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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 11

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

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Verses 1-33

If it seems strange that Paul asks the Corinthians to bear with a little folly in him, yet let us still remember that it is God who inspires him to write as he does. Paul considered it folly to speak of himself and of his own labours for Christ, and would certainly far rather have avoided this. But God required it in this case, and His inspiring it preserves it fully from exaggeration or undue exaltation of a man. God had called him as an apostle, and every proof is offered to fully authenticate his apostleship, and therefore the special ministry entrusted to him. It is valuable for our day, when men commonly exalt themselves, claim apostleship or something akin to this. Let this claim be measured in the light of Paul's character, labour, and sufferings; and such modern claims will collapse in utter shame.

Paul is looking for no self-exaltation, but writes with tenderest concern for God's people, jealous over them for the sake of his and their God. The truth he had given them had espoused them to one Husband: such is the character of the Church of God, the Assembly, of which Paul is specially "minister." Paul was most concerned that she should be exclusively for her Lord, a chaste virgin, unspoiled by the subtle influences of evil. And he is frank to tell them of his fear that the same subtlety of the serpent that beguiled Eve was a very real danger for them just now, ready to corrupt their minds from simplicity as to Christ. Involved arguments, subtle insinuations, covert criticisms, intellectual contradictions, are those methods Satan commonly uses; and today how many minds have been influenced and corrupted by these! Let us solemnly take to heart the fact that this is no less than unfaithfulness to our one Husband! The direct simplicity and fidelity of the faith of Ruth is a precious example for every child of God. This was that which rejoiced the heart of Boaz (Ruth 2:10-12).

In verse 4 Paul tells them that if one came to them bringing a message of true value, totally different to that which Paul had brought, preaching a completely different Jesus, by which they received a completely different spirit, then Paul could understand why they would bear with it. But this was of course not the case. The false apostles who were attempting to influence the Corinthians were simply taking advantage of Paul's message, intimating that they knew it better than did Paul, and in this way introducing their crafty corruptions. Satan has nothing new to work with. Instead he fastens on that which is the purest truth of God, and contaminates it with spurious doctrines. Certainly the Corinthians ought not to have borne with this for a moment. It was Paul who had brought them the gospel: are they to allow others now to denounce Paul, and introduce their corruptions of his message?

But Paul was not in the least behind the chiefest apostles as to the truth he was given of God. If he was a simple person in speech, yet in the knowledge of the ways of God there is no doubt that he surpassed others. And when among the Corinthians, there was an honest transparency about him they could not deny: he had been thoroughly made manifest among them; and they really had no excuse for accepting men who merely put on a show of Superiority, so contrary to the openness of faith and love.

Was it an evil thing that he had so humbled himself in lowly grace as to accept nothing from them for his support? Was it a right thing for them to despise him on this account? He writes strongly in verse 8 to awaken their proper sentiments. Other assemblies had supported him while he preached the gospel at Corinth; and it was as though he had robbed others, for their sakes. Of course, the brethren from Macedonia were wholeheartedly glad to bring temporal help to Paul; and no doubt it was because of their deeply willing devotedness that Paul received this from them, and not from Corinth. The selfish attitude in Corinth was such that Paul would give them no occasion of boasting that they were supporting him. He had been no burden to them; and he had no intention of changing this.

In the regions of Achaia, so long as this attitude remained, then it was a settled matter with Paul that he would not give up this boasting in receiving nothing from them. He is not at all secretive as to his reasons, but shows plainly they are justifiable. God knew that this was not because of any lack of love to them: indeed love was in it more than they realized. But he will continue doing as he has in order to "cut off occasion from them who desire occasion." There were those ready to accuse Paul of materially selfish motives, just as soon as he would receive anything from the Corinthians: therefore he would give them not the slightest occasion for this. If such men claimed that they themselves asked for nothing from the Corinthians, this certainly made them no better than Paul.

Now Paul deliberately, solemnly characterizes these men as "false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ." It is the Spirit of God who so inspires Paul to write. It does not seem that all the assembly was influenced by these men, but some among them were; and the saints required this faithful warning. Utter wickedness can be clothed in a pious garb; and it is nothing to be marvelled at, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light, and his servants as ministers of righteousness. Notice, these are high, pretentious claims - superior light, and assumed righteousness - but leaving out the cross of Christ, and therefore the pure grace of God: all therefore becomes a hollow and deadly sham.

Because of these deceivers, Paul must speak of himself, though in so doing he feels himself a fool. But he asks that the Corinthians will not think of him as such, for his reasons for speaking in this way are evident. Yet, if they do, still they ought to bear with his speaking for a little at least, for they had done so with false apostles! Though he speaks "not after the Lord," yet let us remember that it is the Lord who requires him so to write: but it is not the normal way for a Christian, and nothing but abnormal conditions would justify it.

Since many gloried in themselves and their accomplishments, then he would do so: then let the Corinthians judge whether these false apostles had a measure as favourable as they claimed. How did they really compare with a true apostle? He tells them they were bearing fools gladly, considering themselves wise. They bore with it if a man brought them into bondage, devoured and oppressed them, exalted himself, and insulted them. Paul had done none of this; yet in the name of religion people will accept this kind of thing, and think they are more spiritual because of their submission to it. But the flesh always despises the true liberty of grace.

"I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak." Dishonour did not mark the false apostles, as it did Paul; and his suffering of dishonour they considered weakness on his part. But let them consider again: did they count it weakness on his part that he endured such sufferings for the Lord's sake. So he speaks boldly of these things.

Verse 22 indicates that these false apostles boasted in their Jewish lineage, so this, with verse 15, would mark them as Judaizers intent on bringing souls under bondage to themselves. But as to Jewish blood, they were no different than Paul. Did they claim to be ministers of Christ? In this they did not measure up to him, though he is distressed to have to say so. "In labours more abundant." Who could say he had laboured as Paul had? Or would any of these men compare in any degree with Paul "in stripes above measure," in his imprisonments, in experiences of being brought to death's door? Indeed, today how weak and sickly is our own witness for Christ compared to that of this single-hearted, devoted servant!

He had received the lash thirty-nine times from the Jews on five occasions. (Law forbade their exceeding forty stripes, and in case of a miscount, this was commonly reduced by one (Deuteronomy 25:3 ].) Three times he was beaten with rods, once stoned, three times shipwrecked, a night and a day in the deep. Whether swimming or supported by boards, the trauma of such an experience would not easily be forgotten. Practically all of his journeys were imperilled how much more greatly than travel today; and as well as the perils common to others who travelled, the dangers of water travel, robbers, etc., there were those peculiar dangers because of his witness for Christ, some of these particularly from Jewish opposition and hatred, some from Gentile resentment, such as in Ephesus; and the added subtle attacks of Satan by means of false brethren. The steadfastness of Paul's endurance in the face of all these ought to have greatly impressed the Corinthians, and ourselves no less.

Added to all the dangers the apostle encountered were the many and frequent discomforts, weariness, pain, sleeplessness, hunger and thirst, cold and lack of clothing. Who would naturally welcome such an existence? But it was willingly endured for Christ. And beside all this was that which continually weighed heavily upon his heart, the care of all the assemblies. If there was weakness among the saints, he felt it as his own: if others were stumbled, his own soul was affected to its depths. This epistle bears its witness to this. Let us observe in all this however, that he is not boasting of what man would call great accomplishments: indeed it is rather in those things that serve to humble the vessel; and this he presses in verse 30. All of this shows him to be helplessly dependent upon the Living God, who proves Himself absolutely faithful in caring for His servant. How totally contrary to the assumed dignity of false apostles! But with calm, lowly sobriety he assures us that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bears witness to the truth of what he says.

Now he closes this subject with a most precious witness to God's tender grace. In these verses (32 and 33) there is nothing in which the flesh may boast, no great display of power by a mighty apostle, but his depending upon the help of disciples to let him down by a basket - God's way of preserving, yet humbling his devoted servant.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/2-corinthians-11.html. 1897-1910.
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