Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 11

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-12



1. Would that you would bear with me a little in my folly, but indeed you do bear with me.” He here assumes quite an apologetic attitude, by which he excuses himself for saying so much to human observation in self- defense, from the simple fact that their own spiritual interest is deeply involved, and he fears lest they may backslide. Of course, it is folly for a man to brag on himself, as no one but a fool will do it. Still, he is necessarily involved in this very dilemma in order to tell them the mighty works of God through his humble instrumentality, that they may receive help thereby. For the same reason sanctified people are everywhere criticized and calumniated with charges of egotism because we are always telling the mighty works of God in our behalf and through our humble instrumentality, which to carnal people looks like egotism, and we can not help it. Our consecration takes in our resignation to be misunderstood, misjudged and persecuted for the simple discharge of our duty to God, this being inevitable because it is utterly impossible for the carnal to discern the spiritual; meanwhile the spiritual look through the carnal and read them like I read this Greek (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).

2. For I am zealous over you with a zeal of God.” Justified people have a zeal for God, but sanctified people the very zeal of God, i. e., the zeal of Christ Himself, who is enthroned and reigning in our hearts, thus imparting to us His own zeal. The word here is better translated “jealousy,” because it is used in connection with the matrimonial relation of Christ and His Bride, representing Him as uncompromisingly jealous of all other lovers. Hence, if you would be His Bride, you must forever discard all earthly lovers, because He is jealous with the very jealousy of God. “ For I betrothed you to one husband, to present you to Christ a chaste virgin.” The betrothal takes place in conversion, when you solemnly vow to let all others go and to become the property of the Heavenly Bridegroom alone. In sanctification the Holy Ghost reveals the glorified spiritual Christ to your spirit, and officiates in the celebration of your matrimonial alliance, forever taking you out of the hands of all earthly lovers. Like Ulysses, who, after an absence of twenty years, returned to his palatial home in the kingdom of Ithaca, and slew in a hand-to-hand combat all the suitors who had been the torment of his beautiful, chaste and virtuous queen during his long absence, so in

‘sanctification the Omnipotent Bridegroom slays all the lovers who have lingered about and tormented you during the intervals of His absence peculiar to the regenerated experience, then entering into holy wedlock with you. This is a purely spiritual transaction, and the happy prelude of the still more glorious ovation when you respond to the archangel’s trump, rise in the first resurrection to meet your descending Lord, or, if happily He shall come before you evacuate this tenement, then you will be

“changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye ” (1 Corinthians 15:52),


“caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and thus to be forever with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

At that time this glorious presentation will take place when, soul and body reunited, transfigured and glorified, you shall be presented by the Holy Ghost to your descending Bridegroom, to whom you have been faithful and true during His long absence. And in the festal halls of the New Jerusalem, in the presence of multiplied millions of unfallen intelligence’s from millions of immortal worlds, the grand and final solemnization of your sanctified nuptials will take place in the presence of your Heavenly Father.

3. But I fear, lest perhaps, as the serpent beguiled Eve with his versatility, your thoughts may be corrupted from the purity and chastity which are toward Christ.” Satan is always on hand, as in the case of the original temptation, doing his utmost to corrupt the pure heart and alienate it from the simplicity, purity and chastity characteristic of our relation to Christ as our only Husband, Lord and King, invested with the sole right to our affections, sensibilities, intellect, mind, heart, will and spirit.

4. For indeed if one coming preach another Jesus, whom you did not preach, or you receive another spirit, which you did not receive, or another gospel, which you did not receive, well do you bear with me.” In that case they would better bear with him, because they are already reduced and up- tripped by the devil, dragging down to a backslider’s Hell. Hence in that case they would do well to bear with him, as they are in imminent peril of eternal ruin. We see here the appalling danger of all novelties in religion. God’s salvation was the same in the days of Abel, and never can change. Hence everything new in religion is false. It is all new to you ill you get it; yet it has been a matter of fact and of revelation from the beginning. So, beware of all novelties. They are tricks of the devil to lasso your soul and drag you into Hell. In every case be sure that it is in the plain and unmistakable Word of God.

5. For I reckon that in no respect do I fall short of the greatest apostles;” i. e., Peter, James and John are perhaps all of the original Twelve in contradistinction to the apostles who had been called since the ascension of our Lord. Peter, the venerable senior of the original Twelve, had been there and preached. Consequently they were exposed to the temptation presented by Paul’s enemies who repudiated his apostolic authority, thus minifying and, depreciating his work simply because he was not one of the original Twelve. Of course, Peter, who was always in perfect harmony with Paul, had never done this.

6. If indeed rude in speech, but not in knowledge; but in everything we making manifest unto you among all.” We see here, using the plural participle, he includes with it Timothy, Titus, and other comrades in the gospel. It would seem contradictory for Paul to say that he was rude in speech, when he actually had more learning than all the balance en masse. While this was true as you know he prudentially discarded all the restrictions of literature, science and rhetoric, that he might enjoy the perfect freedom of the Holy Ghost and come down to the comprehension of those uncouth, illiterate people. While his writings are the most profound in the annals of the world, we are fully assured that in his preaching he made it a specialty to come down to the comprehension of the most ignorant, illiterate and uncouth. Hence his preaching was pre-eminently characteristic of plainness and simplicity. A liberal education qualifies a person to be plainer, more simple and more easily understood than any one else. In the Providence of God I received a classical education, which was a great impediment in the way of the ministerial efficiency till the Lord baptized me with the Holy Ghost and fire, burning up all my grandiloquent, studied sermons, which, while they pleased the people, overshot them till they got almost nothing out of them. I studied with diligence, and thought I was reaching just right, the people complimenting me with great congregations and extravagant eulogies. Sanctification made me a flaming revivalist. I had great revivals everywhere I went, even going out frequently into destitute places, where I had not a member to hold up my hands. The rough, ignorant and uncouth, attracted by novelty and curiosity, poured out to my meetings, invariably getting struck with an awful conviction, followed by a powerful conversion. I met the clamor on all sides that they never had heard a preacher so easily understood. It was because I laid all my education under contribution to simplify my message to the ignorant, coming down where the illiterate and uncouth, and even the idiotic, could not keep from understanding me. This was the secret of Paul’s wonderful success. He laid his vast learning on God’s altar, utilizing it in the way of simplicity and perspicuity; so plain that the most ignorant were bound to understand it, and at the same time so charged with Holy Ghost dynamite that it actually blew up everybody. When learning is not sanctified by the Holy Ghost, as a rule it is impedimental to gospel efficiency; but when well sanctified, it becomes a powerful auxiliary, as in Paul’s case, qualifying us to so simplify Divine truth that the most idiotic can not fail to understand us. Paul here says that he was rude in speech (and really the original is “an idiot in speech,” because an idiot has no more sense than just to say what is in his mind, precisely as it is). Hence he, regardless of human etiquette or any conceivable embargo, just opened his mouth and knocked center out every time. But while he spoke in this plain, straight and uncouth style letting himself down to the comprehension of the darkest rabble in all slumdom, he notifies us that he was all right in “knowledge,” that wonderful gift of; the Holy Ghost, shedding glorious illumination on the precious Word, and thus adding to the awful intensity of his plain, rough, straight, convincing, knock-down exhortations to the unconverted.

7, 8. He now proceeds to remind them of his self-support by tent-making while preaching to them, and certifies that he was burdensome to none of them, because the brethren came from his old churches up in Macedonia and brought him supplies.

10, 11. He proceeds to certify that no one can divest him of the glory accruing to him because he preached the gospel to them gratuitously when he had a right to their support, recognizing that he deserved no credit for preaching the gospel, since God had laid it on him as a duty which he dare not ignore without forfeiting his own salvation. But as God did not require him to support himself meanwhile, he certainly deserves credit for his own temporal support while he preached to them.

12. But that which I do, I will also continue to do, in order that I may cut off occasion from those who wish occasion in order that whatsoever they boast they may be even as we.” By preaching the gospel to them gratuitously as he had done, of course he cut off the possibility of an allegation which his enemies might have brought against him, i. e., that he labored for temporal emolument. This, perhaps, some of them ignorantly had done, but, of course, were unable to sustain the allegation.

Verses 13-15


13. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” This verse confirms the conclusion that the apostolic office was not confined to the Twelve, because not only were James the Third, Jude, Barnabas, Paul, Apollos and Matthias bona fide apostles besides the original Twelve, but the very fact that we see here a lot of counterfeits claiming to be the apostles of Christ, is confirmatory proof that others besides the original Twelve were recognized as apostles; because it is impossible for us to conclude that Paul here makes allusion to any of the original Twelve, or of the others above mentioned, who had preached at Corinth with his full approval and appreciation. The conclusion is inevitable that a lot of counterfeits were actually claiming to be the apostles of Christ, whose claim could have received no popular plausibility if it had been understood that the number was restricted to twelve. History is still repeating itself. All ages have been cursed with counterfeit apostles, especially in the capacity of party leaders which really verify the definition of apostle, i. e., “one that enters a new field, or makes a new departure.” These parties seeking the fleece instead of the flock have figured conspicuously in all the bygone ages, and to this day, leading the blind awfully to the confusion of the unspiritual.

14. For it is no wonder, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” The devil was the great archangel Lucifer in Heaven before he fell (Isaiah 14:12). As the god of this world, he is this day doing wonderful execution in the capacity of an angel of light, thus passing himself for God, deceiving preachers and people in every land. As he long lived an angel in Heaven, he well understands how to play the angel. Those he can not devour as a roaring lion through the vulgar vices, he captures in the capacity of an angel of light, deceiving them with the delusion that he is God, or a glorified angel, thus leading them on through the worldly churches till he can dump them into Hell.

15. Then no wonder if indeed his ministers transform themselves as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.” God calls and sends His own ministers. We have multitudes of preachers standing high in metropolitan pulpits who even deny that there is any such a thing as a Divine call, and, of course, do not claim to have any themselves. You see it follows as a logical sequence, if God does not call and send them, they must call and send themselves, i. e., thus “ transforming themselves as the ministers of righteousness,” while they are really wolves in sheep’s clothing, Satan’s preachers sent forth by him for the delusion and damnation of souls. From the simple fact that they are personally ignorant of God’s saving grace, judging others by themselves, they think they are a true sample of Christianity. They are deceived by the devil, so that they think they are right, and in all probability will never know the difference till the devils come after them to take them to Hell, while they are looking for the angels to come and take them to Heaven. William Bramwell, a bright and loving contemporary of John Wesley, had become enamored of one of these sleek, nice, high-toned doctors of divinity occupying a city pulpit, and so carried away that in the honesty of his heart he was asking the Lord to make him such a preacher as this man whom lie had taken for his paragon while studying for the ministry in he Episcopal Church. One bright summer day, having eaten dinner, he is lying in a hammock under a green tree, reading a good book. Falling asleep, he is awakened by the frightful visage and awful scream of that favorite preacher, exclaiming: “I am in Hell.” Awakened by the vision, he leaps from the hammock, and, facing the sidewalk, sees a man passing by, who exclaims: “Oh! Dr. dropped dead in his study a few minutes ago.” Bramwell took alarm, went to hear the Methodists, got converted and wonderfully sanctified, and became a hero in the Wesleyan Holiness Movement. These Scriptures are terrifically ominous of the awful doom awaiting Satan’s preachers, whose name is legion, and they are beneath every sky. Reader, pray for them, and be sure that they do not catch you.

Verses 17-29


17. What I say I do not say according to the Lord, but as folly in this confidence of boasting.” As none but fools brag on themselves and in the ears of the carnal, this sounds just that way; consequently, in harmony with the ipse dixit of the world, he pronounces it folly. Rest assured he infinitely got away with all of his inimical critics, as none of them can hold a light to him on this line, and I trow he has never had an equal.

18. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast so.

19. For cheerfully do you, being wise, bear with fools: [He is burning them with awful irony.]

20. For you bear with him if any one brings you into slavery.” In that day human slavery was exceedingly common, and they could not help themselves, hence in that case they must bear with the kidnaper. “ If any one devours you,” i. e., financially, reputationally and otherwise, as there are many cases inevitable along this line. “ If any one catches you,” as with a lasso thrown over you unawares, which is common now on the Mexican border. “If any one uplifts himself against you.” Of course, in that case you can not help yourself, and you have to bear it the best you can. “ If any one smites you on the face.” This was the climax of insult, and common in their treatment of the Christians in the apostolic age. Hence there is a liability that you as Christians may have to bear all these things.

21. I speak by way of disparagement, as that we were weak.” In that age of terrible misrule and persecution, there was a liability of all these things under circumstances when they were actually inevitable. “ But in whatsoever any one is bold (I speak in folly), I am bold also.” Truly he is prepared to compete with his adversaries and critics on all lines indiscriminately.

22. Are they Hebrews? I am also. Are they Israelites? I am also. Are they the seed of Abraham? I am also.” These were all grand commendations in the apostolic age, the Jews from time immemorial being recognized as the elect of God and the Gentiles reprobated. His competitors were Jewish preachers claiming to be converted to Christianity, and, like thousands in all ages, having nothing but the outward form, destitute of the experimental reality.

23. Are they the ministers of Christ?” They certainly claim to be such, though, like their successors, their claim was spurious. “(I speak as a madman.) I am more.” As the ministry of Christ is the very climax of human achievement, the next step to Heaven, he recognizes the fact that the person claiming to be more is beside himself. Yet there is an important sense in which he is more than the normal ministry. He goes on now briefly to give experiences which are unquestionably abnormal even to the work of the ministry, i. e., in every way extraordinary and superlatively beyond the requirements of a bona fide gospel ministry. “ In labors more abundantly.” Well could he sustain this claim. He took Asia and Europe for his field of labor in that day when they had no public conveyances, and every country was infested with robbers and all sorts of difficulties. “ In prisons more abundantly.” No man could meet him at Corinth who had endured so many imprisonment’s. We have as yet (for this was before his arrest at Jerusalem) only the one case recorded, i. e., at Philippi, illustrating what a meager and fragmentary sketch we have of his thrilling adventures in the gospel of Christ. Of course, in that age of universal and barbarous hostility, imprisonment was an exceedingly frequent occurrence. “In stripes more exceedingly, in deaths often.” He narrowly escaped death at Damascus (Acts 19:23); at Antioch in Pisidia Acts 13:50); at Iconium (Acts 14:5-6); at Lystra (Acts 14:19); at Philippi (Acts 16:0); at Thessalonica (Acts 17:5); at Berea (Acts 17:13), and doubtless many others of which we know not. Hence well it may be said that he was in deaths often. After this testimony (A. D. 57) came his wonderful and perilous adventures at Jerusalem and Cesarea, and in the awful shipwreck which followed; then his perils at Rome and the wonderful ordeals through which he passed, moving with the tread of a conqueror and the triumph of a hero till he laid down his head on Nero’s block.

24. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” We have no account of the Jews whipping him. This illustrates how scant and fragmentary is the inspired biography of Paul. The reason why they administered only thirty-nine lashes was because the law said forty, and the Rabbis taught them that it was awfully criminal to hit even a stroke which the victim did not deserve, and involved them in a very grave responsibility. Hence, to make sure, they made it a rule to go on with the flagellation till they counted thirty-nine, and stop minus one for good count, leaving the doubt in the victim’s favor. As Paul was going around, these five instances of cruel floggings by the Jews take place without counting the matter worthy of description.

25. Three times was I beaten with rods.” This was the Roman punishment, of which we have but one mention, 1:, at Philippi (Acts 16:0). That was an awful punishment, where the Roman lectors mercilessly beat the victim with great cruel hickories, cutting to the bone, and making the blood flow. “ Once was I stoned;” at Lystra (Acts 14:19). “ Thrice was I shipwrecked, a day and a night I spent in the deep,” floating about on a wreck. We have no account of any of these wrecks, as the notable case at Melita had not yet occurred.

26. In journeyings often.” This was his third trip to Europe, whereas he had repeatedly taken great peregrinations throughout Asia, and was just now in from a tour of three years through Palestine, Syria and many other countries. “ In perils of rivers,” which occurred in crossing or fording, which, in that day, was very perilous; and what is even now more fraught with danger than crossing swift, flooded, quicksand, mountain torrents?

In perils of robbers.” Many of the countries through which they traveled were at that time awfully infested with robbers. It is believed the robbers in Pamphylia scared off John Mark when he left Paul and Barnabas in their first evangelistic tour and returned to Jerusalem. When I was in that country I had to hire an armed escort along some of the roads which Paul traveled, to keep the robbers off of me. Of course, Paul had not much for them to get, but the great trouble is, they actually take everything you have and probably kill you. “ In perils from my kindred,” they not always being the direct agents, but in countless instances stirring up the rabble to mob them. “ In perils from the Gentiles,” e. g., at Damascus. As a rule, the Gentiles were more friendly than the Jews, but sometimes they persecuted him directly and frequently when instigated by the Jews. “ In perils in the city,” e. g., Damascus, Philippi and Corinth. “ In perils in the desert.” This word includes uninhabited regions generally. Doubtless they passed many awful dangers in the lonely wilderness. “ In perils by sea.” In the absence of the steam-engine and mariner compass, most of their sailing was near the shore, which is always fraught with imminent danger of wreckage. “ In perils among false brethren. When William Bramwell was preaching in an English city, a band of desperadoes plotted to kill him, putting one of their number in a bed to play sick. Two others go and ask Bramwell to come to pray for the sick, passing themselves for Christian brethren. On arrival they lock the door, notifying him that his time has come; that they are going to kill him. “Well,” says the preacher, “will you not let me pray once before you kill me?” To this they consent. So he falls on his face, and prays: “0 God, if my work is done, I am ready to go; if it is not done, put thy hand on these men and save my life till I can finish my work.” A groan is heard in the bed. They go to it and find the possum dead. The balance are seized with affright and gladly escort him back where they got him.

27. In labor and weariness and watchings often.” Having no place to lodge, he had to stay up all night. “ In hunger and thirst, and by fastings frequently.” In his long and perilous journeys frequently there was nothing accessible, and doubtless much more frequently no money to pay for it. Hence they suffered ever and anon. “ In cold and in nakedness.” They had no factories, hence clothing was very scarce and costly. Besides, many times the cruel mobs, who thrashed him so frequently, took his clothes off and left him to freeze. Doubtless his suffering from the want of sufficient clothing was frequent and immense.

28. And besides these things, that which devolves on me daily, the care of all the churches.” Hundreds of churches (as a rule, little Holiness bands) had sprung up throughout Syria, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Cilicia, Mysia, Phoenicia, and other Asiatic countries, and Macedonia and Achaia in Europe, under his leadership. Though he had many efficient and true helpers, yet the paternity, as in the case of Corinth, devolved on him.

29. Who is weak, and I am not weak?” Oh, how he sympathizes with all of his spiritual children. If he can only squeeze these poor, weak ones through the pearly gates, they will be all right. “ Who is stumbled, and I not burn?” On the one side was the Jewish Church, plunging headlong into hopeless apostasy by rejecting their own Christ, and doing their utmost to drag all of his Jewish converts with them. On the other hand were the Gentile idolatry, gross sensuality, low debauchery and the allurements of the Greek philosophy appealing to the cultured class, and all combined doing their utmost to drag away every Gentile convert; alluring on the one side and persecuting them on the other, thus combining the powers of earth and Hell to pull all of his churches to pieces and ruin them world without end. Besides all this, Satan had already raised up an army of counterfeit Christians who went on his track and did their utmost to propagate dangerous and damnable heresies, even going so far as to impeach his apostolic authority and impugn his motives, thus leading off convert after them.

Verses 30-33


Justification saves us from guilt, sanctification from depravity, and glorification from infirmities. These infirmities are the collateral effects of the Fall, reaching the soul through the media of the mind and body, which are not entirely restored till this mortal puts on immortality. As Wesley says: “While in these bodies, we can only think, speak and act through organs of clay.” These infirmities are sins of ignorance, which troop after us so long as we remain in this probation, involving us in the constant liability of doing wrong, aiming to do right, i. e., through failures of memory, errors of judgment, slowness of apprehension, feebleness of vision and general failure of bodily organs. The cities of refuge in the old dispensation beautifully emblematize the necessity of the atonement in the expiation of these infirmities, as well as other sins. Here is the person killing another accidentally. Of course, he is not guilty of murder in any sense, neither is he at all responsible, as he could not help the accident from happening. Yet be was unfortunately instrumental in killing the man and, if he does not fly quickly and with all his might to the city of refuge, the avenger of blood will over take and kill him. It was a matter of fact that the avenger of blood ran after and did his best to overtake him. This avenger of blood is the law, which says: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The City of Refuge is Christ, and the man who commits an accidental or unknown sin is the fugitive. Hence these infirmities, or accidental, unknown sins, are utterly incompetent to endure the seventies of God’s judgments. Without the vicarious atonement, they would send us to Hell. So we must constantly fly to Christ for them, and as they are liable to occur ever and anon when we know not (hence they are truly sins of ignorance), therefore his absolutely necessary for us all to move at once into the City of Refuge and live there. The law specified that the fugitive should fly to the city of refuge and live there till the death of the high priest. As our Great High Priest never dies, therefore we are to fly quickly lest the avenger of blood overtakes us, and not only take refuge in the City, but live there forever, as our High Priest lives forever. But the man was still liable to commit sins of ignorance while living in the city of refuge, but that case insured from trouble, as the avenger of blood was not allowed to come in at the gate. So, after we are in Christ, secure, and sanctified wholly, and living in Him as the fugitive safe from the bloody avenger in the city of refuge, we are never again disturbed and chased by the avenger of blood, as we know he can not come in. So we shout night and day, amid all of our mistakes and blunders. Methinks my Lord in signal mercy keeps His hand over the dark group of infirmities hiding them from my spiritual insight ever and anon lest I might retrospect too much and give way to melancholy. Bright, elastic and buoyant, I am more efficient in His service. Now remember that our infirmities are included in the “all things” which “work together for good to them that love God.” We can have no adequate apprehension of the glory which God in His mysterious Providence brings out of our infirmities.

30. If it behooveth me to boast, I will boast of those things appertaining to my infirmity.

31. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forevermore, knows that I lie not.” He makes this positive and strong affirmation doubtless because of the popular incredibility of the wonderful events he is going to write.

32. In Damascus, Areta ” (the governor of the king, i. e., who was stationed there by the Arabian king to rule the city as his subordinate) “was keeping the city of the Damascenes, wishing to arrest me.

33. And through a window in a basket I was let down through the walls, and escaped from his hands.” (Acts 9:25.) This was doubtless a rope basket prepared for the emergency, as we see about ships. This occurred after his return from Arabia, where he was sanctified, and was certainly a miraculous deliverance, as the whole city was under guard about all the gates around the wall purposely to secure his capture.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".