1 I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness, but indeed you do bear with me. 2 For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. For I married you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or if you receive a different spirit, which you did not receive, or a different "good news", which you did not accept, you put up with that well enough. 5 For I reckon that I am not at all behind the very best apostles. 6 But though I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not unskilled in knowledge. No, in every way we have been revealed to you in all things. 7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached to you God's Good News free of charge? 8 I robbed other assemblies, taking wages from them that I might serve you. 9 When I was present with you and was in need, I wasn't a burden on anyone, for the brothers, when they came from Macedonia, supplied the measure of my need. In everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and I will continue to do so. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no one will stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia. 11 Why? Because I don't love you? God knows. 12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them that desire an occasion, that in which they boast, they may be found even as we. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as Christ's apostles. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is no great thing therefore if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. 16 I say again, let no one think me foolish. But if so, yet receive me as foolish, that I also may boast a little. 17 That which I speak, I don't speak according to the Lord, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. 18 Seeing that many boast after the flesh, I will also boast. 19 For you bear with the foolish gladly, being wise. 20 For you bear with a man, if he brings you into bondage, if he devours you, if he takes you captive, if he exalts himself, if he strikes you on the face. 21 I speak by way of disparagement, as though we had been weak. Yet however any is bold (I speak in foolishness), I am bold also. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I am more so; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. 24 Five times from the Jews I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. I have been a night and a day in the deep. 26 I have been in travels often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils from my countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brothers; 27 in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness. 28 Besides those things that are outside, there is that which presses on me daily, anxiety for all the assemblies. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is caused to stumble, and I don't burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that concern my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, he who is blessed forevermore, knows that I don't lie. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of the Damascenes desiring to arrest me. 33 Through a window I was let down in a basket by the wall, and escaped his hands.
This chapter 2 Cor. 11 is connected in its general design with the preceding. The object of Paul is to vindicate himself from the charges which had been brought against him, and especially to vindicate his claims to the apostolic office. It is ironical in its character, and is of course severe upon the false teachers who had accused him in Corinth. The main purpose is to state his claims to the office of an apostle, and especially to show that when he mentioned those claims, or even boasted of his labors, he had ground for doing so. It would seem that they had charged him with "folly" in boasting as he had done. Probably the false teachers were loud in proclaiming their own praise, but represented Paul as guilty of folly in praising himself. He therefore 2-Corinthians 11:1 asks them if they could bear with him a little further in his folly, and entreats them to do it. This verse contains the scope of the chapter; and the remainder of the chapter is an enumeration of the causes which he had for his boasting, though probably each reason is adapted to some form of accusation brought against him.
Having entreated them to bear with him a little further, he states the reasons why he was disposed to go into this subject at all; 2-Corinthians 11:2-4. It was not because he was disposed to sound his own praise, but it was from love to them. He had espoused them as a chaste virgin to Christ. He was afraid that their affections would be alienated from the Redeemer. He reminded them of the manner in which Eve was tempted; and he reminded them that by the same smooth and plausible arts their affections might also be stolen away, and that they might be led into sin. He reminds them that there was danger of their receiving another gospel, and expresses the apprehension that they had done it, and that they had embraced a deceiver; 2-Corinthians 11:4.
Having made this general statement of his design, Paul now goes more into detail in answering the objections against him, and in showing the reasons which he had for boasting as he had done. The statement in answer to their objections relates to the following points:
(1) He had supposed that he was not behind the chiefest of the apostles. He had supposed that he had claims to the apostolic office of as high an order as any of them. Called to the work as he had been, and laboring as he had done, he had regarded himself as having an indisputable claim to the office of an apostle. True, they had charged him with being rude in speech, a charge which he was not disposed to deny, but in a far more important point than that he had showed that he was not disqualified for the apostolic office. In knowledge, the main qualification, he had not been deficient, as probably even his opponents were disposed to admit 2-Corinthians 11:5-6.
(2) he had not deprived himself of the claims to the office and honors of an apostle by declining to receive from them a compensation, and by preaching the gospel without charge; 2-Corinthians 11:7-9. Probably they had alleged that this was a proof that he knew that he had no claim to the honors of an apostle. He, therefore, states exactly how this was. He had" received" a support, but he had robbed other churches to do it. And even when he was with them, he had received supplies from a distant church in order that he might not be burdensome to them. The charge was therefore groundless, that he knew that he had no right to the support due to an apostle.
(3) he declares it to be his fixed purpose that no one should prevent his boasting in that manner. And this he did because he loved them, and because he would save them from the snares of those who would destroy them. He therefore stated the true character of those who attempted to deceive them. They were the ministers of Satan, appearing as the ministers of righteousness, as Satan himself was transformed into an angel of light; 2-Corinthians 11:10.
(4) Paul claims the privilege of boasting as a fool a little further; 2-Corinthians 11:16. And he claims that as others boasted, and as they were allowed to do so by the Corinthians, he had also a right to do the same thing. They suffered them to boast; they allowed them to do it even if they devoured them, and smote them, and took their property. It was but fair, therefore, that he should be allowed to boast a little of what he was and of what he had done; 2-Corinthians 11:17-20.
(5) he goes, therefore, into an extended and most tender description of what he had suffered, and of his claims to their favorable regard. He had all the personal advantages arising from birth which they could pretend to. He was a Hebrew, of the seed of Abraham, and a minister of Christ; 2-Corinthians 11:21-23. He had endured far more labors and dangers than they had done; and in order to set this before them he enumerates the trials through which he had passed, and states the labors which constantly came upon him; 2-Corinthians 11:23-30. Of these things, of his sufferings, and trials, and infirmities, he felt that he had a right to speak, and these constituted a far higher claim to the confidence of the Christian church than the endowments of which his adversaries boasted.
(6) as another instance of peril and suffering, he refers to the fact that his life was endangered when he was in Damascus, and that he barely escaped by being lowered down from the wall of the city, 2-Corinthians 11:31-33. The conclusion which Paul doubtless intends should be derived from all this is, that he had far higher grounds of claim to the office of an apostle than his adversaries would admit, or than they could furnish themselves. He admitted that he was weak and subject to infirmities; he did not lay claim to the graces of a polished elocution, as they did; but if a life of self-denial and toil, of an honest devotion to the cause of truth at imminent and frequent hazard of life, constituted an evidence that he was an apostle, he had that evidence. They appealed to their birth, their rank, their endowments as public speakers. In the quiet and comfort of a congregation and church established to their hands; in reaping the avails of the labors of others; and in the midst of enjoyments, they coolly laid claims to the honors of the ministerial office, and denied his claims. In trial, and peril, and labor, and poverty; in scourges, and imprisonments, and shipwrecks; in hunger and thirst; in unwearied traveling from place to place: and in the care of all the congregations, were his claims to their respect and confidence, and he was willing that anyone that chose should make the comparison between them. Such was his "foolish" boasting; such his claims to their confidence and regard.
The apostle apologizes for expressing his jealousy relative to the true state of the Corinthians; still fearing lest their minds should have been drawn aside from the simplicity of the Gospel, 2-Corinthians 11:1-3; From this he takes occasion to extol his own ministry, which had been without charge to them, having been supported by the Churches of Macedonia while he preached the Gospel at Corinth, 2-Corinthians 11:4-11. Gives the character of the false apostles, 2-Corinthians 11:12-16. Shows what reasons he has to boast of secular advantages of birth, education, Divine call to the ministry, labors in that ministry, grievous persecutions, great sufferings, and extraordinary hazards, vv. 16-33.
INTRODUCTION TO 2 CORINTHIANS 11
In this chapter, the apostle continues his discourse concerning the false teachers; blames the Corinthians for their connivance at them, and subjection to them; gives a true and ample description of them; compares himself with them, and by various instances shows, that he was greatly superior to them: and whereas self commendation was necessary, and could not be avoided in this argument, and this might look like folly, and by some be deemed such, he entreats the Corinthians that they would bear with him in it, as well as in his reproofs and admonitions to them, 2-Corinthians 11:1 and assigns his godly jealousy over them, as the reason why he entered into this subject, and proceeded in such a way of reasoning on it; and the rather this might be bore with in him, since he had such a concern in espousing them to Christ; his end in which was, to present them a chaste virgin to him, 2-Corinthians 11:2 and what this jealousy was he explains, lest their minds should be corrupted by the false teachers, and they should forsake the pure and simple Gospel of Christ; which he exemplifies in the instance of Eve being deceived by the serpent, 2-Corinthians 11:3 and proceeds to blame them for preferring these false teachers to the faithful ministers of the word; seeing, put them in the best light they could, it was but the same Jesus they preached, and not another and a better Saviour; and it was but the same spirit of faith they received through their ministry, and not another and a better; and the same Gospel they brought, and did not come with better news, or more joyful tidings; had this been the case, there would have been some reason for extolling one above another, 2-Corinthians 11:4 for which there was not the least foundation, especially with respect to the Apostle Paul, who was not inferior to the chief of the true apostles of Christ, and therefore could not be at all behind these men, 2-Corinthians 11:5 and seeing it might be objected to him that he was rude in speech, when these were men of great eloquence, he allows it; but then affirms he was not so in knowledge, in which he exceeded them; for the truth of which, lie appeals to the Corinthians themselves, 2-Corinthians 11:6 and he suggests, that it was very ungrateful in them, that inasmuch as he humbled himself when among them, by working with his own hands, that they might be exalted, that they should despise him on that account, and prefer these avaricious men before him, 2-Corinthians 11:7 when that he might be able to preach the Gospel freely, he took of other churches, 2-Corinthians 11:8 and particularly was supplied by the Macedonian brethren, and so was not at all chargeable and burdensome to them, and he was determined ever to remain so, 2-Corinthians 11:9 and which he confirms by an oath, that no man should ever be able to prevail upon him to take anything of the churches in the region of Achaia, in which Corinth was, 2-Corinthians 11:10 and whereas it might be insinuated that such a resolution showed that he had no true affection for them, this he denies, and appeals to the omniscient God for the truth of his love to them, 2-Corinthians 11:11 but the true reason why he had so determined, was to prevent the false teachers having any opportunity to reproach him, and exalt themselves, 2-Corinthians 11:12 and this leads him on to a description of them, by their ambition and arrogance, in assuming a title that did not belong to them; by their crafty, cunning, and deceitful manner of working, and by their hypocrisy in mimicking the apostles of Christ, 2-Corinthians 11:13 nor need this seem strange to any, when Satan himself has been transformed into an angel of light, 2-Corinthians 11:14 and whom, the apostle suggests, these men imitated; whose ministers they were, though they looked like ministers of righteousness, and on whom the apostle denounces severe punishment, 2-Corinthians 11:15 and as he saw himself under a necessity of boasting, in order to stop the mouths of these men, to vindicate himself, and prevent mischief being done by them, he renews his entreaty in 2-Corinthians 11:1 that the Corinthians would not reckon him as a fool; or if they did, that they would bear with his folly, and suffer him to boast of himself a little, 2-Corinthians 11:16 and that the Christian religion, and the Gospel of Christ, might not come under any reproach and blame, for his conduct in this particular, he observes, that what he was about to say on this head of boasting, was not by any order or direction from the Lord, but of himself, and might have the appearance of folly in it, 2-Corinthians 11:17 and the rather he might be indulged in it, seeing many, even the false teachers, had gloried in a carnal way, and of outward things, and which made it necessary that he should glory also, 2-Corinthians 11:18 and which foolish boasting in them, even many of the Corinthians had bore with, and that with a great deal of pleasure; and therefore might suffer him, a single man, to boast a little of himself unto them, whom he ironically calls wise, 2-Corinthians 11:19 of which he gives instances, by being brought into bondage, devoured, pillaged, insulted, and abused, by the false teachers, 2-Corinthians 11:20 nor had they abused and reproached them only, but the apostle also, as weak and contemptible; but then he would not bear it, but would boldly engage and enter the lists with them, though this might be by some reckoned foolish boasting, 2-Corinthians 11:21 and then follows the comparison between him and them, by which it appears that he was upon an equal foot with them, on account of nation, descent, and parentage, 2-Corinthians 11:22 that he was superior to them as a minister of the Gospel, as was manifest by his more abundant labours in it, and by his sufferings for it, the dangers he was exposed unto on account of it, and the many hardships he endured in the ministration of it, of which he gives a variety of particulars, 2-Corinthians 11:23 to which he adds, besides these things, and all other outward ones, that the daily care of all the churches of Christ was upon him, 2-Corinthians 11:28 and such was his sympathy with all sorts of Christians, even the weak and offended brethren, that he was affected with them, bore their infirmities, and sought to reconcile and make them easy, which greatly increased the weight of business that was upon him, 2-Corinthians 11:29 and seeing there was a necessity of glorying, he chose to glory in his infirmities and sufferings, and on which he had mostly enlarged, 2-Corinthians 11:30 and for the glory of divine Providence, and to express his thankfulness for the mercy, he relates a particular instance of deliverance from imminent danger; for the truth of which he appeals to the God and Father of Christ, the eternally blessed One, 2-Corinthians 11:31 the danger he escaped, the manner and means of the escape, and the place where, are particularly mentioned, 2-Corinthians 11:32.
(2-Corinthians 11:1-14) The apostle gives the reasons for speaking in his own commendation.
(2-Corinthians 11:5-15) Shows that he had freely preached the gospel.
(2-Corinthians 11:16-21) Explains what he was going to add in defence of his own character.
(2-Corinthians 11:22-33) He gives an account of his labours, cares, sufferings, dangers, and deliverances.
SUMMARY.--Compelled by His Opposers to Indulge in Folly. His Jealousy for the Corinthians. Compelled to Recount His Claims. His Unparalleled Sufferings. A Boast in Infirmities.
*More commentary available by clicking individual verses.