2 Corinthians 11


Paul’s Fear For The Corinthians

‘I wish that you would be patient with me in a little foolishness, but indeed you are being patient with me! For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy, because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 11:1-3

To ‘be patient’, ‘anechomai’ with someone means to endure patiently, to suffer. The ‘little foolishness’ that Paul desired the Corinthians to patiently endure was his necessary defence against the divisive false teachers of Corinth.

These men had claimed that Paul was inconsistent, 2 Corinthians 1:17, preaching his own ideas, 2 Corinthians 3:1 / 2 Corinthians 5:12 / 2 Corinthians 10:12, beside himself, deluded, 2 Corinthians 5:13, and one who lacked courage, 2 Corinthians 10:10.

To be ‘jealous’, ‘zeloo’ over another in a godly sort means to be impelled by zeal. The word can mean to be envious, however, the Greek word used here indicates the zeal one would have for another.

Paul loved the Corinthian brethren with Godly zeal. He could not sit back and be a spectator as the divisive ruined his reputation and the souls of these beloved brethren.

The Corinthians had obeyed the Gospel of Christ and formed a local church in the city. These individuals in the church were ‘promised’ to Christ as a bride. Paul’s desire for the Corinthians was that they would represent a pure virgin in relation to sin before Christ.

The false teachers in Corinth were teaching that the resurrection had already passed, 1 Corinthians 15:12 and were mingling the Mosaic Law with the Law of Christ as did those brethren of Acts 15, 2 Corinthians 3:7ff. Furthermore, they were attacking the person of Paul to discredit his words and work.

Notice that Paul’s concern was for the Corinthians not because of these men, but because of the work of Satan. It is Satan who beguiles by craft and deceit, 2 Corinthians 2:11 / 2 Corinthians 4:2.

The devil simply uses foolish men as his servants to carry out his will. The word ‘deceived’, ‘exapatao’ means to delude. Paul reminded the Corinthians of the Devil’s ways. He is one of craft and deceit and has been so since the days of Adam and Eve.

Though God gave Eve law instructing her not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she ate anyway because the devil deceived her by saying, ‘you shall not surely die’. Genesis 3:4.

The woman’s mind was deluded by the devil’s false doctrine and so she sinned. Paul’s concern for the Corinthians was that their minds would be deluded into a drunken stupor by the statements of the divisive and false teachers who were doing the work of the devil.

To have ‘your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ,’ was to be in a state of ruin, waste, to have suffered loss from a shipwreck.

So Paul said to Timothy, ‘To do this you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck regarding the faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.’ 1 Timothy 1:19-20

The doctrine of Christ is pure and simple and needs no man-made devil-deluded ideas added to it, 2 Corinthians 1:12 / Galatians 1:6ff / Revelation 22:18.

‘For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough!’ 2 Corinthians 11:4

Clearly, some in Corinth had so perverted the Gospel of Christ that Paul termed their teachings, ‘another Jesus of a different spirit, a different gospel.’

Consider the fact that Paul had requested that the Corinthian brethren ‘be patient with him in a little foolishness’ in regards to his defence of the Gospel message against the false teachers that bring another doctrine, 2 Corinthians 4:1.

Paul now asks these same brethren to ‘put up with it well enough!’ The question is, what are the Corinthians to ‘put up with’? Are the Corinthians to endure the erroneous teachings by admitting and permitting it? Paul is requesting that the Corinthians ‘endure patiently’ those false teachers who bring a different gospel, not tolerate it.

The idea is that the brethren would not allow their minds to be deluded or seduced by the erroneous teaching, but endure through fighting each step of the way, Ephesians 6:10.

‘For I consider myself not at all inferior to those “super-apostles.” And even if I am unskilled in speaking, yet I am certainly not so in knowledge. Indeed, we have made this plain to you in everything in every way.’ 2 Corinthians 11:5-6

Here are more charges levied against the apostle Paul. Those who would call him inconsistent, deluded, one who preached his own ideas, and a coward, now called him ‘unskilled in speaking.’

The word ‘unskilled’, idiots, means one who has no professional knowledge, an ignorant, ill-informed man. They called Paul an idiot!

Paul stated that he was not behind one of the other apostles in the knowledge of God’s word and so he preached to the Corinthians. Paul received his teachings by direct revelation, as did all other apostles and was therefore not an idiot in spiritual matters, Galatians 1:12.

Interestingly, those who were calling Paul an idiot were in all reality calling God an idiot since Paul received his knowledge from God.

‘Or did I commit a sin by humbling myself so that you could be exalted, because I proclaimed the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so that I could serve you! When I was with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia fully supplied my needs. I kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia.’ 2 Corinthians 11:7-10

Apparently, the difference between Paul and the other apostles was in how they obtained a living. Paul worked with his own hands often making tents to provide for himself, Acts 18:3.

Paul reminded the Corinthians that he did not take wages from them, not even once. It seems by the wording of these verses that some of the Corinthians had been swayed by these divisive false teachers against Paul.

One may have said, ‘if Paul was an apostle, why did he not take wages from us for his labours as do the other apostles?’ Paul sarcastically asked forgiveness from the brethren of Corinth for not taking these wages at 2 Corinthians 12:13.

Now, remember when a Jewish man had been given a good education he received a large key at their graduation, the key was the key to knowledge. Any man worth his weight in teaching was paid for his time and knowledge when he shared it. Paul refused to get paid and so they thought he didn’t have anything worthwhile to say.

Not only did Paul make tents, but he also received wages from churches in Macedonia that he might preach to the Corinthians. From the Corinthian’s point of view, Paul’s support from another church is seen as ‘robbery.’

He took from another congregation to preach to the Corinthians. The brethren of Macedonia had aided Paul in his work while in Thessalonica and most probably were the ones who supported Paul in Corinth, Philippians 4:15-16.

Paul gave no opportunity to his adversaries to charge him with preaching for money in the region of Achaia. Not one time did he take from any church in Achaia funds for support even though he was due them, 1 Corinthians 9:6ff.

Paul did not make these statements out of bitterness but rather by way of defence of the charges that were laid against him.

‘Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! And what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may eliminate any opportunity for those who want a chance to be regarded as our equals in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions.’ 2 Corinthians 11:11-15

Did Paul not take wages from the Corinthians because he did not love them? No, he did not do so because he did love them and he wanted them to realize that the gospel he preached was designed to save their souls, and this alone was all Paul was interested in.

Apparently, there were false teachers receiving support from the brethren in Corinth as preachers. These false teachers were not about to cut off their support and do like Paul. Paul, therefore, had an advantage in the minds of the Corinthian brethren, over these false teachers.

There was a battle going on for the souls of the Corinthians. Paul, Sosthenes, and Titus battled with truth against divisive false teachers who sought to sway the hearts of the Corinthians away from divine revelation.

Those who would use deceit and craft to move the disciple’s minds from the one gospel of Christ were truly ministers of Satan veiled as ministers of righteousness. Paul exposed these men for what they are, ‘false apostles and deceitful workers.’

These types of people appeared so loving and true to the untrained ear; however, within they had devilish agendas. Not one of these men would say, ‘I am a minister of Satan who has fashioned himself into an angel of light.’

These brethren were truly deluded by Satan and truly believe that they are doing God’s work when in all reality they are tearing down the body of Christ. By their ‘works’ and as Jesus said, their ‘fruits’, Matthew 7:16 we shall know them!

Paul’s defence of his qualifications as an apostle of Jesus Christ was thereby designed to ‘cut off occasion from them that desire an occasion.’

The divisive were looking for any perceived weakness or flaw in Paul so that they could nail him to the wall. Paul would remove any of their hopes before they could be established.

Paul’s justification for bringing himself to the level of his critics in regards to boasting of worldly things

‘I say again, let no one think that I am a fool. But if you do, then at least accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence I do not say the way the Lord would. Instead, it is, as it were, foolishness. Since many are boasting according to human standards, I too will boast.’ 2 Corinthians 11:16-18

Paul stated clearly that he was not an idiot but rather one who had received divine revelation from the heavenly Father. From a logical standpoint, Paul’s critics were guilty of ‘Argumentum ad hominem’, an argument directed at the man by attacking the person who made the assertion. They called Paul a deranged, 2 Corinthians 5:13, cowardly, 2 Corinthians 10:10, idiot, 2 Corinthians 11:6.

Though men may say these things, Paul’s message stood alone as an authoritative revelation. If others deemed him foolish, so what? Let the Corinthians accept this foolish man and his perceived foolish message and let the wicked reject it and perish.

Apparently what Paul was saying was that he would glory by means of the necessity to defend the truth and “not as the Lord would.’ His meaning is that Jesus never boasted of self and neither is boasting a quality of a Christian.

What had taken place was that the false teachers had so magnified themselves in the eyes of the Corinthians and demoted Paul that the apostle felt it necessary to defend himself thoroughly.

There comes a time when we may have to tell people about our education and personal experience. There is no reason to be called an idiot with no experience when quite the opposite is true.

‘For since you are so wise, you put up with fools gladly. For you put up with it if someone makes slaves of you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone behaves arrogantly toward you, if someone strikes you in the face. (To my disgrace I must say that we were too weak for that!) But whatever anyone else dares to boast about (I am speaking foolishly), I also dare to boast about the same thing.’ 2 Corinthians 11:19-21

Here is an alarming verse that indicates the state of many of the Corinthians. Though many had repented of their unlawful deeds and Paul rejoiced over that fact, 2 Corinthians 7:7ff, they continued to be misled by false teachers. We have noted the additional sins of the Corinthians brought out in this study.

The Corinthians needed to forgive the fornicator that had repented and thereby prove their obedience in all areas of faith, 2 Corinthians 2:5-9. The Corinthians had set their affections on the things of this world and thereby fellowshipped sin, 2 Corinthians 6:11ff.

Now we find that some of the Corinthians had received the false accusations against Paul and his preaching companions and thereby were led astray from the faith, 2 Corinthians 11:19-20.

These false teachers were receiving wages from the Corinthians and were leading them into ‘slaves’ and ‘exploit you’ while they ‘take advantage of you’ the brethren and figuratively “strike you in the face.”

These are apparent allusions to the Judaizing False teachers that Paul dealt with in Galatians and Acts 15 who were teaching a different doctrine.

Paul could have noted that the Corinthians had repented of their gross sins and left them alone, even though some sketchy characters were leading them.

Paul, however, loved these brethren too much to leave them to the devices of the false teachers. Paul intended to root out every cause of evil among the brethren!

The word ‘disgrace’, ‘atimia’ means to dishonour. What may seem to be weakness and dishonour on the part of Paul for participating in the same boasting his critics have is really a defence.

Paul was bringing himself to the level of his accusers because these men had made great inroads and strongholds in the minds of the brethren at Corinth.

We can feel the frustration of Paul here. He preached nothing but the truth; however, such preaching produced critics who were succeeding in drawing away from the minds of the Corinthian Christians from the truth he preached.

Truly the words of Jesus in John 7:7 and John 17:14 bear testimony to the events transpiring in Corinth. The world hates those who will expose their evil deeds.

Paul Boasted Of The Flesh

‘Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am talking like I am out of my mind!) I am even more so: with much greater labours, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea.’ 2 Corinthians 11:22-25

Paul’s critics apparently boasted to the Corinthians regarding the fact that they were Hebrews, Israelites, and of the seed of Abraham and were thereby magnified in the eyes of the brethren. Paul said, ‘so am I’. Philippians 3:4-7

It is thought that the term ‘Hebrews’ depicted the fact that they had retained the original language of God’s people rather than forgetting it. Paul was an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, Philippians 3:4ff. Paul was of the seed of Abraham as were his critics.

Clearly, these false teachers were stating that they were ‘servants of Christ’, however, Paul has identified them as ‘false prophets’ and ‘ministers of Satan’, 2 Corinthians 11:13

Paul now began his list of things in which he may boast based on the fact that he was now ‘out of his mind’ in regard to what these critics are saying. The phrase ‘out of his mind’, ‘paraphroneo’ means deranged or mad.

Paul ‘laboured’ at preaching the Gospel to the point of it hurting, 1 Corinthians 15:9-10. He travelled the world over that souls may be saved. While labouring so vigorously for the souls of men, he suffered persecution, ‘far more imprisonments.’ When preaching in Philippi, he and Silas were arrested and put into prison, Acts 16:23ff.

Paul suffered ‘more severe beatings’ from the Gentiles who did not have the restriction of the Jews, i.e., 39 stripes, Deuteronomy 25:3. There were times when Paul preached that he was beaten to the point of being considered dead, Acts 14:19. His own countrymen scourged him with whips on five different occasions, none of which are recorded in Acts.

On three occasions Paul was beaten with rods by the Romans, Acts 16:22-24. On one occasion Paul was stoned and left for dead, Acts 14:19.

On three occasions Paul suffered a shipwreck while preaching the Gospel, none of which are recorded in Acts other than the shipwreck at Malta which happened after the writing of 2 Corinthians. Paul stated, ‘night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea’ which indicates floating on a piece of ship wreckage until saved or coming ashore.

‘I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing.’ 2 Corinthians 11:26-27

Grouped with the others ‘dangers’, ‘kindunos’ means a risk, hazard Paul faced was the dangerous journeys he took. The dangers he was exposed to were thieves, murderers, and those in each city he travelled to who were offended by his message.

Paul was in ‘dangers from rivers.’ As Paul travelled he would have had to traverse treacherous rivers where many men drowned to death. Paul found himself in ‘dangers from of robbers’.

Apparently, Paul was robbed from time to time as he travelled about. Paul found himself in ‘dangers from my countrymen.’ The Jews were the ones to show forth bitter hatred toward Paul as he went about preaching, Acts 13:50 in Antioch of Pisidia.

Paul found himself in ‘dangers from the Gentiles’ which completes the whole human race, Jews and Gentiles. Paul suffered at the hands of all classes and races of people, Acts 19:23ff.

Paul experienced ‘dangers in the city, wilderness, and sea.’ Not only all classes and races of people persecuted Paul, but in every possible location, he found himself subject to ill-treatment due to his message of repentance from sins.

To complete the picture of a life filled with dangers from people to geography it would seem that at least he would be safe among brethren. Paul, however, found himself in ‘dangers from false brothers’.

This must-have pained Paul more than the other perils he fell in. Brethren who were ‘pseudo’, ‘false’. Their falsehood may have been the doctrines they followed or their evil agendas.

Some who would be termed ‘brothers’ would persecute Paul as did those of the world. Paul fitted the admonition he gave young Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:12. Why? Because Jesus said that when one exposes another’s dark deeds, they will hate you, John 7:7 / John 17:14.

With the sufferings came hard work and ‘toil’, ‘mochthos’ which means hardship, distress, trouble Paul’s hardships would put many of us to shame as he underwent hunger, thirst, fasting, being cold and without proper clothing.

Though the world viewed Paul as ‘poor’, 2 Corinthians 6:10, ‘foolish, weak, and the filth of the world’, 1 Corinthians 4:9ff, he was indeed rich unto eternal life!

‘Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast about the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is blessed forever, knows I am not lying. In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to arrest me, but I was let down in a rope-basket through a window in the city wall, and escaped his hands.’ 2 Corinthians 11:28-33

In addition to the above-mentioned suffering, Paul had to deal with the fact that divisive false teachers were devouring the souls of many Christians. His intense love for brethren burned deep within to the point of pain and distress, anxiety.

As we look at each of Paul’s epistles written to different brethren in various geographic locations, he dealt with each one’s problems and exhorts all to repent that they may obtain the eternal promise of salvation.

When false teachers added their own twist to the doctrine of Christ, Paul corrected these things in all the churches. Paul did not have a love for one local church of brethren, he cared for all the ‘churches.’

Paul experienced the hardships of all those who suffer in weakness. Paul felt the shame of his brethren’s sins and the sins of his own, Romans 7:24. Paul knew what it was like to be human and to suffer the pains of life and the pains of sin.

Such acknowledgement and enlightenment gave Paul great joy as he went about preaching and teaching knowing that the consequence of one individual obeying the Gospel would mean another soul saved if they remained faithful to the end.

For this cause, Paul could glory in the things he suffered. Through Paul’s hardships came the Gospel message to the world. Those false teachers in Corinth who would glory in their heritage yet live like kings could in no way stand in comparison to the love Paul had for the Corinthian’s souls. No man in his right mind could reject Paul at the derogatory statements of his critics.

One may be amazed to hear the things Paul has just said, and so Paul exclaimed that God knows that ‘I am not lying’. Paul appears to save the information regarding his suffering in Damascus for last. It is likely that Paul speaks of this now because it was the birthplace of all his coming agony for preaching the Gospel. Paul was converted in Damascus, Acts 9:10ff.

After his conversion, he immediately preached Jesus. Paul left Damascus travelled into Arabia preaching the Gospel for some time, Galatians 1:17ff and then returned. Paul spent three years in Damascus preaching and teaching the Gospel, Galatians 1:18.

Apparently, at the end of these three years, the events spoken of in Acts 9:10ff occurred. The Jews sought to kill him because of the message he preached. Some of his brethren lowered Paul down the wall of Damascus and Paul escaped to Jerusalem.

Paul escaped the king of Damascus and Arabia. This initial persecution was an example of the hardships that he would experience, from this point forward, as he preached the Gospel, Acts 9:16.


Are we willing to go that far? 2 Corinthians 11 is a continuation of the defence and argument that was between Paul and the divisive false teachers in Corinth.

These critics had used the form of argument called ‘argumentum ad hominem’, an argument directed at the man by attacking the person who made the assertion.

The assertion Paul made was that the Corinthians were in sin. Paul’s critics responded by calling him names such as ‘unskilled in speech’, 2 Corinthians 11:6, ‘out of his mind’, 2 Corinthians 5:13, a ‘coward’, 2 Corinthians 10:10 and one who ‘preached his own ideas’, 2 Corinthians 3:1 / 2 Corinthians 5:12 / 2 Corinthians 10:12.

Apparently many Corinthians were buying these false accusations against the apostle Paul. Paul appears to be ramping up his bold speech against the factious.

Paul said, ‘For you put up with it if someone makes slaves of you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone behaves arrogantly toward you, if someone strikes you in the face.’ 2 Corinthians 11:20

Truly there was a battle for the Corinthians’ affection. The divisive were using base modes to discredit Paul and his teaching. Paul’s only defence was to write these epistles until he could get to Corinth and address the divisive brethren face to face, 2 Corinthians 10:11.

Paul’s great fear for the Corinthians was that these critics would totally convince the Corinthian brethren of his personal worthlessness and thereby all would lose their souls.

Paul clearly identified the work of his critics as a beguiling work of Satan, 2 Corinthians 11:1-4. His critics were ‘servants of Satan, false apostles, deceitful workers’, 2 Corinthians 11:13.

Their method not only included attacks against Paul’s person but self-importance in the form of boasting of their past heritage, 2 Corinthians 11:22.

It is most probable that the divisive and false teachers of Corinth were Jews who held to the Mosaic Law while claiming to be Christians, 2 Corinthians 3 / Acts 18:1-11 / Acts 15. Paul could not sit back and say anything in this situation.

He proved his great love for the Corinthian brethren by reviewing his life of suffering that others, such as the Corinthians, might obtain eternal life, 2 Corinthians 11:22ff.

As we explore the life of Paul, we find that in all points of his existence he suffered. Paul suffered in every known geographic location, city, wilderness, river and sea.

Paul suffered at the hands of every race of people, Jew and Gentile. Paul often found no solace in brethren for they too would persecute him. Paul found himself without proper clothing and shelter. He was often hungry and thirsty. The world looked upon him and his preaching brethren as the ‘filth of the world’, 1 Corinthians 4:13

Why would a man undergo such trouble if it were not for love? He received no wages from the Corinthian brethren, 2 Corinthians 11:8-9. He simply came and preached the gospel so that they would be saved. Paul’s critics could in no way make such claims.

What application can we make of 2 Corinthians 11? Clearly, we may learn that the devil is busy making disciples through craft and deceit. Brethren are buying his doctrine and devouring it.

Brethren are allowing Satan to make strongholds within their minds as they slip further and further from the truth. As Paul experienced anxiety for all the churches so must we stand up and speak out against sin and the devil’s evil tactics.

Secondly, we can learn that when we do stand up and speak out as did Paul, we will be persecuted as was our Lord and His apostles. Jesus said it would be so, John 7:7 / John 17:14. This is the life of the true loving Christian, 2 Timothy 3:12.

God’s people are called upon to fellowship the sufferings of Jesus, are we willing to go that far? Philippians 3:10.

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