus says the Lord God, 'Now I shall restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I shall be jealous for My holy name" (Ezek. 39:25).

"For they provoked Him with their high places, and aroused His jealousy with their graven images"(Ps. 78:58).

"Then Joshua said to the people, 'You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God . . ." (Joshua 24:19).

"Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?" (1 Cor. 10:22).

"For our God is a consuming fire (a jealous God)" (Hebrews 12:29).

"Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: 'The Spirit which He has made to dwell in us jealously desires [the full devotion of our hearts]" (James 4:5).

See also 1 Kings 14:22; Ezek. 16:38,42; 23:25; 36:5ff; 38:19; Joel 2:18; Nahum 1:2; Zeph. 1:18; 3:8; Zech. 1:14; 8:2; Ps. 79:5.

2)             because it is only fair, given how easily they accept his opponents - v. 4

What is meant by "another Jesus"? Barnett makes this comment: "That Paul calls him 'Jesus,' having twice referred to him in the previous two verses as 'Christ,' may be significant. In our view, it points to a preaching of Jesus the Nazarene, whose historic Jewish persona was being emphasized at the expense of his risen Lordship by the newly arrived 'Hebrew' missioners in Corinth (11:13,22-23a)" (505).

Many have come during the last 2,000 years preaching "another" or "different" gospel. For one modern example, see the appended article by A. W. Tozer.

What does "spirit" mean? Is this a demonic being, an attitude, an influence, a principle? And what does "receive" mean? Is it invasion and subsequent inhabitation, or perhaps tolerance, attentiveness, etc.' Most likely Paul is simply saying that the Corinthians were tolerating the presence and influence of false teachers who were energized by demons. It is unlikely he has in mind the notion of demonization.

3)             because Paul is not in the least inferior to those who claim to be "super-apostles" - vv. 5-6

The word translated "most eminent" or "super" apostles is literally, "over" or "very much." But in what way did they classify Paul as "inferior" to them? There were at minimum two claims they made: (1) their "superiority" as trained and eloquent speakers (11:6) and (2) their "superiority" in visions and revelations (12:1).

As for Paul's "weakness" or "inadequacy" in speech, he first alludes to it in 1 Cor. 2:1-5. Perhaps after the rhetorically gifted Apollos (Acts 18:24-28) had visited Corinth, the people there began to reflect negatively on Paul's shortcomings in that arena. Yet, Barnett points out that "it ought not be concluded that Paul was a poor speaker. That he was inferior to them (and Apollos?) does not logically require that he was without gifts in that respect. Paul's dialectic in this verse should not lead us to draw wrong conclusions. . . . [In] the context of Hellenistic rhetoric, it quite suits Paul to confess to being 'inferior' to the newcomers, a mere 'layman,' But it does not necessarily follow that Paul was an ill-equipped or ineffective preacher. . . . His verbal skills must have been, at the very least, adequate, and, quite possibly, considerable, even though he lacked the high professionalism of the trained rhetorician" (509-510).

4.              Paul's Critics: their charge and their character - 11:7-15

a.              their charge - vv. 7-12

Since teachers, philosophers, and orators in ancient times were expected to charge for their services in proportion to their skill and gifting, Paul's refusal to accept financial support from the Corinthians exposed him to the accusation of being a fraud. The intruders had put Paul in a no-win situation: if he refuses remuneration he betrays his own sense of inauthenticity, incompetence, and lack of authority; but if he receives remuneration it is because he is greedy and thus is guilty of peddling the gospel. Add to this the fact that manual labor, such as tent-making (Paul's chosen trade), was viewed by the Greeks with disdain. In order to appreciate Paul's response to this charge we must understand his personal financial policies.

·          Paul believed that he had a right to be supported by those to whom he ministered (1 Cor. 9:1-19; 3 John 5-8; Lk. 9:3-4; 10:4,7; Mt. 10:10; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18).

·          On occasion he accepted the financial support of churches he had established and to whom he ministered (2 Cor. 11:8-9; Phil. 4:10-15).

·          As a general rule, however, he would not accept support from the church to which he was then ministering (2 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8-12). In other words, he accepted the support of churches where he had ministered in the past. Why? (1) Paul probably did not want to be perceived as just one of many itinerant lecturers or philosophers so common in Greek culture of that day, nor did he want his message viewed as just one more competing philosophy. (2) Paul knew that the reputation of the gospel was, to a degree, dependent on his own integrity. Paul held a position in the first century not unlike that of Billy Graham in the twentieth. (3) He wanted to be absolutely free to preach the truth without exposing himself to the pressure of those with money. In this way, he could not be charged with fashioning his message according to the whims of the wealthy. (4) He wanted to set an example of the virtues of self-support and manual labor.

·          He actively solicited financial assistance for other Christians in need (2 Cor. 8-9; 1 Cor. 16:1-4).

·          Only rarely did Paul actively solicit financial assistance for himself (Rom. 15:24; Acts 15:3).

1)             Paul's policy among the Corinthians - vv. 7-9

a)             self-denial - vv. 7-8

1.              refusal to accept their money - v. 7

"If self-abasement is wrong in Paul, what shall be said about Jesus Christ himself?" (Carson, 96).

2.              robbery of other churches - v. 8

"The 'robbery' [note Paul's sarcasm; perhaps this is precisely what his enemies accused him of] consisted of his acceptance of their gifts at a time when he was not actually ministering in their midst, and when, accordingly, he could not expect maintenance from them as of right" (Hughes, 386).

b)             self-reliance - v. 9

2)             Paul's passion for the Corinthians - vv. 10-12

a)             his affection - vv. 10-11

b)             his aim - v. 12

Paul's opponents longed for the opportunity to boast that they had ministered in Corinth on the same terms as he. But as long as he refused money (something they would never do), such a desire would go unfulfilled, for they were financial parasites on the church.

b.              their character - vv. 13-15

1)             a masquerade of piety - v. 13

2)             an imitation of the evil one - vv. 14-15

In some sense, these men portrayed themselves as champions of "righteousness" to win recognition and favor in Corinth as "apostles of Christ." Their approach to "righteousness," however, was distinctly Mosaic, focusing on the old covenant (hence, Paul's comments in chp. 3 on the superior nature of the new covenant). "Since they proclaimed 'another Jesus . . . a different gospel,' it seems likely that they advocated a different 'righteousness,' a 'righteousness' arising out of the Mosaic law rather than from Messiah Jesus' reconciliatory death" (Barnett, 527).

See the appended material taken from Carson, 103-04.

5.              Triumphing over the Triumphalists - 11:16-33

a.              Paul's embarrassment - vv. 16-21

1)             the "foolishness" of the apostle - vv. 16-18

Paul is about to boast, not because he is following the example of Jesus, but because pastoral problems in Corinth have compelled him against his nature to follow the example of his enemies. In other words, this way of talking is not that of an apostle but a fool. Thus Paul here casts himself in the role of his opponents. What they do, he will do. If they boast "according to the flesh," i.e., appeal to worldly standards of "strength" and "success," so too will he. But it is all utter "foolishness" and he wants to be certain the Corinthians understand that.

2)             the "foolishness" of the Corinthians - vv. 19-21

These verses drip with sarcasm and irony. He lists the treatment they have received from his opponents:

·          enslaved (by their legalism; their domineering leadership is precisely what Paul refused to exercise; see 1:24)

·          devoured (perhaps financially)

·          taken advantage of (by deceit [v. 13]; this is an amplification of the first word, "enslaved")

·          they exalt themselves

·          hit in the face (figurative for humiliating treatment? or literal?)

Whatever the nature of these five actions, they are the antithesis of the humility and gentleness (10:1) required in a minister of the new covenant. Paul's sarcasm in v. 21 is biting: "Isn't it just horrible and shameful of me that I have refused to treat you as kindly and lovingly as they have!"

b.              Paul's experience - vv. 22-33

1)             his heritage - v. 22

a)             a Hebrew

b)             an Israelite

c)             a descendant of Abraham

2)             his hardships - vv. 23-33

[The following list of sufferings is Paul's exposition in practical terms of what it means to be led in God's "triumph" (2:14).]

a)             boasting of external affliction - vv. 23-27

1.              a servant of Christ

2.              labors (as a tent-maker)

3.              imprisonments (the only imprisonment of Paul recorded in Acts to this point is in Philippi [16:23-40]; thus we see that Acts is only a partial history of Paul and the early church)

4.              beaten numerous times

5.              often in danger of death

6.              five times he received the 39 lashes (cf. Dt. 25:1-5; blows were administered with a 3-strapped whip on both the chest [13 blows] and back [26]) - neither in Acts nor in Paul's other epistles does he refer to these floggings, once again an indication that much of Paul's ministry experience is not recorded for us

7.              three times he was beaten with rods (Acts 16:22-23; although a Roman citizen, such as Paul, should have been exempt from this treatment; there was no limit to the number of blows inflicted)

8.              once he was stoned (Acts 14:19)

9.              three times he was shipwrecked (Paul wrote this before the shipwreck recorded in Acts 27; thus he suffered at least four)

10.           on the sea, adrift

11.           frequent journeys

12.           in dangers from

a.              rivers

b.              robbers

c.              his countrymen, the Jews (Acts 9:23,29; 13:45; 14:2,19; 15:26; 17:5ff.; 18:1,12)

d.              Gentiles (Acts 14:19-20; 16:16-40; 19:23-41)

e.              in the city

f.               in the wilderness

g.              on the sea

h.              among false brethren (Judaizers)

13.           in labor and hardship

14.           often without sleep

15.           in hunger and thirst

16.           in cold, exposed

b)             boasting of emotional anguish - vv. 28-29

In addition to the external, physical sufferings of the previous verses, is the pressure of concern for the churches (this is the climax, and perhaps the worst part, of his trials; cf. 1 Thess. 3:1-10)

1.              he hurts when they are weak

2.              he grieves when they sin

Paul was a "pastor" in the true sense of that term: he took the pains of his sheep personally!

c)             boasting of weakness and shame - vv. 30-33

See Acts 9:23-25. Why does Paul include this here? Evidently he regards it as a shameful experience. It shattered what little pride he had left. He had entered the city as a hunter, but left it hunted. This high and mighty, educated and respected leader had to sneak out of Damascus like a common criminal. Perhaps also Paul is drawing a contrast between the shame of being "lowered down" here and the glory of being "caught up" which he will describe in chp. 12.