Translations: Chinese 简体中文 繁體中文

2Corinthians 11 (web)

Concern over the Believer's Gullibility

11:1 I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness,
but indeed you do bear with me.
11:2 For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy.
For I married you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
11:3 But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness,
so your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
11:4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach,
or if you receive a different spirit, which you did not receive,
or a different gospel, which you did not accept, you put up with that well enough.

Affirmation of Paul's Authority over False Apostles

11:5 For I reckon that I am not at all behind the very best apostles.
11:6 But though I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not unskilled in knowledge.
No, in every way we have been revealed to you in all things.
11:7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted,
because I preached to you God's gospel free of charge?
11:8 I robbed other assemblies, taking wages from them that I might serve you.
11:9 When I was present with you and was in need, I wasn't a burden on anyone,
for the brothers, when they came from Macedonia, supplied the measure of my need.
In everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and I will continue to do so.
11:10 As the truth of Christ is in me,
no one will stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia.
11:11 Why? Because I don't love you? God knows.
11:12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them that desire an occasion,
that in which they boast, they may be found even as we.
11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers,
masquerading as Christ's apostles.
11:14 And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.
11:15 It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also masquerade as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
11:16 I say again, let no one think me foolish.
But if so, yet receive me as foolish, that I also may boast a little.
11:17 That which I speak, I don't speak according to the Lord,
but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.
11:18 Seeing that many boast after the flesh, I will also boast.
11:19 For you bear with the foolish gladly, being wise.
11:20 For you bear with a man,
if he brings you into bondage, if he devours you,
if he takes you captive, if he exalts himself, if he strikes you on the face.
11:21 I speak by way of disparagement, as though we had been weak.
Yet however any is bold (I speak in foolishness), I am bold also.

Paul Boasting of His Experience and Credentials

11:22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I.
Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.
11:23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I am more so;
in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths often.
11:24 Five times from the Jews I received forty stripes minus one.
11:25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned.
Three times I suffered shipwreck. I have been a night and a day in the deep.
11:26 I have been in travels often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers,
perils from my countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city,
perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brothers;
11:27 in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst,
in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness.
11:28 Besides those things that are outside,
there is that which presses on me daily, anxiety for all the assemblies.
11:29 Who is weak, and I am not weak?
Who is caused to stumble, and I don't burn with indignation?
11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that concern my weakness.
11:31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ,
he who is blessed forevermore, knows that I don't lie.
11:32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king
guarded the city of the Damascenes desiring to arrest me.
11:33 Through a window I was let down in a basket by the wall, and escaped his hands.

Discussion Questions

vs 1-4 How easily do you put up with another Jesus being preached?
What is an example of other Jesus's being preached then and now?
Why does Paul use the concept of a virgin here?
How do you tests the spirits to see if they are from God? (1John 4:6)
vs 5-12 What are examples of sarcasm in this section?
vs 7 What do you suppose would have happened if Paul hadn't preached the gospel to them free fo charge?
vs 13-15 How do you suppose Paul knew that such men were false apostles?
How can you identify false apostles?
And in what way might they mistakenly be viewed as angels of light?
vs 19-20 To what extent should Christians tolerate being exploited? (See also Matt 5:39-41)
vs 22-33 How does Paul's life differ from your expections concerning your own Christian life?


Godly Jealousy

2Cor 11:1,2 I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.

That is Paul was jealous on behalf of the Lord. While jealousy is generally regarded as a vice, in fact it is appropriate for a husband to experience jealousy if his wife is being led astray into another relationship. Zec 8:2  This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her." And the illustration of the church being married to Christ is used abundantly in scripture.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Eph 5:22

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Eph 5:25

In fact he goes on to indicate that marriage itself is an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church.

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery— but I am talking about Christ and the church. Eph 5:31,32

Paul was playing much the role as John the Baptist who said, "The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete." John 3:29 

But, to clarify, what is the status of the church? Is it married or not married? For here Paul speaks of the church still being a virgin. The actual situation presently is much like the situation between Joseph and Mary. "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit." Mt 1:18 The word "betrothed" here is the same word "promised" here in the NIV or "betrothed" in the NKJV. While the consumation has not occured, the two are considered married. So it's not simply an "engagement" as in Western society.  For upon finding her pregnant it is written, "Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." Mt 1:19 Just as Joseph and Mary were reckoned "married" prior to their wedding feast, so also is the present status of the church. For wedding feast of the lamb is yet to come.

Do Not Be Led Astray

2Cor 11:3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Much as Eve was gullibly led astray so the church is susceptible to this. Thus warnings about being led astray are abundant in the letters to the churches.

"Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray." 1John 3:7a 
"Do not be deceived:" 1Cor 6:9b
"Do not be deceived:" Gal 6:7a
"Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers." Jam 1:16a

While the sheep don't tend to intentionally walk into false teachings and bad behavior, but  the world, the flesh and the devil will attempt to lead us astray into such. "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled." 1Th 5:6 "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1Peter 5:8 

Don't Tolerate a Different Gospel

2Cor 11:4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

Toleration is not necessarily a virtue. Remember in 1Cor 5:1,2 he rebuked them for their tolerance. "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?" Some Christians are proud of their toleration of sin and false doctrine. Likewise in Galatians Paul rebukes the Christians for being led astray, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" Gal 3:1a In Revelation 2:1,2 Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for not tolerating wicked men and those who claimed to be apostles but were not. In Rev 2:20 he rebukes the church in Thyatira for toleration. "I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess." Rev 2:20a

There are those who preach Jesus, but a different Jesus that presented in the Bible. Among such people today are the Muslims, for example. And there are those who teach in a different spirit than the spirit of God,. "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1John 4:1 There are those who preach a gospel, but not the gospel Paul preached. Paul writes, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Gal 1:6-8


2Cor 11:5,6  But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those "super-apostles." I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.

He's speaking factitiously here of course concerning "super-apostles". This is much along the lines he spoke in Galatians. "As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance— those men added nothing to my message." ... "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews." Gal 2:6,9 And he then goes on to share how he had to rebuke Peter for misbehavior. Though in this case in Corinthians he wasn't referring to the real apostles as a few verses later he speaks of false apostles.

But much of what corrupted the early church into Catholicism was elitism - leadership putting themselves above scrutiny and replacing the Word of God with their own opinions. Yet in Paul's day even the apostles were open to being scrutinized. In Acts 17:11 the Bereans were commended for scrutinizing Paul's teachings upon the basis of the scriptures being the standard of truth. Though Jesus and his apostles also proved by demonstrations of power that they spoke of the Word of God.

But here Paul is alluding to an issue which also arose in 1Corinthians, namely viewing leaders as celebrities, and following them not based on knowledge validated by miracles, but upon their charisma or popularity. Jesus himself experienced that in his ministry and discouraged it. (John 6:26+)

Preach Free of Charge

2Cor 11:7-9 Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.

To charge people to hear the gospel can be a stumbling block as it calls into question one's motive. In your ministry avoid being a burden to others. To the Ephesian elders Paul said, "I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:33-35

To the Thessalonians he writes, "Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you." 1Thess 2:9 And in his second letter to the Thessalonians writes, "You yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."" 2Thess 3:7-10

So distasteful was being a financial burden to others that Paul characterizes it as robbery, though he's speaking hyperbolicaly. Of course this viewpoint you've probably have never hear from professional paid ministers. Though you'll hear an abundance of "fleece the flock" sermons, few ministers set the example as Paul did. Keep yourself from being a burden to others in any way.

Minister Better than the Opposition

2Cor 11:10-12 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about.

Just as in Galatians Paul was competing against false teachers, false apostles for the hearts and minds of the Christians. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep." John 10:11-13 Paul showed himself not to be the "hired man" but he shepherd of the sheep, firstly because he didn't do ministry for money. And when the flock was faced with threats he defended them against false teachers.

A good minister is aware of the state of his flock and keeps an eye out for predators, being willing to confront opposition despite the hostility he may subject to. Much as in the parable of the sower where the seed on rocky ground were those who at first received the Word with joy, but when trouble came because of the Word they fled, so also one way ministers show their devotion to the flock is how they respond to opposition. Many a minister simply leaves the job for another church, never to be heard from again.

Unmask False Teachers

2Cor 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Again to the Ephesian elders Paul says, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." Acts 20:28-30 And that's what happened, the church gradually becoming corrupted for over 1000 years, and still we see this kind of thing going on.

Likewise Jesus warned, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them." Mt 7:15,16

What this incorporates firstly is the intention to judge, that is, to discern. And there are many such warnings. "Do not let anyone lead you astray", "Do not be deceived", etc. But today, at least in Western society, Christians are discouraged from exercising discernment, embracing the world's post-modernistic ecumenical pluralism and misinterpreting the Bible. There are abundant commands in the Bible along these lines, and yet the one response I almost always get from "Christians" who discourage others from exercising such discernment is Matt 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." Yet there Jesus is speaking in a proverbial fashion of the basic human principle that if you criticize others, they in knee-jerk fashion, will come back and criticize you. Yet Jesus himself was crucified largely for criticizing others. Wolves misinterpret Matt 7:1 so as to put themselves above scrutiny and reckon that those who do scrutinize them are sinning by doing so.

Secondly, when applying discernment, realize that Jesus was crucified by the most "religious" people of his day.  "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." John 7:24

Don't Tolerate being Exploited by False Teachers

2Cor 11:16-21 I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about— I am speaking as a fool— I also dare to boast about.

Again obviously he's being factitious, though not deceptive as he's being obvious about it. He's basically insulting them for tolerating fools. Now much as Jesus did say, "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Mt 5:39, he didn't mean that you reckon that person your friend, let alone your teacher. Much as we Christians have to suffer fools to some extent, we are not to place ourselves under their authority as if they were apostles. These false apostles were no doubt exploiting them financially. Scrutinize those whom you pay to do ministry. And they were probably burdening them with unnecessary regulations.

Much as Christians are called to be meek, we shouldn't put up with being exploited by fellow "Christians". "You must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?" 1Cor 5:11,12 But while church "leadership" often rejects anyone scrutinizing them, they should be the one's most scrutinized. Paul wouldn't put up with abuse from those who make themselves out to be leaders of the church. So neither should you.

Beware the Legalists

2Cor 11:22,23 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.

The fact that these false teachers were Jews makes it likely that they were among the cult of the "circumcision" of which Paul wrote about in Galatians and confronted in Acts 15. These were those who said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." Acts 15:5 In Galatians 2:4 Paul says, "This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." These were those who were trying to enslave the Corinthians to a legalistic gospel in which salvation is earned through rituals and obedience to regulations. (A false gospel which has been propagated by some denominations for thousands of years)

In confronting these false teachers here is one way God demonstrated his wisdom in sending a most unlikely man as an apostle to the Gentiles - namely a man of a highly Jewish background. To the Philippians he writes, "Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ— the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." Php 3:2-9

The Credentials of Suffering

2Cor 11:24-27 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

Under the Law of Moses 40 lashes was the maximum one could receive. "If the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall make him lie down and have him flogged in his presence with the number of lashes his crime deserves, but he must not give him more than forty lashes. If he is flogged more than that, your brother will be degraded in your eyes." Deut 25:2,3 Interesting that God set regulations to preserve the dignity of those reckoned criminals. Though he did allow for what may today be characterized as torture.

Paul was often abused during his missionary journeys. The time he was stoned was likely alluding to Acts 14 where in Lystra he did a miracle and gained credence but some Jews turned the crowd against him. "They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city." Acts 14:19,20

The shipwreck he mentions was not the one recorded in Acts 27, which was to occur later. But there many things Paul suffered which had not been recorded in Acts. There were tremendous dangers he faced. For example he carried large donations from the churches in Galatia to Israel on foot. Imagine his danger from bandits. But of all the dangers, the most disturbing is the dangers he faced from false brothers. Today, particularly among "Christianized" countries, the greatest dangers Christians face are within the church.

Paul's ministry was not work, it was labor. The difference? Men go into work. Women go into labor. Labor reflects the intensity of Paul's work. "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." Col 1:28,29

Paul's credentials were not his theological degrees, but the personal sacrifices he made in ministry. What personal sacrifices have you made or are willing to make for the sake of the ministry?

Be Concerned for the Weak

2Cor 11:28,29  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Again contrasting the hired man with the good shepherd, the good shephard was vested emotionally into the sheep. And this is particularly the case with regard to the weak. Remember Jesus' parable of the lost sheep in which he left the 99 alone for the one who was lost. And so also with regards to being concerned over those being led into sin. Jesus said, "if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" Mt 18:6

While there are many things to be concerned about, the most important is to concern ourselves for the weak. Paul even gave up eating meat so as to not offending the conscience of weak brethren. Else "When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ." 1Cor 8:12  It's right to feel anger at those who are leading the weak into sin. Deal with it. And "be careful that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." 1Cor 8:9 While many a Christians may react to a weak church by leaving it, Paul fixes it, "so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." 1Cor 12:25,26

Paul - A Basket Case

2Cor 11:30-33 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me.  But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

The Damascus incident he mentions occurred shortly after his conversion. "After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall." Acts 9:23-25

In contrast to boasting of one's health, wealth, popularity, or theological credentials, Paul did not preach himself but the Christ and the cross. "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power." 1Cor 2:1-5

To inflate ourselves to a celebrity status takes away focus on Christ. And not just ourselves, but also  if we overinflate others to a celebrity status. For example in Catholicism Mary overshadows Christ. When they should be praying to Christ, they pray to Mary instead. Likewise among non-Catholic denominations in which the teachings of certain post-Biblical theologians go unscrutinized in light of scripture.

The apostle Paul's attitude in this matter, however, is a good model for Christian leadership. It's a model of humility.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Edition: Aug 15,2020