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In this chapter Paul continues to show the qualifications of a true apostle in order to show the false apostles for what they really were. In doing so, he inevitably has to boast about himself, for in outlining the qualifications of his true apostleship he is saying "these qualifications are mine" - a boast, perhaps, but necessary in the circumstances.
1. I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!
"I hope that you will put up with a little egotism on my part" says Paul, "for you need to hear me out on this matter." He then tells them why he finds it necessary to defend his apostleship (and therefore his message).
The Friend of the Bridegroom.
2. I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
It was the love of God in his heart that caused him to feel "jealousy"; that is, to affectionately covet them for Christ. He had "betrothed" them to Christ, for in preaching the Gospel, Paul had proclaimed the divine bridegroom who died to purchase His bride and make her spotless and perfect (Eph. 5:25-27). By accepting Christ as Saviour they had accepted Christ's courtship of their souls, and became betrothed or joined to Him.
Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. It was the servant who carried the message and wooed Rebekah on Isaac's behalf. The girl believed the servant's message and the pair were betrothed before Rebekah had ever seen Isaac. Betrothal in those days was as binding as marriage, and the resulting union later consummated the marriage. The joy of the messenger, or friend of the bridegroom, was to present to Him (through preaching) His bride "as a chaste virgin"; that is, one who is fully consecrated, having forsaken all other loves for her Lord (Rom. 15:16 ; John 17:17).
3. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
Paul's fear for the Corinthians was the same he had for the Galatians (Gal. 4:11) He was afraid that just as Satan had succeeded in seducing Eve by his craft and subtlety, he would succeed in destroying their steadfast faith and single minded love for Christ. Two pictures are used here. The first is of a betrothed woman being led astray during her betrothal, to love another man. The other is of Eve being led astray from God's word by Satan's lies. But since Christ is the husband and Christ is God, the two pictures are actually the same.
Attempting to Corrupt the Bride.
4. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough.
Who dared to attempt this? It was the false apostles. Paul accuses them of coming to Corinth to preach "a different Jesus" to the one he preached. Of course, there is only one true Jesus, but there may be many false teachings about Jesus. The false apostles spoke of "Jesus" but since they did not tell the truth about Him they could not really be talking about Jesus the Son of God.
A friend of mine once went to a funeral and heard the vicar give a great eulogy to the deceased. After the funeral, he confronted the vicar. "Who was that you just buried?" he asked. "Old Tom" he replied. "No it wasn't", said my friend, "at least I couldn't recognise the Tom I knew in the description you gave of him."
What the false apostles said about Jesus was wrong, perhaps subtly wrong. The Jesus that Paul preached is God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul expounds in great detail the truth concerning him in all his epistles, and that is why they are so important; anyone who deviates from their teaching is in fact preaching "a different Jesus". But more than that, Paul accuses them of operating with "a different spirit", not the Holy Spirit. Believers have received the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20), who is the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). He takes of the things of Christ and reveals them to us (John 16:14). Anything taught which contradicts God's Word is not inspired by the Holy Spirit, but a "different spirit". Satan tries to corrupt the church and destroy its faith with false teaching, and the source of all error is Satan the liar (John 8:44 ; 1 John 2:21).
Paul was alarmed that some believers in Corinth had been giving Satan their ears (by listening to false teachers). Some taught a different Gospel entirely, but any deviance from the Gospel was too much for Paul's liking; as no one should meddle with the Word of God (Rev. 22:18-19). Rather than put up with these men, the Corinthians ought to repudiate and reject both them and their teaching out of hand, as devoted bride would reject the advances of another man. John the Baptist one day sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus "are you he that should come? or are we to look for another?" (Luke 7:19). The Corinthians had been saved by Christ through hearing the Gospel via Paul's ministry; why should they look for another Saviour? Why should we? If indeed any could show you another Saviour, a more powerful Spirit, a better gospel, ye might well bear with him - but this is impossible. WESLEY
Paul's Apostolic Credentials.
5. I think that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles.
When Paul brought the Gospel of Christ to Corinth, he modestly states that he was not in any way inferior to any other apostle, especially meaning the Eleven (Peter and John etc.). They had walked and talked with Christ during His earthly ministry. They saw His miracles and ate with Him after He had risen from the dead. If any one should know the truth about Jesus it should be these men. But not only they, says Paul. Such was his intimate personal experience and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ that he could claim at least equality with the Eleven.
6. I may be untrained in speech, but not in knowledge; certainly in every way and in all things we have made this evident to you.
"Even if you regard me as an idiot in my speech," says Paul, reminding them of the charge they had made about him, "you know that I am not in knowledge." He was anything else but that. His understanding of the truth and the mystery of Christ had been made very clear among them. Paul was not taught the Gospel by any human agency, but by Christ Himself (Gal. 1:12). On more than one occasion he saw and had fellowship with the risen Lord (Acts 23:11 ; Acts 26:14-16). He speaks in 2 Cor. 12:4 of his being caught up into heaven. The narrative of the last supper was not related to him by the other apostles, but by the Lord Himself directly (1 Cor. 11:23). His knowledge of Jesus Christ was second to none. It was revealed to him that he might "make known among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8). It was the only thing that would sustain him in his sufferings for Christ. The men who claimed they knew better than Paul - how dare they! Impostors! They are still around today! If they call into question Paul's teaching they call into question the Lord who gave it to him personally.
The Sincerity of Paul's Service.
7. Did I commit a sin by humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I proclaimed God's good news to you free of charge?
"What have I done wrong?" asks Paul. "Is it my fault that you have turned from Christ to listen to false teachers? Was it because I humbled myself and instead of insisting on my right to financial support I preached the gospel of God free of charge to you?
8. I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you.
"I stripped other churches," says Paul, "taking their financial support that I might minister to you; and I did not take a penny from you."
9. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for my needs were supplied by the friends who came from Macedonia. So I refrained and will continue to refrain from burdening you in any way.
A time came during Paul's experience at Corinth when, as he preached the gospel of God, he was in want. But even then, he did not take money from the Corinthians (perhaps it wasn't offered)? Instead, he welcomed gifts from those who came to him from the established churches in Macedonia (including Phillipi, see Phil. 4:15). Paul would continue to refrain from taking help of the Corinthians lest anyone should accuse him of peddling the word of God for profit.
10. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boast of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia.
With an oath Paul confirms that no one will stop his boast of this. This my boasting shall not be stopped - For I will receive nothing from you. Wesley says "it was Paul's policy not to take anything of the churches in the region of Achaia."
11. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
Why should do this? Why deny himself legitimate aid? It was not because he had something against the Corinthians, it was not that he did not love them that he refused to take money from them. God is his witness that this is not the reason.
12. And what I do I will also continue to do, in order to deny an opportunity to those who want an opportunity to be recognized as our equals in what they boast about.
Rather, he did it to stop the false apostles having any chance to censure him and lift themselves above him. Obviously they boasted of their self sufficiency, though in what way is unclear. Perhaps they thought that they were such spiritual supermen that they had no need of help from anyone - yet they took money of the people. In Paul's case, his being dependent on no man was no idle boast and that shut their mouths. Such was the sincerity of Paul's service that he suffered need when necessary in order to safeguard the Corinthians' faith.
"By this he removes the occasion for attack, but shows both his opponents and himself in their true light." Vincent
The End of the False Apostles.
13. For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
These sort of men are false apostles, deceiving false teachers, disguising themselves as ambassadors of Christ.
14. And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
This is not to be wondered at, for their master Satan himself disguises himself as a messenger of "light"; that is, of truth and of God. He is, in other words, a false god, seeking by his lying teachings for men deceive men and make them worship him.
15. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds.
So it is no great thing if his servants disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their punishment will be measured according to their works. Just as they seek to lead men into damnation, so they will receive a greater damnation (Gal. 1:8 ; Jude 1:4 ; Jude 1:13).
The Church's Willingness to be Enslaved by False Teaching.
16. I repeat, let no one think that I am a fool; but if you do, then accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.
Paul does not want any one to think he is bigheaded. He has been compelled to boast truthfully by the lying boasts of the false apostles. Even if they do think him foolish or egotistic, they should at least give him a hearing.
17. What I am saying in regard to this boastful confidence, I am saying not with the Lord's authority, but as a fool.
In boasting, Paul realizes that he is not doing as Christ would. The Lord Jesus Christ never boasted of Himself (John 5:19 ; John 8:28). Even when on trial, He did not boast of His position or privilege but simply witnessed to the truth (John 18:37). Christ is meek and lowly (Matt. 11:29). If Christ, the Lord of Glory, did not boast, who is Paul that he should do so? Though Paul really has nothing to boast of he feels that it is necessary in order to contradict the false teachers at Corinth.
18. Since many boast according to human standards, I will also boast.
"Since others are behaving in a worldly and human fashion by their self confident boasting," says Paul, "I will do the same." Paul was out to beat his enemies at their own game. Yet there was a difference. The false apostles boasted of their pedigree and supposed spiritual advantages. Paul commends himself by listing his sufferings for Christ. He was prepared to suffer much because he loved much. Yet even here is nothing to boast of; since we love Christ because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
19. For you gladly put up with fools, being wise yourselves!
With great irony, Paul remarks "it is surprising to see how easily you put up with mindless fools seeing you yourselves claim to be so very wise."
20. For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face.
"These men enslave you with false teaching and undermine your faith. They treat you with contempt, lift themselves above you as lords and then charge you for the privilege!" Kruse suggests that beatings were administered to church members by order of the false apostles. This may sound far fetched until we recall that this has happened recently in China. When false teachers have taken over, the true pastors have been beaten and chased away. Barnes says "false teachers are always rapacious. They seek the property, not the souls of those to whom they minister. They treated the church with as little respect as if they smote them on the face." Jesus warned of these people in Matt. 7:15.
21. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone dares to boast of--I am speaking as a fool--I also dare to boast of that.
"Are we really disgraced and devalued in your eyes because we were 'too weak' to treat you in such a way?" Plummer observes "they more than tolerate those who trample on them while they criticize as 'weak' one who shows them great consideration."
Paul Refutes The Credentials of the False Apostles.
On what did these men base their claim to have the right to despoil the church in this disgraceful manner? Let us bring forth their arguments, and allow pau lto reply. As Vincent says "(Paul) possessed every qualification on which they plumed themselves."
22. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.
If their supposed right to privilege is based on their Jewish pedigree, Paul could match them. He was a Hebrew, a descendant of Israel, of the chosen descendants of Abraham. If the false apostles claimed greatness because they were servants of Christ (he has already refuted this) then Paul could show himself superior to them all, not with hot air but with demonstrable facts.
The Qualifications of a True Apostle Pt III - Paul's Sufferings for Christ & His Church.
23,24. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman--I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
"What validates my claim to be superior to them as a servant of Christ?" asks Paul. It was a list of all that he had suffered on Christ's behalf. "I have laboured with toil and pain more than any of them, I have been beaten excessively, put in prison frequently, and have often stared death in the face - and all in the service of Christ." "Five times I have received the maximum amount of blows with the rod permitted by the Jews as punishment for my being a Christian." The Jews were allowed to give forty blows (Deut. 25:2-3) but they subtracted one in case an error in counting would cause them to break the law.
25. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea.
"I was beaten with rods." This was a Roman punishment. By right, it should not have been administered to a Roman citizen, yet Paul endured it three times for Christ's sake. There was no limit to the number of lashes that could be given (see Acts 16:22-23 and notice the phrase "many stripes"). On one occasion in Lystra, as the book of Acts records, Paul was stoned death (or near enough) with the Lord raising him immediately from death (Acts 14:19-20). Three times Paul was shipwrecked, spending 24 hours in the sea without a lifejacket!
26. On frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters.
In addition, he often journeyed as he preached, and encountered the perils of travel in fording rivers, encountering bandits, of the hostile reaction of his hearers whether Jews or heathen. He faced danger whether in the city or in the desert or the country and even when staying with some who, although they claimed to be Christians, were ready to betray Paul to his enemies.
27. In toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.
By hard work and sadness, in sleeplessness, hunger and thirst, in fasting, in cold, and without adequate clothing to protect him from the elements.
28. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.
Why did Paul endure all these dangerous journeys and situations? Firstly it was to plant the churches and then it was to nurture and care for them. This care for the churches pressed every day heavily on Paul's mind, to the point of distraction. It compelled him to spend much of his time in prayer and writing letters to the churches as well as to make dangerous journeys to visit the converts and to build them up in the faith, especially in those churches he had founded himself.
The Grace and Sufficiency of Christ Pt I
29. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?
In all he endured, it cannot be expected that Paul bore everything like a Trojan with almost superhuman physical and mental strength. These daily needs and perils took their toll on his mind and body. The idea conveyed is one of physical and mental feebleness. If any other feels weak, says Paul, so do I. I live with temptation constantly near me, as my brothers do. The word means being made to fall. I am not myself immune to this propensity to fall, or to the burning of lust or anger or grief that is common to sinful men. The picture Paul paints of himself is as far from the picture of a spiritual superman that the false apostles projected. Paul was an ordinary, weak, human, and sinful man. Yet he explains that even someone like him found all the strength and sufficiency he needed from Christ to serve God, overcome trial and temptation and to live with problems and weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9).
30. If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
So if Paul is compelled to boast he will boast of the things that show that whilst he is as weak as any man, Christ is his sufficiency.
31. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus (blessed be he forever!) knows that I do not lie.
Paul has no reason to lie about this, yet calls on God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as his witness that Christ really had been his sufficiency through it all.
32,33. In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.
This idea of God's grace being sufficient was not an experience which Paulentered into because of some superior spiritual advancementt. He had experienced it since his conversion. Immediately after his conversion Paul began to preach in Damascus and the governor of that Arabian town (perhaps to please the Jews) set a watch on the town walls to apprehend and kill him. When the Christians learned of it they let Paul out of a window in a basket and he escaped to Jerusalem (Acts 9:22-26). Just as Christ had been Paul's sufficiency from the time of his conversion, sio and is and ever will be ours. Derek R. Williams writes "to be secretly smuggled out of the city in such a humiliating manner - would any of the false apostles have endured these sufferings as Paul did? I think not. Yet after his conversion Paul's life was completly lived for Christ alone."
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