Read 2 Corinthians 11
Paul and the False Apostles
1 I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! 2 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. 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. 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 Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” 6 I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. 7 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? 8 I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. 9 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. 10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine. 11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
12 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. 13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Paul Boasts About His Sufferings
16 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. 17 In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. 18 Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. 19 You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! 20 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. 21 To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!
Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 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. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 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, 26 I have been constantly on the move. 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. 27 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. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul refers to himself as the spiritual father of the Corinthian church. The more and more we read in this letter, the more evident it is that Paul loves them and wants to do everything he can to protect them from false teachers. With that in mind, this chapter reads as a cautionary letter from a father to his children. Paul has great concern that the Corinthians are being led astray by other apostles who are teaching a false gospel. He concludes the chapter by telling them all of the painful, terrible things that have happened to him for the sake of the gospel of Jesus. Why? To show them that in his weakness, Jesus is more than enough and that’s what he wants to boast about.
There is much we can learn from Paul’s tone and message in this chapter. Because of his correct understanding of the gospel, Paul knew that boasting of his own track record solely to boost his own stature in the eyes of the Corinthians was counter to what Jesus would do. How often do we feel the need to promote our own self-righteousness to boost our status in the eyes of others? This never-ending quest for the approval of man is not only exhausting, but it’s not Christ-like. It’s in our weaknesses that we can truly see the strength and power of God’s love at work in us.
We also see a warning to steer clear of false teachers. The Corinthians had become enamored with people teaching an incorrect message simply because they were well spoken, even though Paul said they were “false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ” (v. 13). While it’s easy for us to think we would never fall for the tricks the Corinthians fell for, it happens more than we realize. We need to be very aware of the content that we take in–even content that on the surface seems like Truth. We have to be wise and ensure that things that sound spiritual actually align with what God’s Word says. Having a strong filter for what’s Truth and what’s not is an important part of growing in spiritual maturity.
What sticks out to you when you read the list of things that happened to Paul?
Do you find yourself struggling for the approval of man? How have you found yourself seeking to boost your own status by promoting your own self-righteousness?
How can you develop a filter so you are not led astray by false teaching? What tools do you use to dig deeper?
Did You Know?
Paul’s reference to the “super apostles” (verse 5) is meant to be sarcastic in tone. Their “superior” qualities were ones that were prized in Greek society: showmanship and entertainment. Paul makes his point that he, in fact, is not inferior to them (and they’re not actually super at all).
Think About It.
Interested in learning more about how to discern what’s Truth and what’s not? Check out this blog post from the Gospel Coalition: 7 Traits of False Teachers.