In the previous chapter Paul made it clear that he can be bold not only in his letters but also in his presence with the Corinthians. But unlike those who commend themselves, Paul seeks only the Lord’s commendation and would boast only of what God has done through him. As we will see in the present study, Paul continues the recurring theme of boasting. With full force he exposes his opponents for who they really are—servants of Satan. To undermine the claim of these false apostles, Paul asks the Corinthians to bear with him as he is compelled to boast of his true apostolic authority.
Did You Know...?
- Divine Jealousy for the Corinthians (11:1–6)
- Boasting about Financial Independence (11:7–11)
- Disguise of the False Apostles (11:12–15)
- Boasting as A Fool (11:16–21a)
Why does Paul repeatedly mention foolishness or being a fool?Hide Answer
To Paul, boasting is foolish. Boasting of one’s accomplishments or capabilities is objectionable to Paul because he knows that human beings have nothing to boast about before God and such boasting is a worldly behavior (cf. 1 Cor 1:28; 4:7). But now he is compelled by the circumstance to boast as his opponents do, and he feels foolish for having to resort to this kind of boasting.
Explain Paul’s request to bear with him in a little foolishness (v. 1).Hide Answer
Paul asks the Corinthians to bear with him as he is about to defend his credentials as a true apostle of Christ. He sounds almost apologetic for having to boast, since he knows how foolish boasting is.
The word translated “bear with” in verse 1 is the same word as “put up with” in verse 4. What contrast do you observe with the two occurrences of this word?Hide Answer
The irony in the repeated use of the word in verses 1 and 4 is that while the Corinthians so readily put up with the preaching and spirit of the false apostles (v. 4), they are reluctant to embrace Paul, a true apostle. By asking the Corinthians to bear with him in verse 1, Paul is asking the Corinthians to extend to Paul the same generosity as they do the false apostles.
What is the reason for the divine jealousy Paul feels?Hide Answer
The divine jealousy Paul speaks of is the jealousy of a husband towards his unfaithful wife. Numerous times in the Bible God portrays Himself as a jealous husband whose heart is broken by unfaithful Israel (cf. Jer 2:20–25; 13:27; Ezek 23:1–49; Hos 2:2, 5–8). The believers have been presented as a pure virgin in Christ in the sense that they have accepted the true gospel of salvation. But now, by opening themselves up to deceptive doctrine and spirit, the Corinthians have aroused a divine jealousy. Paul feels the heart of God and as such shares God’s jealousy over the Corinthians’ infidelity.
In today’s context, what might “another Jesus,” “a different spirit” or “a different gospel” look like?Hide Answer
Ideologies and messages that contradict our common faith, such as the notion that all Christian churches are the same as long as one accepts Jesus Christ or that we do not need to be so insistent on speaking in tongues as the evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit, etc. are considered a departure from the Lord Jesus, His Spirit, and His gospel.
Why must we reject them?Hide Answer
If we do not hold fast to the doctrines of salvation that we have received, our own salvation would be in jeopardy (cf. 1 Cor 15:1–2; Heb 3:12–14; 2 Jn 9).
Why does Paul want the Corinthians know that he is not inferior to the so-called “super-apostles”?Hide Answer
In order to win over the believers, Paul’s opponents have discredited Paul and claimed to be superior. Paul wants the Corinthians to see the truth and not fall for the deception of these false apostles, and as such he is compelled to defend his own credentials.
What is Paul’s purpose for not accepting support from the Corinthians?Hide Answer
In verse 7 Paul writes that by preaching the gospel free of charge, he is humbling himself so that the Corinthians might be exalted. In verse 9 Paul indicates that Paul did not burden anyone in the church in Corinth and he will refrain from burdening them. In the next verse, he connects his financial independence to his boasting. In verse 11, he expresses strongly that his love for them was genuine. Hence, reading between the lines, we may conclude that Paul has determined not to depend on the Corinthian believers’ support because he knows that they are not spiritually mature and discerning enough to fully trust Paul as a true minister (cf. 2 Cor 12:16). By not receiving any financial support from the church in Corinth, no one would be able to allege that Paul has any ulterior motive in ministering to them. For the sake of the gospel and the ministry, he would rather forgo this right (cf. 1 Cor 9:3–18). Verse 12 further reveals another reason for Paul’s choice (Please see the question on verse 12).
What are some rights you may forgo for the sake of the ministry?
Explain the meaning of verse 12 in your words.Hide Answer
The opponents of Paul disguise themselves as apostles of Christ and boast that they are faithful and genuine. But at least in one area Paul would not allow them to make the same claim that he does, i.e. not receiving any support from the believers. The implication seems that the false apostles do receive financial support from the believers. Paul refuses to do the same even though he is so entitled. He does this in order to distinguish himself from the false apostles.
If the work of Satan and his servants is so deceiving, how can we discern it?Hide Answer
The Lord Jesus teaches us that we can recognize false prophets by their fruits (that is, their deeds; Mt 7:15–23). One kind of deeds that we may observe is ethical. Many false teachers may appear pure and godly on the outside but are in fact morally corrupt or serve their own agenda (cf. Gal 6:12; 2 Pet 2:1–2, 12–22; Jude 4, 8, 11–16; Rev 2:14). Another kind of evil deeds involve teaching or preaching doctrines that are contrary to our common faith (cf. Gal 1:6–7; 2 Jn 9–11). Even if a person seems loving or morally upright, we must reject him if he preaches another Jesus, another spirit, or another gospel (cf. 2 Cor 11:4; Gal 1:8–9; 1 Jn 4:1–6).
Cite some ways in which false apostles and deceitful workmen may mislead people today.Hide Answer
Many people preach the name of Jesus today and many claim to have spiritual experiences from God. They may be kind and dedicated, thus attracting followers and believers. But the gospel they preach is not the gospel of salvation. Some preachers alter the core of the gospel by teaching people to seek success and wealth, preaching messages that people want to hear (cf. 2 Tim 4:3). Another attractive but misleading message is religious tolerance. Claiming to be all inclusive, advocates of such false teaching have confused the truth of salvation with doctrines that lead people away from God (cf. Mt 7:13–14).
What does Paul mean by “I say not as the Lord would” (v. 17)?Hide Answer
Paul considers the way he is compelled to boast foolish and not in a manner after the Lord’s meekness and humility. So he makes a disclaimer that he is acting for the moment as a fool and not as someone who is speaking on the Lord’s behalf.
What is boasting according to the flesh (v. 18)?Hide Answer
To boast according to the flesh is to take pride in what the people of the world value, such as outward appearance (cf. 2 Cor 5:12), eloquence (cf. 2 Cor 10:10), skills, position, or wealth.
Explain the sarcasm behind the words “being wise yourselves.” (v. 19)Hide Answer
Paul’s sarcasm extends to verse 20. The Corinthian believers, being wise in their own eyes, have been critical of Paul, a true apostle, but completely submissive to the false apostles, even to those who would take advantage of them and humiliate them. What seems to be wisdom to the Corinthians is actually utter foolishness.
As servants of God what can we learn from Paul in terms of the extent to which he goes to make himself a fool?Hide Answer
As reluctant as he is to act as a fool, Paul is compelled to boast about his work as an apostle because he truly loves and cares for the believers in Corinth. He would do everything in his power to not let them become the prey of the false apostles. The way Paul puts the spiritual being of the believers above his own needs and pride is worthy of our imitation.