Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 11

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Destruction from Within the Church

Paul’s Defense of Himself Against the Judaizing False Teachers

Beginning especially in chapter eleven, the Apostle Paul harshly criticizes his adversaries in the church at Corinth. He speaks so harshly because of all the false accusations made against him. The Judaizers have forced Paul into a disagreement that is unpleasant to him and that he calls foolishness; yet his harsh statements are necessary. He is powerfully defending his actions and his teachings, even though it is somewhat awkward for him. He would much more prefer to speak of the accomplishments of others than himself. His attitude is noticeably different in these writings because he is writing to unrepentant Christians in contrast to his words in chapters one through nine where he expresses his sincere love for faithful Christians.

Verse 1

Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.

Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: The disparaging words the false teachers in Corinth have spoken against Paul make it necessary for him to defend his apostolic work, both himself and the gospel he preaches. He begins by prayerfully pleading with these unrepentant Christians to change and "bear" (anechomai) with him, that is, he pleads with them to "tolerate" (Bratcher 114) him or "endure" (Strong 430) with him in what they claim is Paul’s folly.

Paul now craves the indulgence of the Corinthians while he speaks at some length concerning himself. It is not self- esteem that causes him to do so, but the menace to the Corinthian believers of those who, claiming a spurious authority and inflated with self-importance, have intruded themselves and their erroneous teachings into the sphere of his apostolic jurisdiction (Hughes 372).

Paul asks his adversaries to allow him to speak about his own accomplishments as an apostle of Jesus. The word "folly" (aphrosune) means "foolishness (or) lack of sense" (Strong 877). Paul is not acting foolishly, and his claim of being an apostle of Jesus is not foolish. Paul speaks sarcastically in referring to things that are not foolish but things his enemies call illogical. The specific foolishness is about his apostleship and about his rejoicing over his teaching about Jesus Christ that will guide people to the forgiveness of their sins.

and indeed bear with me: Paul considers his actions unpleasant, that is, he honestly does not enjoy speaking of his own accomplishments. He appears to have been forced "to adopt their tactics, descend to the foolishness of boasting, and thus overcome them on their own ground" (McGarvey 226). This imperative statement to "bear with me" is emphasizing Paul’s plea for these Christians to indulge him and consider his teaching a little longer; he is asking them to remember the love they had for him when he lived among them in Corinth. Furthermore, he assures them that if they will put up with him and consider seriously his message about Jesus, they will understand that his teaching is true. Simply put, Paul is praying they will not close their ears to the truth; rather, he asks them to oblige him in this matter. If they will do so, they will come to understand that his message is not to exalt himself but to benefit them. Paul will emphasize this same message again later in this letter: "Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying" (12:19).

Verse 2

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: Paul figuratively depicts himself as a father arranging the marriage for his daughter. He says he is "jealous…with godly jealousy." The word "jealous" (zeloo) means "zealous," that is, to "have an intense concern" for (Bratcher 115), and "jealousy" (zelos) means "zeal" and generally is used in a negative way, referring to being envious; however, there is a sense in which "jealousy" is a good trait. Bratcher gives the example of how the word "jealousy" is used in a positive way, saying, "She is jealous for her reputation" (115). The type of jealousy, in reference to God, is not a sinful jealousy of undeserving desire, but the type of jealousy illustrating concern for the faithfulness of Christians to the church.

In this verse, Paul specifically speaks of his own "jealousy," but he clarifies that he is not envious; he is not jealous over what another person has, but his is a godly "jealousy" or godly zeal. His jealousy is just like the jealousy that God has; therefore, he has the same concern for their spiritual condition that God has. The scriptures give these examples of God’s jealousy:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me (Exodus 20:4-5).

for I have espoused you to one husband: Paul pictures himself figuratively as the father of a daughter who is to be married and says he "espoused" her (representing the Corinthians as his work—his converts—when he introduced them to Jesus and His message). As a result, they became members of the church— the bride of Christ. Paul has used the same type of illustration when he called himself the father of Christians in a previous letter: "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15).

The word "espoused" (harmozo) refers to a formal marriage agreement and is defined as "to join … to give one in marriage" (Thayer 74). Therefore, the ones Paul "espoused" (gave in marriage) are the Christian converts in Corinth; he gave them "to one husband," the "husband" representing "Jesus." When the Corinthian Christians are baptized into Christ, they are pictured as being married to Christ, the one husband. By stating there is "one" husband, Paul emphasizes that all believers in Jesus Christ are expected to be loyal and faithful to Him exclusively just as every marriage relationship is expected to be exclusive.

Unfortunately, a few of these Christians have not remained faithful to Jesus—they have left their "husband" (Jesus). Since Jesus is the one and only husband and the church is the bride, she must remain faithful and devoted to Him. Paul is jealous that she is in danger of defecting from God.

that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ: Paul’s plea for the Corinthian Christians to remain faithful to Christ is illustrated as he (the father) presents his daughter (Christians) to her one husband (Christ) as a "chaste virgin." The word "chaste" (hagnos) means "pure" (Strong 53) and "virgin" (parthenos) "by implication, (is the) unmarried daughter" (Strong 3933). Paul presents the Corinthians to Christ as a pure and chaste bride, and they must remain faithful to Him in order to maintain that relationship. If a Christian does not remain faithful to Christ, he or she commits spiritual adultery against her one husband, Christ. "Paul is emphasizing that Christ is the one man to whom the bride, the church at Corinth, has been promised in marriage; and she must remain faithful to him alone" (Bratcher 115).

Verse 3

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty: The Apostle Paul uses the example of Eve’s sin, as recorded in Genesis, as an illustration of what he is fervently attempting to avoid in the unrepentant Christians’ lives. The "serpent" (ophis), (Paul evidently has the devil in mind) is "an artful malicious person" (Strong 3789). He "beguiled" (exapatao) Eve, meaning the devil "deceive(d)" (Thayer 221) Eve by his "subtilty" (panougia); Eve was led away into sin by "cunning, craftiness, trickery" (BAG 613).

so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ: Paul obviously is concerned that a few Corinthian Christians are in grave danger of being misled through trickery. The word "minds" (noema) means "thoughts" (Strong 3540); false teachers have caused them to "be led astray" (BAG 865).

The thing that the apostle would guard with jealous care, is the singleness and purity of their thoughts toward Christ; and he sees in the Judaizing teachers as dangerous an enemy of this loyalty as the serpent was in Eden (Gould 208).

Just as Eve was faithful to God before Satan deceived her, the Corinthian Christians were faithful to God until false teachers deceived them. Sadly, their defiled thoughts have led them away "from the simplicity that is in Christ." The word "simplicity" (haplotes) refers to one’s "sincere devotion to Christ" (BAG 85). As taught by Paul, the Corinthian Christians were converted to Jesus. They accepted the fact that through Jesus they will be given eternal life because He sacrificed His life for the sins of every person; however, through the trickery, Satan led some Christians away from Jesus and His gospel. They were tricked into believing that Paul was not a true apostle of Christ and that his messages were not to be accepted because he was untrustworthy. Once they were deceived and doubted God’s word, as preached by Paul, they left the church and Jesus. Lipscomb is clear in his explanation about the connections between Satan and false teachers:

Satan operates through his word, institutions, and appointments to accomplish his work. Every rebel against God is a minister of Satan; every word of opprobrium, reproach, or disparagement of the church of Christ; every discouraging word spoken, or influence exerted against faithful obedience to the gospel in its spirit and precepts, is the devil working and speaking through his ministers… Whoever comes into the church of God, and with fair promises leads men away from a strict loyalty to God and his word to things not taught, is used by the evil one to corrupt their minds from the simplicity of the truth revealed in Christ (138).

Verse 4

For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

For if he that cometh: Paul sets up some "conditional" clauses at this point. "If" implies that what he is going to say did not happen: if it had, Paul would not be able to present the contrasts he does in this verse. The expression "he that cometh" refers to the false teachers who have come into the congregation at Corinth. Connecting this clause at the beginning with the closing clause "ye might well bear with him," Paul tells the Corinthians that "if" these things had happened, they might have been more easily led astray. Since the false teachers did not, in truth, teach any of these points, Paul is amazed that the Corinthians have been so easily influenced.

preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached: The word "preacheth" (kerusso) means "proclaim(ed)" (Strong 2784). This part of the verse sets up the first conditional point of teaching that did not take place: "If" the false teachers had preached another Jesus, it might have been reasonable to assume that the Corinthians could have been influenced to follow them. Paul preached the true Jesus to them, and they accepted his teaching that culminated in their obedience to the gospel. The false teachers have claimed to preach the same Jesus without pointing out that their doctrine was different from what Paul had preached.

Paul refers to this same kind of false teaching in his letter to the churches of Galatia: "Though we (apostles), or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8).

As well, the Apostle John recognizes the dangers of Christians’ listening to those who teach a different doctrine, and he gives this firm command in his second epistle:

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: (2 John 1:9-10).

or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received: This second conditional clause has to do with their receiving "another spirit" (pneuma), meaning the message has come from another "mind" (Strong 4151). Any other message than the one Paul preached did not come from the Holy Spirit but from "another spirit." The message Paul taught the Corinthians when he lived among them did not come from his mind, thoughts, or beliefs but, in fact, from the Holy Spirit. The false teachers led the Corinthians to believe their messages were from that same "spirit," even though they changed at least some of the content.

or another gospel, which ye have not accepted: The third conditional clause has to do with their accepting "another gospel." The word "gospel" (euaggelion) generally means "a good message" (Strong 2098), referring to the message of Jesus Christ as preached by Paul. That "gospel" reveals that obedience to Jesus’ message provides salvation from sins. The false teachers evidently have claimed their "gospel" to be the same as Paul had taught them when, in fact, it was "another gospel," meaning it was "of another sort, i.e. different from the true doctrine concerning Christian faith" (Thayer 257).

What happened in Corinth is no different from what has happened around the world since the Christian Age began. Men, who claim to be from Christ and claim to be preaching the same gospel message found in the New Testament, have changed the message. It sounds like the simple message of Jesus, and it has some of the same points as the original message; but false teachers have made additions, subtractions, or alterations to it, thus mixing the gospel of Jesus with the ideas of men. It then has become "another gospel."

The Corinthians are actually in this kind of situation. They believe in God, they believe in Jesus, they believe in the message that Jesus died for their sins, they believe that Jesus established the church; however, they have listened to some who have

deceptively altered the message. As well, the false teachers have denied that Paul was a true apostle and that Jesus sent him to teach His doctrine. Even though they believe most things of the Christian religion, they have listened to "another gospel" by rejecting a part of the message Paul taught them.

ye might well bear with him: This clause is the culmination of the conditional clauses Paul has set up in this verse. The "him" in this clause refers to "he that cometh" at the beginning of the verse. "If" the false teachers had come to the Corinthians openly preaching another Jesus, promoting another "spirit," or teaching "another gospel," Paul could have more easily understood their accepting their teaching. But that is not what happened. The false teachers came teaching different messages, even though they claimed to be teaching the same messages Paul taught them; thus, Paul was perplexed. The false teachers altered the messages to suit their own ideas and discredited Paul by claiming Jesus had not sent him; yet they claimed to be teaching the same things. The question that seems to be in Paul’s mind is, "How could you?"

As well, this verse ties back to verse 1 of this chapter where Paul pleads with the Corinthians to "bear with" him in his "folly" of using the means at his disposal to convince them that he is indeed a true apostle and that, consequently, his message truly does come from Jesus. If it does, they should listen to him and not to the false teachers. The "folly" is his having to compliment himself as proof of his apostleship. He says he would much prefer complimenting others, but they must bear with him because of the situation created by the false teachers.

Paul’s emphasis is that a Christian is required to accept all of the inspired scriptures and not just part of them. His true desire is for these unrepentant Christians to repent and return to Jesus and bear with his teaching and not the teaching of the false teachers; but, if they do not accept all that he taught, he says they may as well not accept any. James teaches the same message:

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law (James 2:10-11).

Doug Edwards explains this passage well: "James is telling the readers that while they may be obeying Christ perfectly in every other area, partiality makes them guilty of lawbreakers" (93).

Verse 5

For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.

The word "whit" (medeis) means "in no way" (BAG 520). Sarcastically, therefore, Paul refers to the false apostles as "chiefest" (lian) apostles meaning that Paul in no way believes he is less than the "great(est)" (Strong 3029) of the false apostles. The Today’s English Version translates this verse clearly saying: "I do not think that I am the least bit inferior to those very special so-called apostles of yours."

Paul shows his humility in this and the following verse; however, his purpose is not to explain his humility; rather, he wants to emphasize the great message of Jesus that he teaches. He is not boasting about being a great person or even a great apostle; yet, at the same time, he explains that since he was called by God to be a true apostle, he is not "a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." The "apostles" Paul speaks of are not the authentic twelve apostles called by Jesus, but instead "apostles" here refers to the "false apostles" Paul mentions in verse 13.

McGarvey is one of many writers who agree with this view:

I can not think that you receive these rival teachers and professed apostles as so much superior to me, for I am not behind these super-apostolic apostles. Paul is not here comparing himself with the twelve, but with these spurious apostles at Corinth. Paul reveals his emotion by the use of that strange word which is translated "very chiefest." It would have never applied to the twelve. It is as though he said, Though these men claim to be apostles a hundred times over, yet I can certainly take my place in the front ranks with them (226).

Coffman clearly explains his belief that the words "chiefest apostles" refer to the false apostles:

For ages, this has been construed as a reference to the Twelve, especially to Peter, James and John, the inner circle of that sacred group; but the true meaning, as advocated by McGarvey, Kelcy and many others, appears to be that "chiefest apostles" is Paul’s designation of the false apostles who were troubling Corinth. … we shall construe "chiefest apostles" as a term of derogation applied sarcastically by Paul to the false teachers (457 and 458).

Hughes states that the commentators of earlier centuries could have possibly been correct in believing Paul may have been speaking of the true apostles and that such should not have been ruled out; however, his conclusion is quite different:

The thrust of Paul’s thought is: "You bear well enough with an intruder such as I have just described (v. 4); then I ask you at least to bear with me (v.1), for I reckon that I am in no way inferior to super-apostles of his kind." We concur with the opinion of most modern commentators that Paul is not referring to the authentic apostles, but to the impostors who had invaded his Corinthian territory falsely claiming to be apostles of Christ (v. 13). To have heard them commend themselves, one would have thought that these "comers" (v. 4) were something even grander than apostles. Paul’s description of them here is vibrant with sarcasm: they are, if one believes all that they say about themselves, "extra-super-apostles." The verses that follow show how well he comes out of a comparison with them and their practices (378-379).

Verse 6

But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.

But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge: Paul acknowledges his lack of eloquence in speaking when he says, "rude in speech." The word "rude" (idiotes) means "unskilled in speaking" (BAG 371), meaning he is "a poor orator" (Bratcher 117). Even though he says he is a poor speaker, he emphasizes his most important characteristic—he is not poor in "knowledge" (gnosis), meaning he has "perfection of knowledge" (BAG 163) about the gospel of Jesus Christ—he has apostolic knowledge.

but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things: The Corinthian Christians know Paul’s knowledge of the gospel is profound. His ability to make the gospel plain in the sight of all men was "throughly made manifest," meaning it was manifested "in every way" (BAG 860); and he knew his knowledge did not come from himself or from man but from Jesus. In writing to the Christians in Galatia about his knowledge of the gospel, he says, "I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:12). Paul emphasizes this fact again:

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words; Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Ephesians 3:2-5).

Verse 7

Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted: Paul spends a lot of time proving that he has not accepted financial funds from the Corinthians. As an apostle, Paul certainly had the right to receive financial compensation for his preaching. He explains this fact in detail in a previous letter:

Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:6-18).

He proves this fact again in this context by asking questions to make the Corinthians think logically for themselves. He asks two sarcastic questions: "Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted?" and "Have I committed an offence…because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?" The word "offence" (hamartia) means to "commit a sin" (BAG 42). Paul’s first sarcastic question deals with the idea of degrading himself by being willing to work for his provisions. For example, Paul’s rhetorical question is: Do you believe I have sinned in "abasing" (tapeinoo) myself, meaning, Have I sinned because I "did not hesitate to work with (my) hands" (BAG 812).

The obvious answer to this question would be, "No, I did not sin by working with my hands." Paul’s doing physical work in order to provide spiritual necessities for the Corinthians makes it appear that he is inferior. He worked physically so that the Corinthians might be "exalted" (hupsoo), meaning that the Corinthians might receive an "enhancement in honor, fame, position, power" (BAG 858).

because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely: The word "freely" (dorean) in this context means to "give without payment" (BAG 209); therefore, Paul’s second rhetorical question is, Have I sinned in preaching the gospel to the Corinthians without payment? Again, the obvious answer is, "No." Both rhetorical questions are asked for the purpose of showing that his refusal to accept financial support from the Corinthians was done to show humility.

Verse 8

I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.

The word "robbed" is not used negatively here. In this context the word "robbed" (sulao) shows that Paul "obtained the money that enabled (him) to serve (the Corinthian congregation) free of charge" (BAG 784). As proved in the previous verses, Paul did not accept money from the Corinthians; however, he did accept "wages" (opsonion) from others; he was "accepting support so that (he) might serve" (BAG 607) the Corinthian church. Paul did not take money from other congregations against their will; thus, he did not "rob" them in a negative sense. Instead, they freely deprived themselves in order to assist Paul’s work in other areas, such as in Corinth.

Verse 9

And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.

And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: While living in Corinth, there were times when Paul suffered financially because he did not receive monetary help from the church in Corinth. He reached a point where he "wanted." The word "wanted" (hustereo) means "be in need of" (BAG 856); that is, he reached a point that he was in need of money to purchase necessary daily supplies.

Paul believed receiving money from Corinth would compromise his work and reputation. His adversaries tried to force him to receive compensation so they could cause him to lose influence, claiming he was preaching for money. They were, however, disappointed in this endeavor because he continued preaching to them but "was chargeable to no man." Being "chargeable" (katanarkao) to no man means he was not a "burden" (BAG 415) to the Corinthian church. In such times, his needs were often relieved by Christians in other areas, such as Macedonia and specifically from the church in Philippi, for they were known to send him aid while working in different areas such as Thessalonica. They wanted to make sure he did not go lacking beyond what was necessary. The word "lacking" (husterema) means Paul was actually in "poverty" (Strong 5303) at times, and he had to have help from others as he mentions in other writings:

Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity (Philippians 4:15-16).

and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself: Paul emphasizes again his determination that he will keep himself free from being a burden on the Corinthian church.

Verse 10

As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.

As the truth of Christ is in me: The words "the truth of Christ" indicates it is a noted fact that "what Christ was, said, and did was always true" (Bratcher 119). The phrase "as the truth of Christ is in me" is actually used in the form of a pledge. Paul’s message is that just as Christ always spoke the truth, Paul himself must be recognized as being "in conformity with the example of absolute truthfulness set by Christ" (Hughes 389). Paul looks to Christ as being the "truth" (aletheia), meaning Christ is in "control" (Thayer 26).

no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia: Paul’s emphasis is that he always can be depended upon to speak the truth and of such a fact "no one can deny it" (Bratcher 119); therefore, no one can stop his "boasting" (kauchesis), meaning no one can stop his "rejoicing" (Strong 2746) or his "act of glorying" (Thayer 342) in being truthful.

Verse 11

Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.

Paul’s refusal to accept payment from Corinth could easily be misunderstood. Some may say that Paul believes the Corinthian Christians were simply ungrateful or unappreciative people, but such was not the truth. Or others may believe that Paul did not want to be under obligation to them or be friends with them; again, such is not true. Not only does Paul state that he loves them, he emphasizes his love for them by clearly stating "God knoweth" the love he has for them.

Verse 12

But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.

But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion: The words "what I do, that I will do" refer to Paul’s practice of not accepting support from the church in Corinth. The words "cut off" means to "exterminate (or contextually to) remove the occasion" (BAG 241), that is, to remove the "occasion" (aphorme) or to "cut off the pretext of those who wish a pretext" (BAG 127). The point that Paul once again emphasizes is that he is determined not to give his adversaries anything about which to criticize him.

that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we: Some of the false teachers were actually claiming to be apostles. They would "glory" (kauchaomai), meaning they would "pride" (BAG 427) themselves as apostles; however, Paul does not really consider them as apostles at all—they were self-professed apostles, giving them no authority. Bratcher says, "The false leaders at Corinth claim they do their work as ’apostles’ in the same way that Paul does" (120).

Verse 13

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

Paul, now, with great plainness, classifies these false teachers as "false apostles" (pseudapostolos), meaning they "represent(s) himself (themselves) to be an apostle without the divine commission necessary for the office" (BAG 899). These men were "deceitful" (dolios), or as McGarvey says, "they maintained their false position by imposture, and that they assumed the name and office of apostles, though never having been called to be such by Christ" (228-229). They were "treacherous; dishonest workmen" (BAG 202) in the very act of "transforming themselves" (metaschematizo). This transformation was not done by Jesus; instead, "transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ" is in the middle voice, meaning they "change or disguise" (BAG 514) themselves into something else—false apostles. These false apostles pretend to be workers for the church; however, they are not. They simply put on the appearance of apostles to receive financial aid from the church.

Verse 14

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

Paul indicates he is not surprised by their action of making this self-transformation because "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." The point is the followers of Satan (false teachers) followed the same action as Satan himself did.

Verse 15

Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

It is "no great thing," that is, it is not strange nor unusual for Satan’s servants to disguise themselves as false "ministers of righteousness." These false apostles have simply followed the example of Satan. They may fool man but not God; therefore, "their end shall be according to their works." In the end, their final fate will be punishment by God because their evil works prove they deserve it.

Verse 16

Paul’s Sufferings as an Apostle of Christ

I say again, let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.

I say again: This statement refers to Paul’s repeating previous statements about boasting. He now resumes the boasting that he began talking about in verse 1 by explaining many of the difficulties he has faced as an apostle of Jesus Christ. He has asked the Corinthians to be patient with him as he talks at length about his persecutions.

let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little: The word "fool" means "unwise" (Strong 878) or "ignorant" (BAG 127), words that are not characteristic of Paul. No one should think Paul is really a fool, even though his actions, at first, may appear foolish. Paul clearly admits that some will consider him a fool; to them he asks that they at least be tolerant with him because as he has already explained that any boasting by him was done, not for his sake, but for their sake and the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul appears awkward as he speaks again about his own personal activities. It was not customary for him to talk about his problems or his accomplishments. Hughes explains clearly:

Nothing, in fact, could be more uncongenial to him. And so his very awkwardness here, as, in order to prick the balloon of these self-inflated deceivers who are undoing the work of the gospel in Corinth, he faces the necessity of commending himself in some measure, speaks volumes for his own genuine humility and sincerity (396).

As awkward as Paul felt, anytime he appeared to be boasting, it was always done, as Coffman says, "to open the eyes of those being deceived by the false boasters" (467). To repeat one’s good activities is the apparent form of boasting, but yet done strictly for self-preservation.

Verse 17

That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.

That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly: Some translations, such as the Revised Standard Version, place verses 17 and 18 within parentheses since the actual thought goes directly from verse 16 to verse 19. As can be easily seen in these verses, Paul explains the reason he must boast, even though it is not what he desires to do. Boasting about the situations that Paul has faced is also not necessarily the Lord’s first choice of teaching. Notice that Paul says "I speak it not after the Lord." This does not mean that his teaching by boasting is something that the Lord opposes and therefore, sinful. Paul’s message is that boasting, within itself, is sinful if the boasting is for personal pride. This is not Paul’s actions. Paul acknowledges that what he is about to say is acting "as it were foolishly," meaning he is acting almost with a "lack of sense" (BAG 127) by spending time in talking about his past experiences. However, Paul does boast – not out of personal pride, but he is doing so out of duty to stand up for the gospel. As Coffman says, he was "boasting for the purpose of saving a church, when no better method was available" (468).

in this confidence of boasting: The word "confidence," in this context, means "steadfastness" (BAG 854). Paul uses the word translated "confidence" to refer to the "business at hand" or the "subject being discussed" (Bratcher 122). McGarvey gives an excellent explanation of this verse saying that Paul is affirming:

I am painfully conscious that the Spirit of God does not prompt to boasting, but I do so on my own responsibility, or according to my own confident folly, my so doing having been made a permissible necessity by your behavior toward me (230).

Paul’s "confidence of boasting" is never done for the purpose of drawing attention to himself or his accomplishments but for the purpose of safeguarding the gospel of Christ, to which he was appointed by God to do in his work as an apostle.

Verse 18

Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.

To "glory after the flesh" means to glory "in accordance with" (BAG 427) the flesh. The word "flesh" (sarx) refers to boasting on "the external or outward side of life… (or specifically in this verse) to boast of one’s outward circumstances" (BAG 751). Therefore, Paul is explaining that, in spite of the fact that it is not his pleasure to boast about his outward activities, he finds it necessary since the false teachers are boasting about their false activities. As well, they are being somewhat successful in convincing the church to doubt Paul’s apostleship, jeopardizing his influence. Paul say he will truthfully boast only as a way to uphold the truth of the gospel of Christ and his apostleship. Lipscomb clearly explains this passage:

His (Paul’s) opponents so magnified themselves and their services, and so depreciated him and his labors, that he was forced, in order to maintain his influence as the advocate of the pure gospel, to set forth his claims to the confidence of the people (145).

Verse 19

For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.

Paul is here referring to faithful Christians by the term "ye." He is now cautioning the faithful Christians because, even though they are spiritually "wise," they "suffer" (anechomai), meaning they "bear with," the "fools," (aphron); that is, they tolerate some of the actions of the "false teachers." Bernard says:

The point is that, as they have borne with the self- commendation of the pseudo-apostles, they should extend the same indulgent toleration to him. He then goes on to remind them of the insolence and ill-treatment they have endured at the hands of these self-constituted spiritual guides (104).

The apostle is asking these faithful Corinthians to bear with him in a little foolishness as stated in verse 1, where he says, "Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me." Paul’s statement here is spoken in sarcasm. R.C. Lenski explains, "People of intelligence cannot endure fools. But these Corinthians are so intelligent (in their own minds – wmb) that they not only bear them but bear them gladly" (1262). The "sting" of Paul’s remark here, as Lenski says:

…is the implication that such smart people are bigger fools than the fools they indulge; and that, by getting such indulgence from people who think themselves so smart, these fools are smarter than the smart people on whom they impose (1263).

Verse 20

For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.

For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage: Paul obviously has received reports of all of these disgraceful and immoral actions having been done by the false teachers to the faithful Christians. Gould says, "This is a strong expression of the harsh authority exercised over the church by these false teachers" (212). These examples are instances of actual exploitations that have happened in Corinth. Paul appears to be grieving because of the mistreatment the faithful Christians have received from the false apostles.

if a man devour you: Paul speaks figuratively to show that the false apostles are living at the faithful Christians’ expense. Their work is not to exalt Christ but to promote their own lives—even to fill their own pockets. As Bratcher says, the false apostle uses faithful Christians "for his own purposes. Perhaps Paul is talking about financial exploitation" (Bratcher 123). This action is the same type of action Jesus has in mind about the scribes and Pharisees who "devour widows’ houses" (Matthew 23:14). They actually rob as much money as they can find to make themselves rich. Paul writes the same message to the Christians in Rome:

I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17-18).

if a man take of you: To "take of you" "is to take advantage of you" (Bratcher 123). The false apostles are teaching false doctrine, deceiving hearers, by which they are leading faithful Christians into sin.

if a man exalt himself: The false apostles act "superior" (Bratcher 123) to other Christians. To "exalt himself (epairo) means to "be presumptuous, put on airs" (BAG 281) through their false teaching. Teaching false doctrine is in essence elevating their words to a greater position than the word of God. They deceive the faithful by the titles they wear, such as apostles. Jesus warns of the same type of problems:

Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:8-12).

if a man smite you on the face: There are different opinions as to whether Paul is speaking about actual physical abuse or if he is speaking figuratively. For example, Bratcher says, "It is doubtful that Paul is speaking of physical abuse; he probably means insulting behavior: ’insults you,’ or even ’curses you’; ’treats you shamefully’" (123). On the other hand, Coffman is probably more correct in saying "there is no reason to suppose it was anything but physical" (470).

Verse 21

I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.

I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak: Paul continues with heavy sarcasm to speak in a way as to belittle himself as though he is weak. The word "reproach" (atimia) means "to my shame I must confess" (BAG 119), indicating his weakness. The word "weak" (astheneo) refers to a "weakness caused by fear or caution" (BAG 115).

Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also: Paul has now reached a point in this letter that he recognizes the need to speak boldly as a way to authenticate his apostleship while, at the same time, being careful to remind the faithful Corinthians that he is speaking sarcastically. For example, Paul is disparaging himself as being a weak preacher because he did not act harshly and disrespectfully as the false teachers did. These false apostles look at Paul’s calmness of speech and action when he was in Corinth as being a sign of weakness; however, Paul, in this unusual way, is saying that whatever these wicked men dare to boast of, he can confidently boast of the same. Paul’s message concludes the idea that if the actions of the false apostles are necessary to be recognized as true Christians, he has, indeed, fallen short. As Coffman clearly states:

If arrogance, greed, deceit, tyranny, oppression and the robbery of Christians of their wealth are marks of true Christian oversight, Paul was willing to admit that in those categories he had indeed fallen somewhat behind the super- apostles who were plundering the church of God at Corinth (470).

Paul’s purpose in writing this letter to all Christians in Corinth (faithful Christians and unfaithful Christians) is that they all will heed his teaching and return to Christ so that they all will be permitted to be presented as pure virgins to Christ as their only Bridegroom.

Verse 22

Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.

Paul’s adversaries evidently have boasted of their race and nationality. At the same time, they probably disparaged Paul, denying his race, claiming that he was born at Tarsus and that he lived much like a Gentile. Because of the slanderous reports, Paul declares his ethnicity and nationality are equal with his adversaries. The three rhetorical questions in this verse are used to show Paul’s adversaries that they have no advantage over him.

Are they Hebrews? so am I: The term "Hebrews" (Hebraios) primarily refers to race and means "Jew" (Strong 1445). Paul is speaking of the fleshly descent of Abraham. Paul’s parents were "Jews of Palestine." In referring to himself as a Hebrew, he obviously means as McGarvey says, "He was a Hebrew, he belonged to the sacred nation and spoke the sacred language (Acts 22:3)" (231). For emphasis, Paul says he is a "Hebrew of the Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5).

Are they Israelites? so am I: The word "Israelites" refers to the seed of Abraham—the people of the covenant. The false teachers evidently claim their origin is from Jacob, but that Paul is not an Israelite since he was born in Tarsus; however, he is an Israelite. His birthplace does not annul his claim to that nationality.

Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I: The words "seed of Abraham" (Abraam) refer to the heirs of Abraham and specifically to Jacob. Paul’s bloodline is traced back to Abraham; therefore, he is an heir by birth to the promises. Paul’s parents were Jews; his pedigree is unimpeachable: "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee" (Philippians 3:5).

The discussion of this verse proves that Christians are in fact the true Israelites. They are also the genuine seed of Abraham, as Paul clearly emphasizes, "If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29).

Verse 23

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.

Paul now verifies his claim by reciting the hardships and sufferings he has tolerated by doing the work of a true apostle.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more: Paul reminds his readers "I speak as a fool" because he is uncomfortable in boasting about the benefits as well as the negative situations that have confronted him. The word "ministers" (diakonos) means servant" (Strong 1249). Servants generally show gentleness and humility instead of boldness in speech. Servants also normally do not draw attention to themselves as Paul first appears to be doing. He, however, is not actually magnifying himself in this and the following verses; instead, he is merely showing that there is complete disparity between himself and the false apostles. The false apostles do things to exalt themselves, but Paul does what he does to magnify the amazing grace of God.

in labours more abundant: The word "labours" (kopos) refers to any "individual acts" (BAG 444) of "trouble (and) weariness" (Strong 2873) faced by Paul. He says his laboring is more "abundant" (perissoteros), meaning that he labored "more frequent(ly)" (Strong 4056) than the false teachers.

in stripes above measure: Paul has received "stripes" (plege), meaning he has been "wounded" (Strong 4127) "above measure" (huperballontos) or injured "excessively" (Strong 5234). He suffered stripes numerous times; however, only one occasion is spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles, and there it refers to "many stripes" (Acts 16:22-23).

in prisons more frequent: Comparing Paul’s experience with that of the false teachers proves he has been in "prisons" (phulake), meaning he has been put in a "cage" (Strong 5438) "frequent(ly)" (perissoteros), suggesting that he was in prison "much more" (Strong 4056) than his adversaries. There are at least five recorded imprisonments of Paul in the book of Acts:

1. Philippi (Acts 16:23-24)

2. Jerusalem (Acts 22:29-30)

3. Caesarea (Acts 23:35; Acts 25:4)

4. Rome (Acts 28:16-20)

5. Rome (2 Timothy 1:8)

in deaths oft: Paul cannot be referring to actual dying often. He is speaking of the abuses and other mistreatments that have brought him almost to the point of death many times. Paul is referring to his being killed in the same way the psalmist writes: "Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter" (Psalms 44:22).

Verse 24

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.

Receiving "forty stripes save one" was an excruciating, inhumane punishment, usually considered a "death sentence" because many times the one receiving the stripes would eventually die or at least be brought to the point of death from the brutal beating. This punishment may have been an illustration of what Paul meant in the expression "in deaths oft." The apostle, however, went through this punishment five separate times. The law limited all beatings to be absolutely no more that forty stipes; however, one stripe was omitted to ensure that the law would not be accidentally broken by miscounting the number of stripes. "A single stripe in excess subjected the executioner to punishment" (Lipscomb 149). Bratcher explains in more details such a punishment:

The most severe bodily punishment (short of execution) prescribed by the Jewish law was a maximum of forty lashes (see Deuteronomy 25:3). In practice, in order to make sure that the maximum was not exceeded, the limit was thirty- nine. The condemned man was stripped to the waist, and then the court officer lashed him thirteen times on the chest and thirteen times on each shoulder (125).

Verse 25

Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;

Thrice was I beaten with rods: Paul was beaten with rods three times; however, only one time is actually recorded. In Luke’s account, he says:

The multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely (Acts 16:22-23).

once was I stoned: The Jewish method of carrying out the death penalty was often stoning. Paul’s stoning to the point his enemies thought he was dead is recorded by Luke:

And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe (Acts 14:19-20).

thrice I suffered shipwreck: During Paul’s travels he was shipwrecked more than three times. For example, Luke records an occasion of his being shipwrecked as he was traveling to Rome three years after he wrote this epistle to the Corinthians:

And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land (Acts 27:39-44).

a night and a day I have been in the deep: There are no occasions recorded in the scriptures of Paul actually spending a night and a day in the deep; however, it is reasonable to assume that it took place during one of the shipwrecks that he encountered. Hughes says:

Presumable the night and day which he spent in the deep (an event which is not recorded elsewhere in the New Testament) was a result of one of the three shipwrecks just mentioned, and during this time no doubt he was tossed about by the waves while clinging to a spar or some other piece of wreckage, in imminent peril of drowning (411).

Verse 26

In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

This long list of hazards in verse 26 is given to show many of the perilous events that happened in the life and dangerous travels of Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ. All of these events threatened his life and work.

A thousand pages could not tell the whole story if God had given it to us; but the vast majority of the events which stormed Paul’s memory in this recital are forever shrouded in the modesty of Paul and in the mists of nineteen centuries (Coffman 472).

Verse 27

In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

In weariness and painfulness: The word "weariness" (kopos) means "work, labor, (or) toil" (BAG 444), and the word "painfulness" (mochthos) means "exertion, hardship" (BAG 530). These words would appear to denote Paul’s working with his own hands in order to provide his necessities without creating a financial burden on those to whom he is preaching.

in watchings often: The word "watchings" (agrupnia) in this context means "with sleepless nights" (BAG 14). The scriptures do not list the specific occasions of Paul’s sleepless nights; however, we can assume that one such occasion would be when he was in the deep a night and a day as mentioned in verse 25.

in hunger and thirst: The word "hunger" (limos) means "dearth, famine" (Strong 3042).

in fastings often: Very likely these "fastings" were done voluntarily. Fastings connected with prayer was a routine action of many Christians in the first century and still should be today. Luke records, "When they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed" (Acts 14:23). Luke also records another occasion of fasting:

As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away (Acts 13:2-3),

in cold and nakedness: "Nakedness" (gumnotes) means "lack of sufficient clothing" (BAG 167). All of these many forms of suffering prove Paul’s dedication to Jesus and his determination to share God’s words with others. Lipscomb says:

In all their kinds and degrees—violence, privation, exposure, fear—they are a historical testimony to the devotion with which Paul had served Christ. He bore in his body the marks which they had left, and to him they were "the marks of Jesus" (Galatians 6:17); they identified him as Jesus Christ’s bond servant (152).

Verse 28

Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

The expression "things that are without" (parektos) means "apart from what I leave unmentioned or what is external (i.e. sufferings, etc.)" (BAG 630). Paul has mentioned many severe bodily afflictions he has faced in his travels and work as an apostle; however, this long list should not be considered as a complete list.

There were obviously other times where he was wrongfully mistreated. These unnamed abuses are covered in the expression "that which cometh upon me daily" and "the care of all the churches." The word "care" (merimna) in this context means the "anxiety about all the churches" (BAG 506). In other words, Paul’s troubles in life were not always physical troubles. He also suffered intense anxieties, referring to his continuous worry and concern for the Christians in many churches. Because of his love for each Christian, Paul has concerns every time he hears of disputes and apostasies in a congregation.

This anxiety was based not only on disturbing reports which came to his ears, but on his knowledge of the savage subtlety of the enemy of souls who, he realized, would stop at nothing in his attempts to overthrow the work of the gospel (Hughes 416).

Verse 29

Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?

Paul’s love for other Christians is so great that his sympathy for them during their troubles become his troubles. He feels their infirmities and weaknesses and refers to them as a "burn" (puro), which figuratively means "to be inflamed with sympathy" (BAG 738).

It was an excessive drain upon his sympathies. If any weak one suffered through the rash selfishness of a brother who abused his liberty by eating in an idol temple, Paul suffered with him as if he also were weak, and if any were caused to stumble, Paul made the case of such a one his own, and burned with indignation (McGarvey 233).

Verse 30

If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

Regarding boasting, which was unusual for Paul, he says that if his enemies force him to boast or to tell of his activities, such boasting will be different from the boasting of his adversaries. The word "infirmities" (astheneia) means "any kind of weakness" (BAG 114). Paul’s message here is that things he boasts about are things his adversaries would have attempted to keep secret— things they would have considered too shameful to admit; therefore, he could not be accused of boasting as his adversaries did.

Verse 31

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

Paul’s declaration here refers to everything he has stated as well as the revelation that he is about to state. He affirms that God in heaven is his witness: what he says is always truthful.

Verses 32-33

In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

King Aretas reigned from 7 B.C. to A.D. 40. The governor in Damascus serving under this king wanted to arrest Paul; therefore, he instructed that a garrison (phroureo), that is, a watcher or a guard for the city search for him. At the time, it was common for houses to be built against the wall surrounding a city. Windows were often seen above the walls. As a way of escape, knowing that if he left the city through the gate he would be arrested, Paul went through a window and was lowered to the ground in a basket. This event is record by Luke:

And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket (Acts 9:23-25).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11". "Contending for the Faith". 1993-2022.