2 Corinthians 11:1-33
Key Verse: 11:12
“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”
I thank God that he gave us the gift of his words. Whenever we think we understood a point in the word of God we realize how deep and vast God’s words are. Last week Msn. Mark focused on humility or humbleness as he mentioned. To continue Paul’s defense in this chapter, I want to touch a bit on humility again. So, I will ask you few questions so that we can together understand and explore humility further in a personal level. My questions are from spiritual point of view. Please look at the person besides you; Do you believe that you are equal to them before God? Do you believe that you are still a sinner? Do you believe that your sins are not better than others’ sins? Do you believe that you are equal to others in God’s eyes, and God sees you the same with every other person? To believe practically that God sees you same as he sees everyone else is not easy. But it is the base of humility. Without seeing ourselves from God’s point view we cannot catch the essence of humility. Pride has hundreds of colors, types and shapes. Realization of who we are and how God sees us is just the beginning of our journey to overcome so many types of pride in our lives. We work on these types of pride all our lives. Let me give you a practical example. As human beings we try to belong to a group, most of the time we seek to be part of a group to distinguish ourselves from others and see ourselves better than others, more qualified or more spiritual. But in reality, all of us are the same in the eyes of God. There are so many examples of different types of pride and each one of us has a lifetime to overcome.
From what we know about Paul in the bible, we know that he was a humble man. We can all agree about that. As hard as it is for a proud person to admit his or her mistakes in front of others, it is equally hard for a humble man to count his deeds and praise himself. It is foolishness. Look at verse 1 “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me.” Paul considered what he was about to say to the Corinthians foolishness, and it is so, except for preserving the Corinthians lives in Christ. It was so hard for Paul to vindicate himself so that he can preserve the Corinthians lives for Christ. Paul had so much love for the Corinthians but at the same time he was afraid that they would be deceived. Let’s agree that Satan is always there. We agree also that Satan will always try to deceive people from day to day and from generation to generation. The difference is us. The difference is the Corinthians. Are they easy enough to Satan. Can they be deceived easily? This is the same Satan who deceived Eve and played with her mind to sin. And this is the same Satan that wore the rope of false prophets to deceive the Corinthians. This is the same Satan that deceive us to think that the wrong we do is right and pleasing to God, but in fact it is Satan lies. Paul was in a spiritual war for the sake of a whole community of Christians. They were deceived and put up with it easy enough. We need to learn not to put up easily with Satan lies and the only way to do so is to hold on the Jesus we received and the gospel we learned and the Spirit we received. May God have mercy on all of us to stand first and recognize Satan lies. The Corinthians in this case were already deceived by Satan lies. Paul had to do a drastic measure to bring them to Christ again. So, he had to do a little foolishness so that they can wake up and realize what is truth and what is a lie. Let’s know how Paul brought the Corinthians to the truth.
Look at verses 5 to 15. In these verses Paul started that he was the least inferior to those “super-apostles” and at the same time he admitted his weaknesses regarding his speech. I thought if he just read his letters, this will be enough to be a good speech. But when I searched some commentators mentioned that Paul most likely had stammering in his speech, and he was kind and gentle when he met them face to face. Paul was careful not to depend on them in his survival so that he is not a burden to anyone. Paul was saying the truth and he was boasting, so that the Corinthians might open their eyes to see the truth. Let’s read our Key verse 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.” Despite the difficult situation that Paul went through with the Corinthians, he never stopped loving them and afraid for them. Most importantly he never stopped doing the work of God. How many times some of us get offended from someone and we want to quite all the work of God as if we are working for the person who offends us not for Christ. When Jesus was on the cross, he prayed for his crucifiers and said forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. Paul knew that the Corinthians did not know what they were doing because they were deceived. Paul engaged in this spiritual battle to cut the ground from under the false super apostles. Satan was disguising as servants of righteousness and apostles of Christ, but all what he was doing was to lead them astray from Jesus Christ.
Look at verse 16-29. In these verse Paul went further to share his testimony about the sufferings which he had to go through for the gospel. First, he emphasized again that no one take him for a fool. It is only a fool who praise himself and boast about his deeds and himself. But in this case again he needed to do so to open the eyes of the Corinthians. It is not worth it to fight because of our pride for positions or status. This is nothing. Believe God, this is nothing. We are the same in God’s eyes and we do what we do because of his grace. We tolerate what we tolerate which we don’t otherwise because of Christ. Paul tolerated so much, but instead asked the Corinthians to ask him as if he is a fool. Paul explained that he did not lack anything. Paul called out the Corinthians in verse 19 and 20 that reads “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 puts on airs or slaps you in the face.” These people listened to the false apostles and were deceived. They measured in a worldly way spiritual thing and end up like this. They were confused and couldn’t sense the truth for they lost their measuring base which is the true gospel and Jesus.
To open the Corinthians eyes Paul compared himself the false apostles. Look at verse 22 and 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.” Paul compared himself not because he did not see himself equal to others as a sinner before God, but to put sense in the Corinthians minds and hearts. He had to talk like this. Paul grew up as a Jew and he studied since he was young and learned all the word of God. He was full of biblical knowledge. Before meeting Jesus had knowledge without spirit and without true faith. Once he met Jesus, he devoted himself in the east of the Jordan for some time until he was ready to preach the gospel. Paul was confident in God; he was free in Christ and at the same time enslaved himself to Christ to do the will of God in everything he does. All he wanted in his life was to win souls for Christ and keep those he won for Christ from not going astray. This was his ultimate purpose until he finished his race.
Verse 24 to 27 explain more details about Paul’s physical sufferings. In the Jewish law the ultimate punishment was 40 lashes, but they used to reduce by one so that they don’t give the ultimate number lashes and give a little favor. Paul suffered in many ways. It seemed that there was no kind of physical suffering apostle Paul did not experience. But he suffered as well inside him as we see in verses 28 and 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?” All the letters which Paul wrote to the Corinthians were because of his pressure and concern for them. This man of God was so amazing that he felt sorry for other Christians when he was strong while they were weak. His concern reached different highest and he was very aware of what was going in the churches.
Let’s look at verses 30 to 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 most comforting fact to any Christian is that God knows the truth. God knows everything about us. God knows our sins and mistakes, and he will help us overcome. God knows when we say the truth and others don’t believe us. God knows what is in our hearts and what is our final goal in life.
The apostle Paul had a clear conscience and he lived the rest of his life after he met Jesus personally to please God. He knew who he was and who God was. And he was fully alert and engaged in the spiritual battle in full force. The apostle Paul was fighting different battles at the same time. He believed that God was with him all the time and God supported him. He believed that God is most powerful and in control. He believed that he is a sinner and knew how to deal with others. He looked at others through God’s eyes. May God lead us and guide us to know how to live our lives as followers of Christ and to learn how to work for God with humility in the heart and with kindness to others. Amen