2 Corinthians 11:1-33 – Paul Continues His Defense

Paul Defended Himself From Those Who Still Opposed Him In Corinth; He Was A True Apostle; He Was Superior To The False Apostles Some Of The Corinthians Followed

Paul and his team started Messiah’s Community in Corinth, which was one of the most prominent cities in Greece. The congregation grew into a significant community. After being there for a year and a half, Paul left the city. After he left, the community started to divide. Some of the people were supporting their favored leader and criticizing, opposing and undermining other leaders – even great leaders like Paul. To address this problem, and other problems, Paul and Sosthenes wrote the letter that is known as 1 Corinthians.

After Timothy returned to Corinth, he informed Paul that the divisions in the community had gotten worse. The faction who opposed Paul was growing in influence. This motivated Paul to change his plans and visit them immediately. But this visit was a painful visit in which Paul experienced more attacks from opponents while the rest of the community provided little support.

Paul returned to Ephesus and wrote a severe letter to the Corinthians and sent it to them by Titus. The purpose of this severe letter was to communicate his love for the Corinthians, urge the people to repent, and demand the punishment of the leader of the opposition who opposed Paul.

Most of the people united and confronted the man who had been leading the opposition against Paul. He repented and most of the Corinthians were now favorable toward Paul – most, but not all. Paul then wrote another letter, known as 2 Corinthians. In these last four chapters, Paul again defended himself from those who were still opposing him.

One of the attacks directed against him was the accusation that he was not a true apostle; or if he was an apostle, he was inferior to the other apostles, including so-called “super-apostles.” And to make things even worse, some of these other apostles that some of the Corinthians were following were false apostles.

Paul was a true apostle and defended himself against this accusation by telling the Corinthians about his qualifications, his accomplishments and the extent of his sufferings. However, since a wise man doesn’t like to boast about himself, and since Paul felt it necessary to boast about himself, making himself look a little foolish, he asked the Corinthians to put up with him while he did. I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me!

The Rabbi knew he was devoted to the Lord and that some of the so-called apostles that some of the Corinthians were supporting were not. The Corinthians needed to trust him and not be led astray by those not devoted to the Lord. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Messiah, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 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 Messiah. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Yeshua other than the Yeshua we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

Just as there is a bad kind of anger and a righteous kind of anger, there is bad kind jealousy and godly kind of jealousy. Bad jealousy is a feeling of resentment toward someone because of the other person’s successes or advantages. Bad jealousy is motivated by selfishness. He wants the other person’s successes or advantages for himself. Godly jealousy is the feeling that comes from understanding that it’s right for the other person to have his successes or advantages, and wants to protect the other person from having his successes or advantages taken from him by someone who doesn’t deserve them.

These false apostles were like the serpent who deceived Eve; and the Corinthians were like Eve who was deceived by the serpent’s cunning. They were influencing Messiah’s followers in Corinth to go astray from the Lord and His teachings and His Spirit. The Rabbi had godly jealousy. He had proclaimed the Good News to the Corinthians. Just as a father gives away his virgin daughter to her husband, Paul had given the Corinthians to the Lord Yeshua in a pure state. He wanted them to remain faithful to the Lord Yeshua. Just as a husband has a right to his wife, and no other man has a right to her, so the Lord has the right to the devotion of His people. Messiah’s followers in Corinth needed to remain faithful the Lord; faithful to His message; faithful to His Spirit. They needed to stop listening to the false apostles. They needed to listen to Paul.

Some of the Corinthians believed there were ordinary apostles, as if any apostle could be ordinary, and there were super-apostles who were greater than ordinary apostles. Again, some of the Corinthians were attacking Paul by claiming that he was not a true apostle; or if he was an apostle, he was inferior to other apostles, and he was especially inferior to the “super-apostles.” The Rabbi knew better. I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”

What qualified a man to be a super-apostle according to these Corinthians? One qualification: He had to be an eloquent speaker. Paul acknowledged he was not a great speaker; but he also informed them he had a much more valuable skill. I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. People can speak eloquently and be eloquently wrong or eloquently foolish. It’s much better to have knowledge and be able to communicate that knowledge in a simple way than speak eloquently and be wrong or foolish.

Another accusation: the others apostles were worthy of being supported by the Corinthians and they didn’t hesitate to ask for their financial support. On the other hand, Paul didn’t ask for their financial support and was not worthy of receiving it. It’s true that Paul had not asked for their financial support, but not because he wasn’t worthy of it. He had other reasons for not taking money from them. He asked them a question that revealed he had done nothing wrong by not taking money from them. 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? When people provide us with a valuable service, we pay them, and by paying them we honor them. By refusing payment for the valuable services he provided them, Paul refused honor. He lowered himself as he was elevating them. It’s not a sin to preach the Good News about God, the Good News that comes from God, free of charge. So, if Paul did nothing wrong, then why attack him for doing it? This accusation must stop.

The real reasons why Paul didn’t want to take money from them? He didn’t want to be a burden to them; he didn’t want them to think that he was in it for the money; he wanted to show them that he was different from the other so-called apostles who were in it for the money. 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. Don’t muzzle the ox while he is threshing. The laborer is worthy of his wages. A congregation is obligated to support those who are serving the Lord full-time among them. Paul had the right to be supported by Messiah’s people in Corinth while working among them, but didn’t make use of that right. Instead, he chose to be supported by other communities. The Rabbi must have shocked them when he called that robbery. If anyone was in the wrong in this situation about not receiving money, it was the Corinthians, not Paul.

And Paul let them know in a very strong way that it was his intention to make sure this situation continued. As surely as the truth of Messiah is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine (that he would not be supported by the Corinthians). When a person makes a declaration and appeals to the truth of Messiah in them – if that declaration was a lie, then Messiah will punish that person for that lie. Paul was assuring them he was telling the truth.

He asked two questions, and answered them, to help them understand that he was refusing their money, not because he didn’t love them. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! And again, Paul appealed to God to back up this assertion – God knows I do. It Paul’s assertion was a lie, then God would punish him for that lie. Paul was again assuring them he was telling the truth.

If someone wants to give us money, and we refuse to take the money, the person who wants to give us money might think we don’t love him. He might feel rejected by us. Paul wanted to make sure the Corinthians understood that the reason he refused to take money from them wasn’t because he didn’t love them. The Rabbi refused to take money from them because he wanted to show them he was different and better than the so-called apostles. 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. Some of the Corinthians believed that some of the other apostles were superior to Paul. But they were not superior to Paul. They were not even equal to Paul. They were inferior to him. In fact, many of them weren’t even apostles at all.

There is the true God and there are false gods; there is the true Messiah and there are false messiahs; there are angels of light and there are dark angels who are able to masquerade as angels of light; there are true apostles and there are false apostles. One false apostle can do a tremendous amount of damage to God’s people. The Lord’s representative knew it was important for the Corinthians to discern the true apostles like him from the false apostles. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Messiah. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.

False apostles masquerade as representatives of the Lord. They appear to represent the Lord, however in reality they represent Satan.

They are deceitful workers. They appear to be working for Messiah, but in reality they work for the Adversary.

Just as the leader of the fallen angels can appear as an angel of light, wise and good, the Devil’s servants know how to appear as servants of righteousness – men who are doing what is right, even though they are doing much evil.

How can we identify a false apostle, false prophet, false pastor, false rabbi? They can’t stay within boundaries: theological boundaries; sexual boundaries; financial boundaries. They teach serious error. They engage in sexual immorality. They are greedy for gain.

These false apostles might fool God’s people but they can’t fool God, and He will punish them – severely. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Are there false apostles, false prophets, false pastors and false rabbis today? Yes there are.

Again, some members of the community were loyal to false apostles and disloyal to Paul, a true apostle. Paul felt it necessary to defend himself by calling attention to his qualifications and accomplishment, but didn’t want the Corinthians to think he was a fool for doing so. He asked them to tolerate his boasting – even if they thought it was foolish. I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting.

The Lord Yeshua would never boast about Himself like Paul was about to – but Paul was not the Lord and felt it necessary. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool.

People love to call attention to themselves and their accomplishments. Since the false apostles were doing that, Paul decided it was necessary to defend himself in the same way. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast.

He used sarcasm to inform them they were the real fools. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! The false apostles were fools. Those in Corinth who followed them were fools for following them.

The Rabbi informed them that they should be able to endure his foolish boasting since they tolerated real abuse from the false apostles. In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. Leaders need to be strong but not abusive. Paul and those who worked with him, like Timothy, were good leaders. The Corinthians should be loyal to them, and not to the false apostles who were abusive to them.

More sarcasm: To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! Some people confuse abuse with strength. Paul and his team were not abusive, not because they weren’t strong leaders – they were strong leaders – but because they knew they should be gentle, servant-leaders, not tyrannical, abusive leaders.

After explaining the reasons why he needed to call attention to himself and his accomplishments, Paul began doing that. Whatever anyone else dares to boast about – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelis? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. The false apostles were members of the Chosen People. Paul shared the same heritage they did. He was their equal.

As to his service to Messiah, he was their superior. Are they servants of Messiah? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more.

His superior service to Messiah was seen in two areas: working harder and suffering more. I have worked much harder: by traveling to many places and proclaiming the Gospel; by establishing congregations; by teaching; by correcting; by working as a tent-maker when he had to.

And he suffered more for the Lord than almost anyone, and suffering for the Lord is part of working for the Lord: I have been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. The Torah allows for forty lashes. To make sure that amount wasn’t exceeded, the amount was diminished by one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea.

Another kind of suffering: he had no place to call home; no place to rest and relax. I have been constantly on the move.

Another kind of suffering: experiencing danger. Experiencing dangerous situations is a kind of suffering and Paul experienced many dangers. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.

Another kind of suffering: being deprived of things necessary for life: 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.

Another kind of suffering: the mental and emotional stress that come from concern about those entrusted to your care, and Paul had many entrusted to his care. 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?

Another kind of suffering: having the governor of an important city wanting to arrest you so much that he had the entire city guarded to make sure you were arrested. If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Yeshua, 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.

A true apostle works hard for the Lord; suffers for the Lord; experiences life-threatening situations for the Lord. There is no question that Paul was a true apostle. He should be followed. All opposition to him must cease. The false apostles were the ones who should be opposed – not him.

In the next chapter, Paul gave other qualifications that show he was a true apostle. For that, I recommend you come back next week.

Let’s pray:

Father, may we never be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Messiah. No other Yeshuas for us Lord, no other spirits or gospels.

Help us stay faithful to the true apostles, Paul and John and Peter.

Help us from being deceived by eloquent speakers who speak error or foolishness.

Help us discern the false apostles, false prophets, false pastors and rabbis of our day.