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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
2 Corinthians 11

 

 

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Introduction

2 Corinthians 10:1 to 2 Corinthians 13:10. At this point (2 Corinthians 10:1) Paul turns sharply upon certain opponents and proceeds to defend himself with energy against their attack and insinuations, to enlarge on his claim to obedience and affection, and then adds to stern remonstrance threats of what he will do at his coming if he does not find the situation changed.

The change of tone and attitude which here takes place is both obvious and startling. Up to this point, the letter has been the expression of almost exuberant relief, thankfulness, and confidence; due to the fact that, contrary to what he feared, Paul and the church at Corinth had been reconciled. From this point onward we have the expression of anxiety, alarm, anger. All that in the first part of the letter seems to have been accomplished, here waits for accomplishment. The people whom Paul here addresses are not yet reconciled to him. They are definitely hostile, and they are not an isolated group. They are linked at heart by sympathy with the congregation as a whole.

The explanation which has commonly been given is that in the earlier part of the letter Paul has been dealing with the section (? majority) of the congregation which had partly remained loyal to him, partly returned to their loyalty, and that he now turns to deal with the other section, an obstinate and embittered minority. But in that case there would surely be at the beginning of this section some indication that he was addressing a new class of people, and the earlier part of the letter must have betrayed some consciousness of the presence of this unreconciled section of the people. The difficulty of accounting for this change, sudden, unexplained, and maintained almost to the close of the epistle, is the ground of the opinion now widely held, that 2 Corinthians 10:1 to 2 Corinthians 13:10 belongs not to this but to some other letter sent by Paul to Corinth. It has further been conjectured that we have here part of the intermediate, or "painful" letter. And though that cannot be proved, the contents of these chapters certainly agree very closely with what we can gather as to the character of that letter, and would go far to explain the tense anxiety with which Paul waited to hear how it had been received (2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 2:13, 2 Corinthians 7:6).


Verses 1-15

2 Corinthians 11:1-15. A Tender Appeal to the Church as a Whole.—This appeal may sound like foolish sentiment. Let them bear with him. Indeed he is sure that they do. What has happened under Paul's guidance and inspiration is nothing less than the betrothal of the Corinthian church as a pure virgin to Christ, a new Eve for the new Adam. But as there was a serpent in the first Eden, so now the tempter is at work. They have been only too complaisant in hearkening to his voice, to those who have preached "another Jesus," laying all the emphasis on His earthly life and His observance of the Law. If these "Judaizing" teachers claimed for their doctrine the support of those who called themselves or were called "the superior apostles," such a claim was absurd. There was no superiority. Paul might be unequal to some of them in eloquence, but not in that knowledge of Divine truth, which he communicated in every particular whenever he had the opportunity. Was it possible, however, that he had made a mistake in taking no reward for his work? His service to the Corinthians had been gratuitous; the generous support of other churches, especially in Macedonia, had made that possible. But had it led the Christians at Corinth to think lightly of himself and his work? Still, even that shall not change his policy. Not because he had not for the Corinthians that love which takes as gladly as it gives (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:13), but in order that he might not give those who demanded support from the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:12) any excuse to plead his example, but might rather compel them to adopt his policy. So will they be exposed in their real character as "false apostles," masquerading, even as Satan himself does, as agents of righteousness.


Verses 16-33

2 Corinthians 11:16-33. Comparison between Paul and his Opponents (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:6).—Under the pressure of intense feeling he will break through his inclination and self-imposed resolve of silence, to let his character and his sufferings in the cause of Christ speak for themselves. But in doing so, he makes it clear that he waives all authority of one who speaks "in the Lord." Speaking simply as a frail man, he pleads that he may receive at least such a hearing as the Corinthians have given to the other men who have tyrannised over them, exploited them, even buffeted them. If such high-handed arrogance as they have practised be what they mean by "strength," then he admits (ironically adding "to my disgrace") that he had been weak. The passage which follows (2 Corinthians 11:22 to 2 Corinthians 12:10) is not only inspired by strong personal feeling, it is full of details regarding Paul's personal experience of which we have no record elsewhere. After asserting his equality with his opponents on the point to which they attached most importance, he claims superiority to them in respect of the real criteria of a minister of Christ, viz. the sufferings undergone in His service (cf. Galatians 6:17). The reiterated allusion to his "foolishness," to speaking "as one beside himself," all point to the consciousness that he is departing from that steady reserve on the subject of his own service which was for him the way of common-sense. Now that the barrier is broken down, the record of personal experiences pours forth like a flood. From those which are external and physical he passes (2 Corinthians 11:28) to those which are internal and mental. Through all these trials and sufferings he has carried a heart which feels the needs not only of the churches but of the individual Christian everywhere. And if he has sympathised with the weak in one sense, it is not because he himself has been strong in another sense. On the contrary, he has all the time been the victim of physical weakness which has indefinitely increased the difficulty of his work. Nevertheless, it is precisely in this weakness that he finds his deepest reason for proud rejoicing. For in that weakness the power of Christ has been perfectly displayed (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9).

An illustration of this fact occurs to him, possibly because the story of his escape from Damascus (Acts 9:23-25*) had been turned to his disadvantage. When he had felt utterly helpless against the determination of the governor to have him arrested (pp. 655, 768f.), the Divine strength had been manifested in his escape.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/2-corinthians-11.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, August 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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