The apostle gives the reasons for speaking in his own commendation. (1-14) Shows that he had freely preached the gospel. (5-15) Explains what he was going to add in defence of his own character. (16-21) He gives an account of his labours, cares, sufferings, dangers, and deliverances. (22-33)
Verses 1-4 The apostle desired to preserve the Corinthians from being corrupted by the false apostles. There is but one Jesus, one Spirit, and one gospel, to be preached to them, and received by them; and why should any be prejudiced, by the devices of an adversary, against him who first taught them in faith? They should not listen to men, who, without cause, would draw them away from those who were the means of their conversion.
Verses 5-15 It is far better to be plain in speech, yet walking openly and consistently with the gospel, than to be admired by thousands, and be lifted up in pride, so as to disgrace the gospel by evil tempers and unholy lives. The apostle would not give room for any to accuse him of worldly designs in preaching the gospel, that others who opposed him at Corinth, might not in this respect gain advantage against him. Hypocrisy may be looked for, especially when we consider the great power which Satan, who rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience, has upon the minds of many. And as there are temptations to evil conduct, so there is equal danger on the other side. It serves Satan's purposes as well, to set up good works against the atonement of Christ, and salvation by faith and grace. But the end will discover those who are deceitful workers; their work will end in ruin. Satan will allow his ministers to preach either the law or the gospel separately; but the law as established by faith in Christ's righteousness and atonement, and the partaking of his Spirit, is the test of every false system.
Verses 16-21 It is the duty and practice of Christians to humble themselves, in obedience to the command and example of the Lord; yet prudence must direct in what it is needful to do things which we may do lawfully, even the speaking of what God has wrought for us, and in us, and by us. Doubtless here is reference to facts in which the character of the false apostles had been shown. It is astonishing to see how such men bring their followers into bondage, and how they take from them and insult them.
Verses 22-33 The apostle gives an account of his labours and sufferings; not out of pride or vain-glory, but to the honour of God, who enabled him to do and suffer so much for the cause of Christ; and shows wherein he excelled the false apostles, who tried to lessen his character and usefulness. It astonishes us to reflect on this account of his dangers, hardships, and sufferings, and to observe his patience, perseverance, diligence, cheerfulness, and usefulness, in the midst of all these trials. See what little reason we have to love the pomp and plenty of this world, when this blessed apostle felt so much hardship in it. Our utmost diligence and services appear unworthy of notice when compared with his, and our difficulties and trials scarcely can be perceived. It may well lead us to inquire whether or not we really are followers of Christ. Here we may study patience, courage, and firm trust in God. Here we may learn to think less of ourselves; and we should ever strictly keep to truth, as in God's presence; and should refer all to his glory, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore.
2 Corinthians 11:1-33 . THROUGH JEALOUSY OVER THE CORINTHIANS, WHO MADE MORE ACCOUNT OF THE FALSE APOSTLES THAN OF HIM, HE IS OBLIGED TO COMMEND HIMSELF AS IN MANY RESPECTS SUPERIOR.
1. Would to God--Translate as Greek, "I would that."
bear with me--I may ask not unreasonably to be borne with; not so the false apostles ( 2 Corinthians 11:4 2 Corinthians 11:20 ).
my--not in the oldest manuscripts.
folly--The Greek is a milder term than that for "foolishness" in 1 Corinthians 3:19 , Matthew 5:22 , 25:2 . The Greek for "folly" here implies imprudence; the Greek for "foolishness" includes the idea of perversity and wickedness.
and indeed bear--A request (so 2 Corinthians 11:16 ). But the Greek and the sense favor the translation, "But indeed (I need not wish it, for) ye do bear with me"; still I wish you to bear with me further, while I enter at large into self-commendations.
2. For I am jealous--The justification of his self-commendations lies in his zealous care lest they should fall from Christ, to whom he, as "the friend of the Bridegroom" ( John 3:29 ), has espoused them; in order to lead them back from the false apostles to Christ, he is obliged to boast as an apostle of Christ, in a way which, but for the motive, would be "folly."
godly jealousy--literally, "jealousy of God" (compare 2 Corinthians 1:12 , "godly sincerity," literally, "sincerity of God"). "If I am immoderate, I am immoderate to God" [BENGEL]. A jealousy which has God's honor at heart ( 1 Kings 19:10 ).
I . . . espoused you--Paul uses a Greek term applied properly to the bridegroom, just as he ascribes to himself "jealousy," a feeling properly belonging to the husband; so entirely does he identify himself with Christ.
present you as a chaste virgin to Christ--at His coming, when the heavenly marriage shall take place ( Matthew 25:6 , Revelation 19:7 Revelation 19:9 ). What Paul here says he desires to do, namely, "present" the Church as "a chaste virgin" to Christ, Christ Himself is said to do in the fuller sense. Whatever ministers do effectively, is really done by Christ ( Ephesians 5:27-32 ). The espousals are going on now. He does not say "chaste virgins"; for not individual members, but the whole body of believers conjointly constitute the Bride.
3. I fear--( 2 Corinthians 12:20 ); not inconsistent with love. His source of fear was their yielding character.
subtilty--the utter foe of the "simplicity" which is intent on ONE object, Jesus, and seeks none "other," and no "other" and different Spirit ( 2 Corinthians 11:4 ); but loves him with tender SINGLENESS OF AFFECTION. Where Eve first gave way, was in mentally harboring for a moment the possibility insinuated by the serpent, of GOD not having her truest interests at heart, and of this "other" professing friend being more concerned for her than God.
corrupted--so as to lose their virgin purity through seducers ( 2 Corinthians 11:4 ). The same Greek stands for "minds" as for "thoughts" ( 2 Corinthians 10:5 , also oldest manuscripts after "simplicity," add, "and the purity" or "chastity."
in Christ--rather, "that is towards Christ."
4. if, &c.--which in fact is impossible. However, if it were possible, ye might then bear with them there can be no new Gospel; there is but the one which I first preached; therefore it ought not to be "borne" by you, that the false teachers should attempt to supersede me.
he that cometh--the high-sounding title assumed by the false teachers, who arrogated Christ's own peculiar title (Greek, Matthew 11:3 , and Hebrews 10:37 ), "He that is coming." Perhaps he was leader of the party which assumed peculiarly to be "Christ's" ( 2 Corinthians 10:7 , 1 Corinthians 1:12 ); hence his assumption of the title.
preacheth . . . receive--is preaching . . . ye are receiving.
Jesus--the "Jesus" of Gospel history. He therefore does not say "Christ," which refers to the office.
another . . . another--Greek, "another Jesus . . . a different Spirit . . . a different Gospel." Another implies a distinct individual of the same kind; different implies one quite distinct in kind.
which ye have not received--from us.
spirit . . . received . . . gospel . . . accepted--The will of man is passive in RECEIVING the "Spirit"; but it is actively concurrent with the will of God (which goes before to give the good will) in ACCEPTING the "Gospel."
ye might well bear with him--There would be an excuse for your conduct, though a bad one (for ye ought to give heed to no Gospel other than what ye have already heard from me, Galatians 1:6 Galatians 1:7 ); but the false teachers do not even pretend they have "another Jesus" and a "different Gospel" to bring before you; they merely try to supplant me, your accredited Teacher. Yet ye not only "bear with" them, but prefer them.
5. For--My claim is superior to that of the false teachers, "For," &c.
I suppose--I reckon [ALFORD].
I was not--Greek, "That I have not been, and am not."
the very chiefest apostles--James, Peter, and John, the witnesses of Christ's transfiguration and agony in Gethsemane. Rather, "those overmuch apostles," those surpassers of the apostles in their own esteem. This sense is proved by the fact that the context contains no comparison between him and the apostles, but only between him and the false teachers; 2 Corinthians 11:6 also alludes to these, and not to the apostles; compare also the parallel phrase, "false apostles" [ALFORD].
6. rude--Greek, "a common man"; a "laic"; not rhetorically trained; unskilled in finish of diction. 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 1 Corinthians 2:13 2 Corinthians 10:10 2 Corinthians 10:11 , shows his words were not without weight, though his "speech" was deficient in oratorical artifice. "Yet I am not so in my knowledge" ( 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 , Ephesians 3:1-5 ).
have been . . . made manifest--Read with the oldest manuscripts, "We have made things (Gospel truths) manifest," thus showing our "knowledge." English Version would mean, I leave it to yourselves to decide whether I be rude in speech . . . : for we have been thoroughly (literally, "in everything") made manifest among you (literally, "in respect to you"; "in relation to you"). He had not by reserve kept back his "knowledge" in divine mysteries from them ( 2 Corinthians 2:17 , 4:2 , Acts 20:20 Acts 20:27 ).
in all things--The Greek rather favors the translation, "among all men"; the sense then is, we have manifested the whole truth among all men with a view to your benefit [ALFORD]. But the Greek in Philippians 4:12 , "In each thing and in all things," sanctions English Version, which gives a clearer sense.
7. Have I--literally, "OR have I?" Connected with 2 Corinthians 11:6 , "Or will any of you make it an objection that I have preached to you gratuitously?" He leaves their good feeling to give the answer, that this, so far from being an objection, was a decided superiority in him above the false apostles ( 1 Corinthians 9:6-15 ).
abasing myself--in my mode of living, waiving my right of maintenance, and earning it by manual labor; perhaps with slaves as his fellow laborers ( Acts 18:3 , Philippians 4:12 ).
ye . . . exalted--spiritually, by your admission to Gospel privileges.
gospel of God--"of God" implies its divine glory to which they were admitted.
8. I robbed--that is, took from them in order to spare you more than what was their fair share of contribution to my maintenance, for example, the Philippian Church ( Philippians 4:15 Philippians 4:16 ).
to do you service--Greek, "with a view to ministration to you"; compare "supplied" (Greek, "in addition"), 2 Corinthians 11:9 , implying, he brought with him from the Macedonians, supplies towards his maintenance at Corinth; and ( 2 Corinthians 11:9 ) when those resources failed ("when I wanted") he received a new supply, while there, from the same source.
9. wanted--"was in want."
chargeable--Greek, "burdensome," literally, "to torpify," and so to oppress. JEROME says it is a Cilician word ( 2 Corinthians 12:14 2 Corinthians 12:16 ).
the brethren which came--rather, as Greek, "the brethren when they came." Perhaps Timotheus and Silas ( Acts 8:1 Acts 8:5 ). Compare Philippians 4:15 Philippians 4:16 , which refers to donations received from the Philippians (who were in Macedonia) at two distinct periods ("once and again"), one at Thessalonica, the other after his departure from Macedonia, that is, when he came into Achaia to Corinth (from the church in which city he would receive no help); and this "in the beginning of the Gospel," that is, at its first preaching in these parts. Thus all three, the two Epistles and history, mutually, and no doubt undesignedly, coincide; a sure test of genuineness.
supplied--Greek, "supplied in addition," namely, in addition to their former contributions; or as BENGEL, in addition to the supply obtained by my own manual labor.
10. Greek, "There is (the) truth of Christ in me that," &c. ( Romans 9:1 ).
no man shall stop me of--The oldest manuscripts read, "This boasting shall not be shut (that is, stopped) as regards me." "Boasting is as it were personified . . . shall not have its mouth stopped as regards me" [ALFORD].
11. Love is often offended at its favors being not accepted, as though the party to whom they are offered wished to be under no obligation to the offerer.
12. I will do--I will continue to decline help.
occasion--Greek, "the occasion," namely, of misrepresenting my motives, which would be afforded to my detractors, if I accepted help.
that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we--BENGEL joins this clause with "the occasion," namely, of glorying or boasting; the occasion "that they may be found (a point wherein they glory) even as we," that is, quite as disinterested, or virtually, quite as gain-seeking and self-seeking. It cannot mean that the false teachers taught gratuitously even as Paul (compare 2 Corinthians 11:20 , 1 Corinthians 9:12 ). ALFORD less clearly explains by reference to 2 Corinthians 11:18 , &c., where the "glorying" here is taken up and described as "glorying after the flesh"; thus it means, that in the matters of which they beast they may be found even as we, that is, we may been a fair and equal footing; that there may be no adventitious comparisons made between us, arising out of misrepresentations of my course of procedure, but that in every matter of boasting we may be fairly compared and judged by facts; FOR ( 2 Corinthians 11:13 ) realities they have none, no weapons but misrepresentation, being false apostles.
13. For--reason why he is unwilling they should be thought like him [BENGEL].
such--they and those like them.
false apostles--those "overmuch apostles" are no apostles at all.
deceitful workers--pretending to be "workmen" for the Lord, and really seeking their own gain.
14. is transformed--rather, "transforms himself" (compare Job 1:6 ); habitually; the first occasion of his doing so was in tempting Eve. "Himself" is emphatical: If their master himself, who is the "prince of darkness," the most alien to light, does so, it is less marvellous in the case of them who are his servants ( Luke 22:54 , Ephesians 6:12 ).
15. no great thing--no difficult matter.
if his ministers also--as well as himself.
righteousness--answering to "light" ( 2 Corinthians 11:14 ); the manifestation wherewith God reveals Himself in Christ ( Matthew 6:33 , Romans 1:17 ).
end--The test of things is the end which strips off every specious form into which Satan's agents may now "transform" themselves (compare Philippians 3:19 Philippians 3:21 ).
according to their works--not according to their pretensions.
16. I say again--again taking up from 2 Corinthians 11:1 the anticipatory apology for his boasting.
if otherwise--but if ye will not grant this; if ye will think me a fool.
yet as a fool--"yet even as a fool receive me"; grant me the indulgent hearing conceded even to one suspected of folly. The Greek denotes one who does not rightly use his mental powers; not having the idea of blame necessarily attached to it; one deceived by foolish vanities, yet boasting himself [TITTMANN], ( 2 Corinthians 11:17 2 Corinthians 11:19 ).
that I--The oldest manuscripts read, "that I, too," namely, as well as they, may boast myself.
17. not after the Lord--By inspired guidance he excepts this "glorying" or "boasting" from the inspired authoritativeness which belongs to all else that he wrote; even this boasting, though undesirable in itself, was permitted by the Spirit, taking into account its aim, namely, to draw off the Corinthians from their false teachers to the apostle. Therefore this passage gives no proof that any portion of Scripture is uninspired. It merely guards against his boasting being made a justification of boasting in general, which is not ordinarily "after the Lord," that is, consistent with Christian humility.
foolishly--Greek, "in foolishness."
confidence of boasting--( 2 Corinthians 9:4 ).
18. many--including the "false teachers."
after the flesh--as fleshly men are wont to boast, namely, of external advantages, as their birth, doings, &c. (compare 2 Corinthians 11:22 ).
I will glory also--that is, I also will boast of such fleshly advantages, to show you that even in these I am not their inferiors, and therefore ought not to be supplanted by them in your esteem; though these are not what I desire to glory in ( 2 Corinthians 10:17 ).
19. gladly--willingly. Irony. A plea why they should "bear with" ( 2 Corinthians 11:1 ) him in his folly, that is, boasting; ye are, in sooth, so "wise" ( 1 Corinthians 4:8 1 Corinthians 4:10 ; Paul's real view of their wisdom was very different, 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 ) yourselves that ye can "bear with" the folly of others more complacently. Not only can ye do so, but ye are actually doing this and more.
20. For--Ye may well "bear with" fools; for ye even "bear with" oppressors. Translate, "Ye bear with them."
a man--as the false apostles do.
bring you into bondage--to himself. Translate "brings," not "bring"; for the case is not merely a supposed case, but a case actually then occurring. Also "devours" (namely, by exactions, Matthew 23:24 , Psalms 53:4 ), "takes," "exalts," "smites."
take of you--So the Greek for "take" is used for "take away from" ( Revelation 6:4 ). ALFORD translates, as in 2 Corinthians 12:16 , "catches you."
exalt himself--under the pretext of apostolic dignity.
smite you on the face--under the pretext of divine zeal. The height of insolence on their part, and of servile endurance on yours ( 1 Kings 22:24 , Nehemiah 13:25 , Luke 22:64 , Acts 23:2 , 1 Timothy 3:3 ).
21. as concerning reproach--rather, "by way of dishonor (that is, self-disparagement) I say it."
as though we . . . weak--in not similarly ( 2 Corinthians 11:20 ) showing our power over you. "An ironical reminiscence of his own abstinence when among them from all these acts of self-exaltation at their expense" (as if such abstinence was weakness) [ALFORD]. The "we" is emphatically contrasted with the false teachers who so oppressively displayed their power. I speak so as though WE had been weak when with you, because we did not show our power this way. Howbeit (we are not really weak; for), whereinsoever any is bold . . . I am bold also.
22. Hebrews . . . Israelites . . . the seed of Abraham--A climax. "Hebrews," referring to the language and nationality; "Israelites," to the theocracy and descent from Israel, the "prince who prevailed with God" ( Romans 9:4 ); "the seed of Abraham," to the claim to a share in the Messiah ( Romans 11:1 , 9:7 ). Compare Philippians 3:5 , "An Hebrew of the Hebrews," not an Hellenist or Greek-speaking Jew, but a Hebrew in tongue, and sprung from Hebrews.
23. I speak as a fool--rather, as Greek, "I speak as if beside myself"; stronger than "as a fool."
I am more--namely, in respect to the credentials and manifestations of my ministry, more faithful and self-denying; and richer in tokens of God's recognition of my ministry. Old authorities read the order thus, "In prisons above measures, in stripes more abundantly" (English Version, less accurately, "more frequent"). Acts 16:23-40 records one case of his imprisonment with stripes. CLEMENT OF ROME [First Epistle to the Corinthians] describes him as having suffered bonds seven times.
in death oft--( 2 Corinthians 4:10 , Acts 9:23 , 13:50 , Acts 14:5 Acts 14:6 Acts 14:19 , Acts 17:5 Acts 17:13 ).
24. Deuteronomy 25:3 ordained that not more than forty stripes should be inflicted To avoid exceeding this number, they gave one short of it: thirteen strokes with a treble lash [BENGEL]. This is one of those minute agreements with Jewish usage, which a forger would have not been likely to observe.
25. The beating by Roman magistrates at Philippi ( Acts 16:23 ) is the only one recorded in Acts, which does not profess to give a complete journal of his life, but only a sketch of it in connection with the design of the book, namely, to give an outline of the history of the Gospel Church from its foundation at Jerusalem, to the period of its reaching Rome, the capital of the Gentile world.
once was I stoned--( Acts 14:19 ).
thrice . . . shipwreck--before the shipwreck at Melita ( Acts 27:44 ). Probably in some of his voyages from Tarsus, where he stayed for some time after his conversion, and from which, as being a seafaring place, he was likely to make missionary voyages to adjoining places ( Acts 9:30 , 11:25 , Galatians 1:21 ).
a night and a day . . . in the deep--probably in part swimming or in an open boat.
26. In--rather, "By": connected with 2 Corinthians 11:23 , but now not with "in," as there, and as in 2 Corinthians 11:27 , where again he passes to the idea of surrounding circumstances or environments [ALFORD, ELLICOTT and others].
waters--rather, as Greek, "rivers," namely, perils by the flooding of rivers, as on the road often traversed by Paul between Jerusalem and Antioch, crossed as it is by the torrents rushing down from Lebanon. So the traveller Sport lost his life.
robbers--perhaps in his journey from Perga to Antioch in Pisidia. Pisidia was notorious for robbers; as indeed were all the mountains that divided the high land of Asia from the sea.
in the city--Damascus, Acts 9:24 Acts 9:25 ; Jerusalem, Acts 9:29 ; Ephesus, Acts 19:23 .
false brethren--( Galatians 2:4 ).
27. fastings--voluntary, in order to kindle devotions ( Acts 13:2 Acts 13:3 , 14:23 , 1 Corinthians 9:27 ); for they are distinguished from "hunger and thirst," which were involuntary [GROTIUS]. However, not synonymous with "foodlessness" (as the Greek of "fasting" means), but are its consequences.
cold . . . nakedness--"cold" resulting from "nakedness," or insufficient clothing, as the Greek often means: as "hunger and thirst" result from "foodlessness." (Compare Acts 28:2 , Romans 8:35 ). "When we remember that he who endured all this was a man constantly suffering from infirm health ( 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 , 12:7-10 , Galatians 4:13 Galatians 4:14 ), such heroic self-devotion seems almost superhuman" [CONYBEARE and HOWSON].
28. without--"Beside" trials falling on me externally, just recounted, there is "that which cometh upon me (literally, the impetuous concourse to me of business; properly, a crowd rising up against one again and again, and ready to bear him down), the care of all the churches" (including those not yet seen in the flesh, Colossians 2:1 ): an internal and more weighty anxiety. But the oldest manuscripts for "that which cometh," read, "the pressure": "the pressing care-taking" or "inspection that is upon me daily." ALFORD translates, "Omitting what is BESIDES"; namely, those other trials besides those recounted. But the Vulgate, ESTIUS, and BENGEL, support English Version.
the care--The Greek implies, "my anxious solicitude for all the churches."
29. I . . . weak--in condescending sympathy with the weak ( 1 Corinthians 9:22 ). "Care generates sympathy, which causes the minister of Christ personally to enter into the feelings of all his people, as if he stood in their position, so as to accommodate himself to all" [CALVIN].
offended--by some stumbling-block put in his way by others: the "weak" is most liable to be "offended."
I burn not--The "I" in the Greek is emphatic, which it is not in the former clause, "I am not weak." I not only enter into the feeling of the party offended, but I burn with indignation at the offender, I myself taking up his cause as my own. "Who meets with a stumbling-block and I am not disturbed even more than himself" [NEANDER].
30. glory of . . . infirmities--A striking contrast! Glorying or boasting of what others make matter of shame, namely, infirmities; for instance, his humbling mode of escape in a basket ( 2 Corinthians 11:33 ). A character utterly incompatible with that of an enthusiast (compare 2 Corinthians 12:5 2 Corinthians 12:9 2 Corinthians 12:10 ).
31. This solemn asseveration refers to what follows. The persecution at Damascus was one of the first and greatest, and having no human witness of it to adduce to the Corinthians, as being a fact that happened long before and was known to few, he appeals to God for its truth. Luke ( Acts 9:25 ) afterwards recorded it (compare Galatians 1:20 ), [BENGEL]. It may ALSO refer to the revelation in 2 Corinthians 12:1 , standing in beautiful contrast to his humiliating escape from Damascus.
32. governor--Greek, "Ethnarch": a Jewish officer to whom heathen rulers gave authority over Jews in large cities where they were numerous. He was in this case under Aretas, king of Arabia. Damascus was in a Roman province. But at this time, A.D. 38 or 39, three years after Paul's conversion, A.D. 36, Aretas, against whom the Emperor Tiberius as the ally of Herod Agrippa had sent an army under Vitellius, had got possession of Damascus on the death of the emperor, and the consequent interruption of Vitellius' operations. His possession of it was put an end to immediately after by the Romans [NEANDER]. Rather, it was granted by Caligula (A.D. 38) to Aretas, whose predecessors had possessed it. This is proved by our having no Damascus coins of Caligula or Claudius, though we do have of their immediate imperial predecessors and successors [ALFORD].