2 Corinthians 11

Paul Further Defends His Authority Based On Weakness

Paul is going to continue to use a dangerous and awkward maneuver which he has touted as foolish: boasting about what he has accomplished. All the while, Paul engages in boasting; he is seeking to answer the libel made against him, "that he was no apostle based on suffering too much." Paul is building a case for weakness and meekness being the actual evidence of his apostleship.

An Appeal to Bear with Paul (1)

Paul still bearing down on the false unrepentant leaders who claim all his suffering and weakness makes the case that Paul is no apostle of Christ. He is calling for them to bear with him as he takes some time to make his case (1).

An Appeal Not to Bear with Pretentious Leaders (2-4)

He begins this chapter with a passionate appeal for their very purity. He betrothed the Corinthians into a covenant relationship with Christ, but they had a weakness: they were easily deceived and seduced by another Jesus, with a different spirit, a rebel spirit. Paul uses the serpent and Eve as an example. Paul's emphasis is not on the serpent tempting Eve to sin but the temptation to lead Eve away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ which was most concerning (2-3).

Paul's concern for the Corinthians was specific: they seemed to put up with who they considered super-leaders who shamefully presented another:

a) Jesus
b) Spirit
c) and gospel (4)

The Weaknesses of Paul (5-6)

Paul would not take a backseat to those super apostles even if they were more eloquent. He asserted the knowledge of the subject, "Jesus and His Gospel," to outweigh the skill in presenting the message in an entertaining way (5-6).

Five Areas of Proof of Paul's Leadership (7-31)

Paul will use five main areas of boasting as proof that his weakness was evidence of his apostolic authenticity.

1. Preaching Free of Charge (7-11)

First, he will boast about the trial of preaching free of charge.

Instead of receiving the honor of being financially supported when with the Corinthians, he paid his own way. His appearance to others was that he didn't seem as important as the super-apostles who received remuneration for their work.

Paul takes a poke at the Corinthians, considering their lack of support robbery on some level as he mentions that the brothers from Macedonia added what was lacking to the apostolic team’s support (7-9). Paul goes on to mention that no one would silence his boasting about taking no pay. He would tell whoever he wanted in the whole region because those who would not do the work for no pay were not genuine leaders. The truth to Paul was obvious: some viewed what they did as a profession and demanded remuneration, but Paul viewed it as a call and would pay to do it because he had the truth of Christ in him. He was not bringing it up because he didn't love them and was seeking to shame them but quite the opposite—he loved them and his attitude toward pay proved it (10-11).

2. Used Authority as a Servant (12-15)

Second, Paul clearly states that the goal of his boasting was to undermine the claim of other so-called “apostles” because they are in fact "false apostles." They claimed to be working for the same thing as Paul but they were not. Paul especially boasts about his style of leadership—he was a servant of righteousness, his deeds backing up his heart (12-15).

3. Never Used Leadership to Demand (16-21)

Paul admits he is going to go overboard talking in a way the Lord would never have talked like (16-17). Then Paul sarcastically asks the Corinthians to bear with him as being those so wise that they can bear with fools (18-19). Paul makes his stabbing point: he is unlike the pretenders because he refused to lord it over them or abuse them with his authority or take from them anything in an underhanded way. Being sarcastic again, Paul claims he was too perfectly weak for that (20-21).

4. No One Can Out-Qualify (22-31)

Paul boasts in his suffering, a list staggering to read and contemplate (23a-33):

a) Paul's racial qualifications (22)
b) Paul's eight hardship qualifications (23-26a)
c) Paul's eight danger qualifications (26b-26)
d) Paul's eight scarcity qualifications (27)
e) Paul's anxiety for the church’s qualification (28-29)

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Paul then takes the needle's point and pricks the conscience; it is the endurance of hardships that qualify leaders and God was aware of his endurance—the pretenders had none to boast of (30-31).

5. God's Care at Damascus (32-33)

Then Paul, after emptying his list of what made him so qualified, turned to explain what the Lord had done to preserve his life and send him on his way.

It happened during the early days of his conversion where he learned the Jews were plotting to kill him, so the brothers let him down through a hole in the wall at Damascus (Acts 9:23-25), Paul viewed the deliverance as so miraculous that he claimed God as having surely saved him from certain death (32-33). Paul viewed this not so much as a sign of his weakness but certainly of God's power affirming the ministry He had given him.