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Paul and His Antagonists
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.
1–4. Bear with me a little in my folly. The disparagement of his claims by the false teachers rendered it necessary that he should speak of himself in self-defense. One so forgetful of 155self and consecrated to Christ as Paul could only do this with a sort of sense of shame. Hence he apologizes for doing so, though compelled. 2. For I am jealous over you. His course was induced because of his jealousy for them, not in behalf of himself, but of Christ. He had espoused them to Christ, the Bridegroom of whom the church is the bride (Rev. 21:2). He has a fear lest this bride may be led astray. 3. But I fear. As Eve was seduced from God by the serpent (Gen. 3:1), so he fears that the Corinthian brethren may be led from the simplicity (single-minded devotion) that is in Christ. 4. For if he that cometh. Most critics think that the verse is ironical. Gal. 1:6 shows that the Judaizers so perverted the gospel that it was really another gospel. Hence Paul is supposed to say that if these men preach another Jesus, another Spirit, and another gospel than those you received, which they do, you might well bear with them! Perhaps, however, he only means to say that these men discredit me, but have no new gospel, Spirit or Christ to offer than what you have received through me. This harmonizes better with what follows.
5, 6. I suppose I am not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. The Greek (see Revision in the margin) implies that these men claimed to be apostles. Paul says he is not behind these “pre-eminent apostles”—a stroke of sarcasm. 6. Though I be rude in speech. He had not the rhetoric of a Corinthian orator, but he was not wanting in divine knowledge. See 1 Cor. 1:17, and 2:4. His revealed knowledge had been manifest among them.
7–12. Have I committed an offense, etc. He had at Corinth supported himself in part by his own labor (Acts 18:3). See note on 1 Cor. 9:13. Yet these false apostles seemed to have charged that he did not dare to ask for the support which was due an apostle. 8. I robbed other churches. Other churches sustained him when he came to Corinth. This seems to have been the usual custom. Philippi aided him more than once while preaching in Thessalonica (Phil. 4:16). The churches of Macedonia aided him at Corinth. 9. When I was present with you and wanted. When his 156supplies fell short, he worked at tent-making until Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia with supplies (Acts 18:5). These were the brethren which came from Macedonia. 10. No man shall stop me of this boasting. As he has done, so he will do. It shall be his boast that his gospel was freely preached in Achaia. 11. Wherefore? Why this course in Achaia? Not because he does not love them, but (verse 12) that I may cut off occasion, etc. One reason that he did this was to give no excuse to these opposers to call on the church to maintain them. He would force them by his example to be found even as we, that is, to maintain themselves.
13–15. Such are false apostles. He now tears off the mask. These men are not real, but false apostles, deceitful workers, pretending to be Christ's apostles. 14. And no marvel. Is it said that they appear to be Christ's ministers? Even Satan can take the shape of an angel of light. He always seeks to destroy by coming in a false guise. 15. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers, etc. It is not strange if persons really doing Satan's work should appear as ministers of righteousness. The sorest wounds of the church are not found from without, but from agents of Satan within.
16–21. Let no man think me a fool. Even though he should boast, let no one regard him foolish (see verse 1), since he compelled to by the disparagement of his labors. Whether he be regarded as foolish or wise, let his words be received. 17. That which I speak. What he is about to say, with an appearance of boasting, is not compromising Christ. The folly, if there be folly, is his own. 18. I will glory also. This is the folly for which he apologizes. He will show that he is not behind those who have been claiming so much credit at Corinth. 19. For ye suffer fools gladly. See 1 Cor. 4:10. It was a part of their superior wisdom to tolerate fools. This is perhaps said in derision. It is explained in the next verse. 20. For ye suffer. They must “suffer fools gladly,” for they let men bring them into bondage to the law (Gal. 2:4); to devour their property by their greed for gain; to take them by the cunning snares laid for them; to exalt themselves unduly. Smite you on the face. This perhaps refers to an actual case of violence. 21. I speak by way 157of disparagement. The opposers had said that “his bodily presence was weak” (10:10). They had suffered what he had described in verse 20, but he had never been so bold. Yet, wherein any were bold, he had the right to be bold also. He next states grounds which he might have for boasting.
22–27. Are they Hebrews? Of pure Hebrew stock? So was Paul. See Phil. 3:5. Israelites. He was of the seed of Jacob, and the heir of the promises to Israel. Of the seed of Abraham. Not only of the fleshly, but of the spiritual seed of Abraham. 23. Are they ministers of Christ? Speaking foolishly, that is, commending himself (see verse 1), he is more; not only a minister, but a pre-eminent sufferer for Christ. To show how much he exceeded them, he gives some account of his sufferings. In labors more abundant. The record of Acts shows how his labors abounded. In stripes above measure. See verse 24, 25. In prisons more frequent. Clement, who wrote about the close of the first century, says in his Epistle to the Corinthians that Paul was imprisoned seven times. In Acts only one occurrence is named before the date of this letter, that at Philippi. It is evident from this enumeration that Acts is only a part of the history of his labors. In deaths oft. Often in peril of death. 24. Of the Jews fives times received I forty stripes save one. See Deut. 25:3. The Jews were not allowed to exceed this number. 25. Thrice was I beaten with rods. This was the Roman scourging. Only one of these instances is reported in Acts, that in Acts 16:23. Once was I stoned. See Acts 14:19. Thrice I suffered shipwreck. No account elsewhere is given of these. The shipwreck, on the way to Italy, was of later date. A night and a day I have been in the deep. In an open boat, or on driftwood, after a shipwreck. 26. In perils of waters. In crossing swollen rivers. In perils of robbers. In his travels he was often exposed to danger from this source. In perils by mine own countrymen. The Jews, who constantly persecuted him. See verse 24. By the heathen. The Gentiles. See verse 25, as an illustration. In perils in the city. Damascus, Jerusalem, Antioch in Pisidia, Lystra, Philippi, and Corinth will at once occur as instances. 27. In weariness and painfulness. Often weary and in pain. The verse shows the self-denial made necessary in preaching the gospel. Often in want, hungry, naked and cold. Why should all these have been endured? Nothing but overwhelming conviction and love could have led him to this sacrifice himself.
28–31. Besides those things that are without. His physical sufferings and labors were not all. There was constant care and anxiety for the churches. 29. Who is weak? His sympathy for the 158churches was so great that if they suffered, he suffered with them. 30. If I must needs glory. If compelled to boast, this boast will be of his own infirmities and sufferings for Christ, such as he has just narrated. 31. The God and Father … knoweth, etc. He has given an astonishing catalogue of suffering. Yet, God knows that every word is true.
32, 33. In Damascus. This seems to be cited to show that the very beginning of his Christian career was amid peril. See Acts 9:23–25. The governor under Aretas the king. Aretas was king of Petra, and the father-in-law of Herod Antipas. Damascus was usually, at these times, under Roman rule. Aretas engaged in war with Herod because he sent off his daughter and took Herodias for a wife. He defeated Herod, and became embroiled with the Romans. It is likely that in the contest Damascus fell into his hands for a time. The language, Kept the city … with a garrison, shows that it was war times. The Jews, who were very strong in Damascus, doubtless induced the governor to try to seize Paul. 33. Through a window in a basket was I let down. Houses in these Oriental walled cities are built against walls with windows looking out over them. It was, no doubt, from such a window that he was let down and thus escaped.
Dean Stanley says that the catalogue of sufferings given in this chapter shows that Paul's life was then without precedent in the history of the world. The only explanation of such a life, continued now for more than fourteen years, is that given by himself: “The love of Christ constraineth us.” 158
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