Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 11:1 - 11:33

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Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 11:1 - 11:33

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:



An apology for the "foolishness" of boasting (2Co_11:1-4). He is not afraid of comparisons (2Co_11:5, 2Co_11:6). He will not recede from his despised practice of teaching gratuitously (2Co_11:7-15). A second apology, drawn from the outrageous conduct of his opponents (2Co_11:16-20). His privileges, life, and labours (vers, 21-33).


Would to God;
rather, would that!. You could bear; rather, ye would bear. In my folly; rather, in a little foolishness. Namely, in this foolishness of boasting. "Fool" and "folly" are here haunting words (2Co_1:16
, 2Co_1:17, 2Co_1:19, 2Co_1:21; 2Co_12:6, 2Co_12:11). The article (the i.e. my folly) is omitted in à , B, D, E. Bear with me. It is better to take this as an indicative. It would be meaningless to pass from an entreaty to a command. On the other hand, "Nay, ye do really bear with me" was a loving and delicate admission of inch kindness as he had received from them.


. This gives the reason why they bore with him. It was due to a reciprocity of affection. I am jealous over you. The word implies both jealousy and zeal (2Co_7:7
; 2Co_9:2). With a godly jealousy; literally, with a jealousy of God. My jealousy is not the poor earthly vice (Num_5:14; Ecc_9:1), but a heavenly zeal of love. For I have espoused you; rather, for I betrothed you; at your conversion. I acted as the paranymph, or "bridegroom's friend" (Joh_3:29), in bringing you to Christ, the Bridegroom. The metaphor is found alike in the Old and New Testaments (Isa_54:5; Eze_23:1-49.; Hos_2:19; Eph_5:25-27). To one husband (Jer_3:1; Eze_16:15). Our Lord used an analogous metaphor in the parable of the king's wedding feast, the virgins, etc. That I may present you. The same word as in 2Co_4:14. The conversion of the Church was its betrothal to Christ, brought about by St. Paul as the paranymph; and, in the same capacity, at the final marriage feast, he would present their Church as a pure bride to Christ at his coming (Rev_19:7-9).


I fear.
Even now he would only contemplate their defection as a future dread, not as a present catastrophe. Lest by any means; lest haply (2Co_2:7
; 2Co_9:4). As the serpent beguiled Eve. St. Paul merely touches on the central moral fact of the temptation and the Fall (Gen_3:1-6). He enters into no speculation about the symbols, though, doubtless, like St. John (Rev_12:9; Rev_20:2), he would have identified the serpent with Satan. Through his subtlety. The word means "crafty wickedness." It is used in 2Co_12:16, and is found in 2Co_4:2; Luk_20:23. Your minds; literally, your thoughts (2Co_2:11). Should be corrupted (comp. Col_2:4-8; 1Ti_4:1). The simplicity. The apostles always insisted on this virtue, but especially St. Paul, in whose Epistles the word ( ἁπλότης occurs seven times. That is in Christ; rather, that is towards (literally, into) Christ; as Cranmer rendered it, "The perfect fidelity Which looks to him above."


He that cometh.
Apparently an allusion to some recent and rival teacher. Another Jesus. The intruder preaches, not a different Jesus ( ἕτερον ) or a different gospel (comp. Gal_1:6-8
), but ostensibly the same Jesus whom St. Paul had preached. Another spirit… another gospel; rather, a different spirit ( ἕτερον )... a different gospel. The Jesus preached was the same; the gospel accepted, the Spirit received, were supposed to remain unaltered. Ye might well bear with him. This is not without a touch of irony. You are all set against me; and yet the newcomer does not profess to preach to you another Jesus, or impart a different Spirit! Had he done so, you might have had some excreta ( καλῶς ) for listening to him. Now there is none; for it was I who first preached Jesus to you, and from me you first received the Spirit.


. It cannot be that you received this rival teacher as being so much superior to me; for, etc. I suppose. Again, like the Latin censeo or opinor, with a touch of irony. I was not a whit behind; in no respect have I come short of. The very chiefest apostles. The word used by St. Paul for "very chiefest" is one which, in its strangeness, marks the vehemence of his emotion. It involves an indignant sense that he had been most disparagingly compared with other apostles, as though he were hardly a genuine apostle at all. Yet he reckons himself to have done as much as the "above exceedingly"—or, as it might be expressed, the "out and out," "extra-super," or "super-apostolic," apostles. There is here no reflection whatever on the twelve; he merely means that, even if any with whom he was uufavourably contrasted were "apostles ten times over," he can claim to be in the front rank with them. This is no more than he has said with the utmost earnestness in 1Co_15:10; Gal_2:6. There is no self-assertion here; but, in consequence of the evil done by his detractors, St. Paul, with an utter sense of distaste, is forced to say the simple truth.


Rude in speech;
literally, a laic in discourse; see 2Co_10:10
and 1Co_2:13; and, for the word idiotes, a private person, and so "one who is untrained," as contrasted with a professor, see the only other places where it occurs in the New Testament (Act_4:13; 1Co_14:16, 1Co_14:23, 1Co_14:24). St. Paul did not profess to have the trained oratorical skill of Apollos. His eloquence, dependent on conviction and emotion, followed none of the rules of art. Yet not in knowledge. Spiritual knowledge was a primary requisite of an apostle, and St. Paul did claim to possess this (Eph_3:3, Eph_3:4). We have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things. This would be an appeal to the transparent openness and sincerity of all his dealings, as in 2Co_4:1-18 :20 and 2Co_12:12; but the best reading seems to be the active participle, phanerosantes ( à , B, F, G), not the passive, phanerothentes. The rendering will then be, In everything making it (my knowledge) manifest among all men towards you.


Have I?
literally, or have I? An ironical exception to his manifestation of knowledge; "unless you think that I committed a sin in refusing to accept maintenance at your hands." It is clear that even this noble generosity had been made the ground for a charge against the apostle. "If he had not been conscious," they said, "that he has no real claims, he would not have preached for nothing, when he had a perfect right to be supported by his converts" (1Co_9:1-15
). Abasing myself. The trade of tentmaker was despised, tedious, and mechanical, and it did not suffice to provide even for Paul's small needs (Act_18:3; Act_20:34). That ye might be exalted; namely, by spiritual gifts (Eph_2:4-6). The gospel… freely. Some of them would feel the vast contrast between the words. The gospel was the most precious gift of God, and they had got it for nothing. Compare the fine lines of Lowell—

"For a cap and bells our lives we pay,

Bubbles we earn with our whole soul's tasking;

'Tis only God who is given away,

'Tis only heaven may be had for the asking."

To be a free and unpaid missionary was St. Paul's pride (2Co_12:14; 1Th_2:9; 2Th_3:8, 2Th_3:9; Act_20:33).


I robbed;
literally, I ravaged, or plundered. The intensity of St. Paul's feelings, smarting under base calumny and ingratitude, reveals itself by the passionate expression which he here uses. Other Churches. The only Church of which we know as contributing to St. Paul's needs is that at Philippi (Php_4:15
, Php_4:16). Taking wages. The expression is again impassioned. It is meant rather ironically than literally. Literally it means rations (1Co_9:7).


And wanted.
The aorist shows that this sad condition of extreme poverty was a crisis rather than chronic. Yet even at that supreme moment of trial, when from illness or accident the scanty income of his trade failed him, he would not tell them that he was starving, but rather accepted help from the Philippians, who, as he knew, felt for him an unfeigned affection. It is needless to point out once more how strong is the argument in favour of the genuineness of the Acts and the Epistles from the numberless undesigned coincidences between them in such passages as those to which I have referred in the foregoing notes. I was chargeable to no man; literally, I did not benumb you. The word katenarkesa, which occurs only here and in 2Co_12:13
, 2Co_12:14, is ranked by St. Jerome among St. Paul's cilicisms, i.e. the provincial expressions which he picked up during his long residence at Tarsus. Narke (whence our narcissus and narcotie) means "paralysis," and is also the name given to the gymnotus, or electric eel—in Latin, torpedo, the cramp-fish—which benumbs with the shock of its touch. "I did not," he indignantly says, "cramp you with my torpedo touch." Perhaps in a less vehement mood he would have chosen a less picturesque or technical and medical term. That which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied; rather, for the brethren, on their arrival from Macedonia; filled up my deficiency. This must have been the third present which St. Paul received from Philippi (Php_4:15, Php_4:16). These brethren from Macedonia accompanied Silas and Timotheus (Act_18:5). And so will I keep myself (2Co_12:14).


As the truth of Christ is in me.
The strength of St. Paul's feelings on the subject has already been expressed in 1Co_9:15
. We have a similar appeal in Rom_9:1. The "as" is not in the original, but evidently the words are meant for a solemn asseveration—"The truth of Christ is in me, that," etc. No man shall stop me of this boasting; literally, this shall not be stopped as concerns me. The verb means literally, "shall be fenced," and with that tendency to over elaboration which is frequent in commentators, some suppose that St. Paul referred to the projected wall across the isthmus of Corinth, etc. But the same word is used for simply stopping the mouth in Rom_3:19; Heb_11:33. In the regions of Achaia. He would not apply the rule to Corinth only, but seems to have felt the need for the utmost circumspection, and for cutting off every handle for suspicion or slander among these subtle, loquacious, intellectual Greeks. He could act more freely among the more frank and generous Macedonians.


? Be cannot tell them the real ultimate reason, which is their whole character and nature. Because I love you not? He has already assured them of his deep affection.


; rather, the occasion. Wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. "These new teachers boast to you how disinterested they are. Well, then, I have proved myself to be equally disinterested." But the words apparently involve a most stinging sarcasm. For these teachers were not in reality disinterested, though they boasted of being so; on the contrary, they were exacting, insolent, and tyrannical (2Co_11:20), and did not preach gratuitously (1Co_9:12), though they sneered at the apostle for doing so. Being radically false (2Co_11:12, 2Co_11:13), "while they were," as Theodoret says, "openly boasting, they were secretly taking money," and therefore were not "even as we."


For such are false apostles.
This, with 1Th_2:14-16
and Php_3:2, is one of St. Paul's most passionate outbursts of plain speaking. "Now at length" says Bengel, "he calls a spade a spade." They were "false apostles" (Rev_2:2), because a true apostle delivers the message of another, while these cared only for self (Rom_16:18). Deceitful workers. Workmen who cheat their employers (2Co_2:17; 2Co_4:2). Transforming themselves. The verb is the same as in 1Co_4:6 and Php_3:21, and does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.


Even Satan .. angel of light.
This is one of Satan's devices (2Co_2:11
). The allusion may be to the temptation (Mat_4:8, Mat_4:9); or to the appearances of Satan with the angels before God in the Book of Job (Job_2:1); or perhaps to the Jewish hagadah, that the "angel" who wrestled with Jacob was in reality Satan.


Whose end shall be according to their works.
Whatever their fashion (schema), they shall be judged, not by what they seem, but by what they are, as shown by their works.


Apology by contrast.


I say again.
St. Paul evidently feels an almost invincible repugnance to begin to speak of his own works. He has twice swerved away from the task (2Co_10:8
; 2Co_11:1, 2Co_11:6) to speak of collateral topics. Now at last he begins, but only (to our grievous loss) to break off abruptly in 2Co_11:33, before the story of his past sufferings has been much more than begun. A fool… boast. Here, again, we have the two haunting words of this section (see note on 2Co_11:1; 1Co_15:36; 1Co_13:3). "Boast" occurs sixteen times in these three chapters alone. That I; rather, that I also.


Not after the Lord.
"Boasting," or what might be stigmatized as such, may become a sort of painful necessity, necessitated by human baseness; but in itself it cannot be "after the Lord." There is nothing Christ-like in it. It is human, not Divine; an earthly necessity, not a heavenly example; a sword of the giant Philistine, which yet David may be forced to use. Confidence; hypostasis, as in 2Co_9:4
, where exactly the same phrase occurs.


After the flesh
(see note 2Co_10:3
; comp. Php_3:4). I will glory also. But, as Robertson admirably observes, he "does not glory in what he has done, but in what he has borne."


Seeing you yourselves are wise;
ye gladly tolerate the senseless, being intellectual. The irony would be very scathing to those whose minds and consciences were sufficiently humble and delicate to feel it.


For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage.
The verse gives us an unexpected and painful glimpse of the enslaving (Gal_2:4
), greed-loving (Mat_23:1-39. 14; Rom_16:1-27;18), gain-hunting (1Pe_5:2, 1Pe_5:3), domineering (3Jn_1:9). and even personally violent and insulting character of these teachers; whom yet, strange to say, the Corinthians seem to take at their own estimate, and to tolerate any extreme of insolence from them, while they were jealously suspicious of the disinterested, gentle, and humble apostle. If a man devour you. As the Pharisees "devoured" widows' houses (Mat_23:14). Take of you; rather, seize you; makes you his captives. The verb is the same as "caught you," in 2Co_12:16. Smite you on the face. They must have brought their insolence with them from Jerusalem, where, as we see, not only from the details of our Lord's various mockeries, but from the accounts of the priests in Josephus and the Talmud, the priests made free use of their fists and staves! The fact that so many of the converts were downtrodden slaves and artisans would make them less likely to resent conduct to which they were daily accustomed among the heathen. Neither Greeks nor Orientals felt to anything like the same extent as ourselves the disgrace of a blow. That sense of disgrace rises flora the freedom which Christianity has gradually wrought for us, and the deep sense of the dignity of human nature, which it has inspired Christ had been so smitten, and so was Paul himself long afterwards (Act_23:2), and he had to teach even Christian bishops that they must be "no strikers" (1Ti_3:3; Tit_1:7). The "syllogism of violence" has, alas! been in familiar use among religious teachers in all ages (1Ki_22:24; Neh_13:25; Isa_58:4; Mat_5:39; Luk_22:64; 1Co_4:11).


I steak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak.
The sense is uncertain, but if with the Revised Version we render it, "I speak by way of disparagement," the verse may be understood as an ironical admission that, if absence from these violent and self-assertive proceedings be a sign of weakness, he has been weak. He proceeds to correct the ironical admission in the next clause. The meaning can hardly be, "I admit the disgraces I have suffered", because he is speaking of the Corinthians, not of himself. I am bold also. If they derive their right to this audacious and overweening line of conduct from any privileges of theirs, there is not one of these privileges which I too may not claim.


. In the strictest sense those who still understood and spoke Aramaic, not Hellenists of the dispersion, who no longer knew the sacred language. (For the use of the word, see Act_6:1
; Php_3:4.) Israelites. Jews, not only by nation, but in heart and feeling (see Joh_1:48; Act_2:22, etc.; Rom_9:4; Rom_11:1). The seed of Abraham. Alike literally and spiritually (see Joh_8:33-53; Rom_9:7; Rom_11:1). It may seem strange that St. Paul should have found it necessary to make this statement; but his Tarsian birth and Roman franchise may have led to whispered innuendoes which took form long afterwards in the wild calumny that he was a Gentile who had only got himself circumcised in order that he might marry the high priest's daughter (Epiphan., 'Haer.,' 30:16).


I speak as a fool.
Not merely as before aphron, but paraphronon," I speak as a madman." It is downright insanity on my part to enter into this contest of rival egotism. The verb does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament; the substantive is used of "downright infatuation" in 2Pe_2:16
. I am more. I may claim to be something beyond an ordinary servant of Christ. This is the "frantic" boast which he proceeds to justify in a fragment of biography which must ever be accounted as the most remarkable and unique in the world's history. And when St. Paul lived the life was, as Dean Stanley says, "hitherto without precedent in the history of the world." No subsequent life of saint or martyr has ever surpassed St. Paul's, as here sketched, in self-devotion; and no previous life even remotely resembled it. The figure of the Christian missionary was, until then, unknown. In labours more abundant; literally, more abundantly. The best comment is 1Co_15:10. In stripes above measure. The expression is partly explained in the next verse. In prisons. St. Clement of Rome says that St. Paul was imprisoned seven times. The only imprisonment up to this date recorded in the Acts is that at Philippi (Act_16:23). The imprisonments in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome all took place later. He says later," The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city that bonds and imprisonment await me" (Act_20:23). In deaths oft. He alludes to the incessant opposition, peril, and anguish which make him say in 1Co_15:31, "I die daily". With the whole passage we may compare 2Co_6:4, 2Co_6:5.


Five times.
Not one of these Jewish scourgings—which yet were so severe that the sufferer often died under them—is mentioned in the Acts. This paragraph is the most striking proof of the complete fragmentariness of that narrative, marvellous as it is. On the circumstances which probably led to these Jewish scourgings, see 'Life of St. Paul,' exc. 11.; and comp. Act_22:19
; Act_26:11; Mat_23:34. The question arises—Was St. Luke entirely unaware of all these scenes of anguish and daily martyrdom? Had St. Paul, in his humble reticence, never cared to speak of them? or were the Acts only intended for a sketch which made no pretension to completeness, and only related certain scenes and events by way of specimen and example? Forty stripes save one (Deu_25:3). On this instance of Jewish scrupulosity, and for all that is known of the rationale of Jewish scourgings, see 'Life of St. Paul,' ubi supra.


Thrice was I beaten with rods.
This alludes to scourgings inflicted by Gentile magistrates with the vitis, or vine stick, of soldiers, or with the fasces of lictors. Only one of these horrible scourgings, which likewise often ended in death, is narrated in the Acts (Act_16:22
). We do not know when the others were inflicted. In any case they were egregious violations of St. Paul's right of Roman citizenship; but this claim (as we see in Cicero's various orations) was often set at nought in the provinces. Once was I stoned. At Lystra (Act_14:19). Thrice I suffered shipwreck. Not one of these shipwrecks is narrated in the Acts. The shipwreck of Act_27:1-44, took place some years later. A night and a day I have been in the deep. An allusion, doubtless, to his escape from one of the shipwrecks by floating for twenty-four hours on a plank in the stormy sea. We have no right to assume that the deliverance was miraculous. The perfect tense shows St. Paul's vivid reminiscence of this special horror. "In the deep" means "floating on the deep waves." Theophylact explains the words ἐν βυθῷ to mean "in Bythos," and says that it was a place near Lystra, apparently like the Athenian Barathrum and the Spartan Caeadas—a place where the bodies of criminals were thrown. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.


In journeyings often.
In those days and in those countries journeys were not only perilous and fatiguing, but also accompanied with many severe hardships and discomforts. In perils of waters; rather, of rivers. In all countries which, like parts of Greece and Asia Minor, abound in unbridged mountain torrents, journeys are constantly accompanied by deaths from drowning in the sudden rush of swollen streams. In perils of robbers. Then, as now, brigandage was exceedingly common in the mountains of Greece and Asia. In perils from mine own countrymen; literally, from my race. These are abundantly recorded in the New Testament (Act_9:23
, Act_9:29; Act_13:50; Act_14:5, Act_14:19; Act_20:3, etc.; 1Th_2:15, 1Th_2:16; Php_3:2) From the heathen. They were generally instigated by the Jews (Act_16:19-39, Act_17:5; Act_19:23-34, etc.). In the city. As at Damascus, Jerusalem, Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Ephesus, etc.—"in every city" (Act_20:23). In the wilderness. As, for instance, in travelling through the wild waste tracts of land between Perga and Antioch in Pisidia, or thence to Lystra and Derbe; or over the mountain chains of Taurus to the cities of Galatia. In the sea. Storms, leaks, pirates, mutinies, etc. Among false brethren. The word only occurs elsewhere in Gal_2:4.


In weariness and painfulness;
literally, in toil and travail (1Th_2:9
2Th_3:8). In watchings; literally, in spells of sleeplessness (Act_20:34). In hunger and thirst (2Co_11:8; 1Co_4:11; Php_4:12). In fastings often. It is not clear whether this refers to voluntary fastings (2Co_6:5; Act_27:9) or to general destitution short of the actual pangs of hunger. In cold and nakedness. St. Paul's ideal, like that of his Master Christ, was the very antithesis of that adopted by the wealthy, honoured, and full-fed Shammais and Hillels of Jewish rabbinism, who delighted in banquets, fine garments, pompous titles, domestic comforts, and stationary ease.


Those things that are without
. The adverb thus rendered parektos only occurs in Mat_5:32
; Act_26:29. It may either mean "trials that come to me from external and extraneous sources (quae extrinsecus accedunt) or things in addition to these (praeterea), which I here leave unmentioned.'' The latter meaning is (as St. Chrysostom saw) almost certainly the correct one. That which cometh upon me. The word thus rendered is either episustasis (J, K), which means "hostile attack" or "tumult," as we talk of "a rush of trouble or business;" or epistasis ( à , B, D, E, F, G), which may imply "halting, lingering thoughts; "attention," and so "anxiety" (comp. Act_24:12, where there is the same various reading). Of all the Churches. No doubt he is thinking of his own Churches, the Churches of the Gentiles (Col_2:1).


Who is weak, and I am not weak?
See, by way of example, 1Co_8:13
; 1Co_9:22; Rom_14:21. Instead of stiffly maintaining my own prejudices, I am always ready to make concessions to weak brethren. Who is offended, and I burn not! That is, "who is ever caused to stumble without my burning with indignation?" In other words, "Is not the intensity of my sympathy whenever any scandal occurs an addition to the trials of my life?"


If I must needs
. If boasting is forced on me as a moral necessity ( δεῖ ). The things which concern mine infirmities. After all, St. Paul cannot keep up even for a few verses anything which can be regarded as "boasting after the flesh" (2Co_11:18
). Practically his boasting has been only of those afflictions which to others might sound like a record of disgraces, but which left on him the marks of the Lord Jesus. His hairbreadth escapes were to him, as Bossuet said of the wounds of the Prince of Conde, "marks of the protection of Heaven."


The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This solemn asseveration does not seem to be retrospective. It is used to preface what was perhaps intended to be a definite sketch of the most perilous incidents and trials of his life, which would have been to us of inestimable value. This awful attestation of his truthfulness was necessary,

(1) because even the very little which we do know shows us that the tale would have been "passing strange;" and

(2) because his base and shameless calumniators had evidently insinuated that he was not straightforward (2Co_12:16
). (On the phrases used, see 2Co_1:23; 1Co_15:24; Eph_1:3.)


In Damascus.
(For the incident referred to, see Act_9:22-25
.) The governor; literally, the ethnarch. This is obviously the title given to the commandant of the city (whether an Arabian or a Jew), left in charge by Aretas. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, but is found in 1Ma 14:47; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 14:7, § 2. Under Aretas the king. Hareth, the Emir of Petra, father-in-law of Herod the Great. He had either seized the city during his war with Herod, to avenge the insult offered to his daughter by Herod's adultery with Herodias; or it may have been assigned to him by Caligula. His relations with Damascus are confirmed by coins (see 'Life of St. Paul,' exc. 8.). Kept… with a garrison; literally, was guarding. It is said in Act_9:24 that the Jews did this; but they could not in any case have done it without leave from the ethnarch, and qui facit per alium, facit per se. Desirous to apprehend me. Both words are a little stronger in the Greek—"determining to seize me."


Through a window.
A "little door," or lattice in some house which abutted on the wall. In a basket (comp. Jos_2:15
; 1Sa_19:12). The word used by St. Luke in Act_9:25 is spuris, which is a general name for a large basket. The word here used is sargane, which is defined by Hesychius to be a basket of wickerwork, but which may also mean a rope basket. This particular incident, no doubt, seems to be less perilous and trying than many which St. Paul has already mentioned. We must, however, remember that escape from a window in the lofty wall of a city guarded by patrols was very perilous, and also that such a method of concealment was very trying to the dignity of an Oriental rabbi, such as St. Paul had been. Further, it is clear that St. Paul only mentions this as the earliest incident in along line of perils which it had been his original intention to recount. But at this point he was interrupted, and laid aside his task of dictation—an incident which has not unfrequently had its effect in literature. When next he resumed, the Epistle, he was no longer in the mood to break through his rule of reticence on these subjects. He had played "the fool" and "the madman," as he says of himself with indignant irony, enough; and he proceeds to speak of other personal claims which he regards as more Important and more Divine. Of all "chapters of unwritten history," not one is more deeply to be regretted than the one which we have them lost.


2Co_11:1-4 - Inviting men to Christ the supreme object of preaching.

"Would to God ye could bear with me a little," etc. The purpose and spirit of this chapter are the same as the preceding one. The apostle proceeds against the charges which they had brought against him and the same breeze of irony breathes through all. These verses seem to be his defence against the charge of his foolish boasting, "Would to God" or rather would that ye could "bear with me a little in my folly," or better, in a little foolishness. What I have said already you say is foolish boasting; be it so, bear with me whilst I proceed in the same strain of self-vindication; tolerate me a little further. It has been observed that no less than five times in this chapter does the expression "bearing with," or" burden," occur, and the word "folly" eight times; and the inference is that the expressions refer to something which he had heard of some of their remarks concerning him. Paul here seems to claim their continued attention on two grounds.

I. THE GREATNESS OF THE WORK HE HAD ACCOMPLISHED AMONGST THEM. "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." He had "espoused," or united them, to Christ, as the bride to the Bridegroom—a relationship the most sacred, close, tender, and lasting. To unite men in supreme affection and supreme purpose is the grand work of the Christian minister, and what work on earth is so sublimely beneficent and glorious as to make men one with Christ? It is impossible to make men one with a creed or a Church, and were it possible it would be to the last degree undesirable. But to make men one with Christ is at once most practical and urgent—practical because God has established an infallible method, and urgent because souls disconnected from Christ are in a guilty and ruined condition.

II. THE DREAD WHICH HE HAD LEST THAT WORK SHOULD BE UNDONE. "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety [craftiness], so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." It would seem from this that the union of souls to Christ is nor absolutely indissoluble, that a separation is possible; and, in truth, were it not so, man would with the union lose his freedom of action, and would become a mere instrument. Angels fell from their primitive holiness, our first parents from innocence, and Peter for a time from connection with Christ. The holiest creature in the universe is conscious of a power by which he could break away from his orbit of purity and obedience; otherwise he would have no sense of personal virtuousness. The apostle here seems to ascribe the possible dissolution of the marriage of souls to Christ to Satan, whom he here represents as the "serpent," implying his belief at once in the personality, moral maliciousness, and mighty spiritual influence of this superhuman intelligence. See how he does this.

1. By insidiously corrupting the mind. "I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." There can be no union between a soul morally corrupt and impure, and Christ. The moment those who are united to Christ become corrupted, the union is at an end; the letter branch falls from the trunk. So Satan's work is to "corrupt," and thus undo the grandest of all works. This he does insidiously, or craftily, just as he dealt with Eve (Gen_3:1-24.). How craftily this huge enemy of souls pursues his soul-corrupting work! "Beware of his devices."

2. By the agency of false teachers. "For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, Which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." There is but one dissolute Christ, but as many subjective ones as call themselves Christians, and not a few of the subjective ones are pernicious caricatures of the true Jesus of Nazareth. These are preached, and the preaching of them corrupts souls and fulfils the purpose of the devil. There is as much difference between the Christ of the Gospels and the Christ of the creeds, as there is between the cedar growing in Lebanon and that cedar reduced to its primitive elements in the laboratory of the chemist; in the one form beautifully attractive, in the other hideously repulsive. Such Christs were preached in Corinth. Paul, perhaps, specially refers to some one who was preaching "another Jesus," and ironically he intimates that such preachers they tolerated. "Ye might well bear with him." As if he had said," Such men who are doing the work of the devil ye would tolerate?

2Co_11:5-12 - The highest knowledge and the noblest generosity.

"For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things. Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other Churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we." Few things in human life are more distasteful than egotism or vanity. There are those in society whose chief delight is to parade their own imaginary merits and distinctions. We are wrong, however, if we regard the man who sometimes speaks about himself as an egotist. When a man is denied virtues which he knows he possesses, and charged with faults of which his conscience tells him he is not guilty, he is bound by the laws of his nature to stand up in self-defence. Every man is justified in fighting for his moral reputation, which is to him more precious than gold, and dear to him as life itself. This is just what Paul does here and in many other places in his letters to the Corinthians. He had slanderers at Corinth. Here he says, "For I suppose [reckon] I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." Two facts are here indicated which warranted his boasting.

I. He felt that, though he had not rhetorical accomplishments, HE HAD THE HIGHEST KNOWLEDGE. "Though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge." He was not trained in all the rhetorical parts of Grecian oratory, his periods were not polished, his sentences were not tuneful, and, perhaps, his utterances lacked flow and his voice music. This he seems to have felt; but what of that? He had the highest "knowledge.'' What is the grandest oratory without true knowledge? Clouds of golden splendour without water for the thirsty land. Paul's knowledge was of the highest kind. He knew Christ; he knew what Christ was to him; what he had done for him, as well as what he was in himself and in his relation to the Father and the universe. This is the science of all sciences; the science of which all other sciences are to it the mere leaf, or stem, or branch, of which this is the root. "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."

II. He felt that, though he consecrated himself to their highest interests, he RECEIVED FROM THEM NO REMUNERATION. What trials he endured for them! what perils he braved for them! what labours he prosecuted for them (see 2Co_11:24-27
)! All this was done and endured for what? Not for selfish ends, not for worldly gain. "Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?" Why did he not receive remuneration at their hands? Nay, why did he reject it?

(1) Not because he did not need such a recompense. "And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man." He was dependent upon such contributions for his subsistence. He had received them at Thessalonica before his first visit to Corinth.

(2) Not because he did not love them. "Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth." It would have been a gratification to those whom he had spiritually saved, to have made some secular recompense for his labours, but he denied them this gratification, not because he did not love them. Why, then, did he reject their secular help?

1. To furnish in his own life a proof of the benevolent terms of the gospel. "I preach to you the gospel of God freely." The gospel is a free gift of God, and I present it to you as a tree gift. The gospel should never be preached as a means of livelihood or for filthy lucre.

2. To silence the tongue of his slanderers. No doubt his enemies at Corinth sought in every way to degrade the apostle. The false apostles, no doubt, boasted that they did their work there as benefactors disinterestedly and without pay. Had Paul taken payment he would have given them some ground for boasting of their generosity.

3. To compel his enemies by his example to act from generous impulses. "That they may be found as we are." "Notice," says Mr. Beet, "the bitter irony of these words. Paul's opponents boasted their disinterestedness whilst making gain of the Corinthians, and eagerly watched him to detect self-enrichment, that they might boast of their own superiority. These have been the tactics of demagogues in all ages. But Paul resolved to refuse just recompense for real and great benefits, that thus by his example he may compel those who boasted their superiority to come up to his own level of working without pay, so that when his conduct and theirs are investigated, they may be found to be as disinterested as he was."

CONCLUSION. Truly that man might well exult who feels that, however deficient in mere verbal learning, he possesses the highest knowledge—the knowledge of Christ; and who also feels that he is rendering to men the highest service from kindly generous impulses without a desire for fee or reward, giving freely to men what God has given freely to all—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2Co_11:13-15 - Self-misrepresentation.

"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing it fits ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." Three thoughts are suggested by these words.

I. MAN HAS THE POWER OF MISREPRESENTING HIS CHARACTER TO OTHERS. Naturalists tell us of animals which have the power to appear what they really are not. Some feign sleep and death. Be this as it may, man has this power in an eminent degree—he can disguise himself and live in masquerade. Hence our Saviour speaks of "wolves in sheep's clothing." In fact, throughout all circles and populations those who appear to be what they really are have ever been in a miserable minority. As a rule men are not what they seem.

II. IN THE EXERCISE OF THIS POWER MAN CAN INVEST EVIL WITS THE HIGHEST FORMS OF GOOD. The "false apostles," to whom reference is here made, seem to have done so. Paul speaks of them as "deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." The worse a man is the stronger the temptation he has to assume the forms of goodness. Were corrupt men to show the state of their hearts to their contemporaries, they would recoil from them with horror and disgust, and they would be utterly unable to enjoy social intercourse or to transact their worldly business. As a rule, the worse a man is the more strenuous his efforts to assume the habiliments of virtue. Selfishness robes itself in the garbs of benevolence, error speaks in the language of truth. Hence it does not follow that a man is a true apostle or minister of Christ because he appears in the character. Some of the worst men on the earth have been deacons and priests, occupied pulpits and preached sermons. "No marvel," says the apostle; "for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." Hence it behoves us all to look well into the real moral character of those who set themselves up as the representatives of Christ and the teachers of religion. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."

III. HE WHO EXERCISES THIS POWER IN THIS WAY RENDERS HIMSELF LIABLE TO TERRIBLE PUNISHMENT. "Whose end shall be according to their works." Of all characters the hypocrite is the most guilty and abhorrent. More terrible and more frequent were the denunciations Christ hurled against such than against the voluptuary, the gross sensualist, or the sordid worldling. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" etc. (see Mat_23:13-33
). As such are the greatest sinners, such will have the most terrible end; the "end shall be according to their works." They will reap the fruit of their own doings.


1. The duty of self-truthfulness. Let us seek to be such true men, so true to self, society, and God, that we may have no temptation whatever to play the hypocrite or to appear to others what we are not.

"To thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man."

2. The duty of social caution. Do not let us estimate men by their appearances, ant take them into the circle of our confidence and friendship merely on account of what they appear to be. Often those whose outward garb is the most holy are inwardly the most corrupt, who outwardly move as angels of light are inwardly the greatest devils. Let us learn to take off the mask, to disrobe corruption of its external robes of purity, and to give neither our trust nor our sympathy until we are convinced that they have truth in the "inward parts."

2Co_11:16-19 - Man talking about himself, and the limitation of apostolic inspiration.

"I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise." Observe here—

I. MAN TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF. Paul had said a good many things about himself. Here again he takes up the subject, and his language suggests:

1. That the world is disposed to regard such talk as foolish. "Let no man think me a fool [or, 'foolish']." In this he recognizes the tendency of men to regard such self reference and self talk as weak and unwise. So in truth unsophisticated men do. When they hear a man talking about himself he impresses them with a sense of his folly. Inwardly they say, "What a fool that man is to be talking about himself!" It must be confessed that generally it is a very foolish thing—few things are more foolish.

2. That such conduct may become a duty. Paul felt it such an urgent obligation at this time that he begs them to bear with him. "Yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little." He was on his defence, and he felt that such self references as he made he owed to himself, to the Christians at Corinth, and to the cause of his Master. Hence he seems to say, "Though you regard me as a fool whilst I thus talk about myself, yet do hear me."

3. That to attention to such talk about himself the apostle had a special claim. "Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise." As if he had said, "The false apostles amongst you talk about themselves; they boast of their merits and achievements, and you listen to them. I have a special claim to your attention because of the proofs of my apostleship amongst you."

II. THE LIMITATION OF APOSTOLIC INSPIRATION. "That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting." As if he had said, "I do not talk of myself by 'commandment;' I have no special commission from Christ." How frequently does the apostle, in his communications to the Church at Corinth, guard against the impression that everything he wrote was divinely inspired! Indeed, in one case he indicates an imperfection of memory. "I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other" (1Co_1:16
). "I know not." What, an inspired apostle not knowing what he had done, forgetting the religious ordinances he had celebrated! In his letter to Timothy he himself says, "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching," implying that all Scripture is not inspired. It is for us to find out which the inspired ones are, to separate the human from the Divine. Whatever agrees with the character and the teaching of the Spirit of Christ we may rest assured is inspired of God. Who but God himself can tell the enormous amount of injury that has been done to sacred truth by the dogma of verbal inspiration, regarding all the imprecations of David, all the reasonings of Job's three friends, and even the utterances of Satan himself, as inspired by Heaven? The Scriptures contain the word of God, but they are not the word of God; the casket is not the jewel, the shell is not the kernel. This by a devout and earnest study we must find out for ourselves.

CONCLUSION. The subject teaches:

1. That we must not shrink from the discharge of a duty, however painful. Paul, as a humble and modest man, felt it a very painful thing to talk about himself. His native modesty shrank from it; yet, though he would be considered a "fool," he did it.

2. That we must study the Scriptures with a discriminating judgment. We must penetrate through the "letter" that is human and reach the "spirit" that is Divine, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law."

2Co_11:20 - A picture of religious impostors.

"For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face." This verse suggests five things concerning religious impostors.

I. THEY ARE TYRANNIC. "For ye suffer [bear] if a man bring you into bondage." The reference is undoubtedly to those described in 2Co_11:13
, who were false teachers in Corinth. They were enslaving the souls of men with their dogmas and rites. False teaching always makes men spiritual serfs. Heathens are slaves to their priest, fanatics are slaves to their leader, papists are slaves to their pope. True teaching makes men free men. Spiritual bondage is infinitely worse than physical or political. A man's body may be in chains, yet he may be free in spirit; but if his spirit is enslaved, he himself is in captivity. The work of a false teacher is always to subdue souls to himself; the work of the true, to win souls to Christ. Even conventional Christianity is enslaving.

II. THEY ARE RAPACIOUS. "If a man devour you." False teachers devour widows' houses. They teach for money, turn temples and churches into shops. They shear the sheep instead of feeding them. Greed is their inspiration.

III. THEY ARE CRAFTY. "If a man take of you [taketh you captive]." The expression "of you" is not in the original. The idea to me seems to be—if a man takes you in, deceives and entraps you. This is just what religious impostors do—they "take men in," they cajole men, and make them their dupes.

IV. THEY ARE ARROGANT. "If a man exalt himself." It is characteristic of false teachers that they assume great superiority. With this they endeavour to impress men by their costume, their bearing, and their pompous utterances. They arrogate a lordship over human souls.

V. THEY ARE INSOLENT. "If a man smite you on the face." This is the last form of outrage; no greater insult could be offered to a man. The religious impostor has no respect for the rights and dignities of man as man. With his absurd dogmas and arrogances he is everlastingly smiting men on "their face," on their reason, their consciences, and their self-respect.

2Co_11:21-33 - Paul's avowal of his advantages and his history of his trials.

"I speak as concerning reproach," etc. The two subjects for thought that stand out conspicuously in these verses are Paul's manly avowal of his distinguished advantages and his historic sketch of his extraordinary trials.

I. HIS MANLY AVOWAL OF HIS DISTINGUISHED ADVANTAGES, There are three advantages which he here touches upon.

1. His superior character. "I speak as concerning reproach [by way of disparagement], as though we had been weak." Hitherto I have spoken of myself as if all the disparaging things you have said of me were true. The idea of Paul's language here seems to be this: "I have been speaking of reproach or disgrace, as if I was weak, i.e. as if I was disposed to admit as true all that has been said of me, as reproachful or disgraceful, all that has been said of my want of qualifications for the office, of my want of talent, my dignity of character, my folly. In all this I have been speaking ironically. I am superior to all; I am not ignorant, but learned; I am not foolish, but wise; not greedy, but generous; not proud, but humble; not ignoble, but dignified." How far his character transcended that of his traducers, history shows.

2. His superior ancestry. "Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am His traducers, the false teachers, were, it would seem, Jews; probably boasted of their descent, and certainly implied that Paul was a mere Hellenistic Jew, born at Tarsus. If they gloried in their descent, so could he; the blood of Abraham quivered in his veins, he was a lineal descendant of the man who wrestled with Jehovah and prevailed, an Israelite.

3. His superior apostleship. "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more." They called themselves "ministers of Christ," and belonged, perhaps, to the party in the Corinthian Church who said they were "of Christ"—Christites. But he was more an apostle of Christ than they were. Of this he was conscious. In touching this Paul says, "I speak as a fool," or as one beside myself. Here his great soul seems to flash out in the fire of indignant irony. There is an egotism here, say some. True, but it is a just, manly, necessary egotism.

II. HIS HISTORIC SKETCH OF HIS EXTRAORDINARY TRIALS. He was scourged "five times," in "prisons frequent" and in "deaths oft," thrice "beaten with rods," once "stoned," "thrice suffered shipwrecks," in "perils in the sea" and on laud, midst foes and friends, in the "wilderness" and in cities, tried by "weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." Besides all this, he refers to the trials that came "daily" upon him in "the care of all the Churches." The Churches were dear to his heart, and all the dissensions, heresies, unchastities, immoralities, that appeared from time to time in the Churches would carry anguish into his heart. Why he should refer in the last Verse to the event that happened at Damascus, when he was let down "through a window in a basket," has been a puzzle to commentators. But as it was amongst his first trials as an apostle, it, perhaps, made the greatest impression on his mind. The trials here sketched indicate several things.

1. The mysteriousness of God's procedure with his servants. One might have thought that the man inspired with supreme love to God, and receiving a commission from him, involving the salvation of souls, would have had his way made clear and safe and even pleasant for him; that in his path no enemy should appear, no peril should threaten, no pain should be endured, that all things would be propitious; that he who embarked in such an enterprise as Paul's would sail in a bark absolutely secure, under a sky without a cloud, with every billow and every breeze propitious. But not so. The more important the Divine work entrusted to a man, and the more faithful he is in its discharge, the more trials will embarrass and distract him. For an explanation of this we must await the great explaining day.

2. The unconquerableness of Christly love in the soul. What stimulated Paul to embark in such an enterprise as this? What urged him on through innumerable difficulties and dangers? What bore him up under distressing and ever-thickening trials? Here is the answer: "The love of Christ constraineth me." This is the love that is unconquerable and all-conquering, the love that makes the true hero.

3. The indelibility of the impressions which trials produce. The trials in this long catalogue, so varied and tremendous, had long since transpired, but they were fresh in Paul's memory. Each one stood before the eye of his memory in living reality. It is a law in our nature that our trials make a deeper impression on us than our mercies. Why should this be so? Because they are the exceptions, not the rule.

4. The blessedness which the memory of trials rightly endured produces. In Paul's case it did two things.

(1) It generated sympathy with the woes of others. "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" No man can sympathize with the trials of others unless he has passed through trials himself. The sufferings that Christ endured qualified him to sympathize with the woes of the world. He who hungers for sympathy in his sufferings will go in vain to the man who has never suffered.

(2) It inspired the soul with true rejoicing. "If I must needs glory, I will glow of the things which concern mine infirmities." The reminiscence of the trials he had endured, the foes he had encountered, the perils he had braved, in the cause of Christ were now for him subjects for congratulation and glorifying. They had exerted such a beneficent influence on his character, and were endured in such a noble cause, that he rejoiced in them. In declaring all this Paul makes a solemn appeal for its truth. "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed forevermore, knoweth that I lie not?


2Co_11:1-6 - Relations of the apostle to the Corinthians; ground of anxiety.

How shall we read this chapter? To read it aright it is certain that we must do more than exercise the understanding on its contents; more than treat it as an argument intended to set forth a definite conclusion; and, especially, more than a defence, on any private grounds, of St. Paul's character and conduct. First of all, a general view of the situation is necessary. In this large, growing, and influential city, a bond of connection between Asia and Europe, a medium through which the most prominent agencies of the day operated over a very broad surface,—in this active and aspiring city a Christian Church had been founded by St. Paul on his first visit. It was an era in his apostleship. Of Greek intellect and habits, he had learned enough at least to give a special bias to his style of preaching. Thrown among a population of Jews, Romans, Greeks, and adventurers from every quarter of the globe, he found a degree of skill and prudence necessary in the management of his work that had not been required in any previous stage of his career. Shrewd money lovers were all around him; he would practise his trade and support himself. Aquila and Priscilla had stood faithfully by his side and cheered his toil. He preached in the synagogue, trouble came, and he transferred his work to the house of Justus. A vision from God assured him of help and protection, and one of its fulfilments occurred when Gallio drove the apostle's persecutors, the turbulent Jews, from "the judgment seat," and, in the subsequent tumult, "cared for none of these things." But it was more than an era in his ministry. It was an epoch in the history of the gospel. There had been something like a repetition of Pentecost. None of the outward symbols, and yet a mighty descent of the Holy Ghost in the number and variety of gifts. If the great Pentecost had been followed by sad lapses in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira, even by lying unto the Holy Ghost whose dispensation had just been inaugurated, could it be wondered at that disorder, misrule, heart burnings, strife, immoralities, had sprung up as tares among the wheat in this luxuriant harvest? It was Corinth out and out. It was the excitable emporium in one of those ferments, good and evil intermixed, which have happened at intervals in the history of the Church. To check the unhealthy excitement, to purify the Church from corruption, to suppress rivalries and animosities between parties, St. Paul had put forth all his wisdom, energy, and fidelity, and, in large measure, had succeeded. At this point, a closer view of the situation becomes necessary. Lo