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Introduction to 2nd Corinthians Chapter 11

THIS chapter 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 labours, 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 Co 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 for 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 Co 10:2-4. 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 Co 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 labouring 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 Co 11:5,6.

(2.) He had not deprived himself of the claims to the office and honours of an apostle by declining to receive from them a compensation, and by preaching the gospel without charge, 2 Co 11:7-9. Probably they had alleged that this was a proof that he knew that he had no claim to the honours 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 Co 11:10-15.

(4.) Paul claims the privilege of boasting as a fool a little further, 2 Co 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 Co 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 favourable 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 Co 11:21-23. He had endured far more labours 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 labours which constantly came upon him, 2 Co 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 Co 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 labours of others; and in the midst of enjoyments, they coolly laid claims to the honours of the ministerial office, and denied his claims. In trial, and peril, and labour, and poverty; in scourges, and imprisonments, and shipwrecks; in hunger and thirst; in unwearied travelling from place to place; and in the care of all the churches, were his claims to their respect and confidence, and he was willing that any one that chose should make the comparison between them. Such was his "foolish" boasting; such his claims to their confidence and regard.

Verse 1. Would to God. Greek, "I would," ofelon. This expresses earnest desire, but in the Greek there is no appeal to God. The sense would be well expressed by, "Oh that," or "I earnestly wish."

Ye could bear with me. That you would bear patiently with me; that you would hear me patiently, and suffer me to speak of myself.

In my folly. Folly in boasting. The idea seems to be, "I know that boasting is generally foolish, and that it is not to be indulged in; but though it is to be generally regarded as folly, yet circumstances compel me to it, and I ask your indulgence in it." It is possible also that his opponents accused him of folly in boasting so much of himself.

And indeed bear with me. Marg. ye do bear. But the text has probably the correct rendering. It is the expression of an earnest wish that they would tolerate him a little in this. He entreats them to bear with him, because he was constrained to it.

{*} "folly" "foolish boasting" {1} "bear with me" Hos 2:19,20

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