2 Corinthians 11

In the light of the coming day, when the Lord will commend His
servants, the commendation of oneself in the presence of one's fellows
appears to be but folly. Paul acknowledges this in the first verse of
our chapter. He had been speaking about himself in the previous
chapter, and he goes on to do so more fully in the chapter before us,
but all with a view to assuring the Corinthians of the reality and
genuineness of his apostolic mission. He pleads guilty to this "folly"
and asks them to bear with him in it.

There was indeed a very good reason for it. His detractors brought
their charges and insinuations against him not merely out of opposition
to himself. There was an ulterior motive. They depreciated Paul because
they aimed thereby at undermining, in the minds of the Corinthians, the
truth of the Gospel that he had brought them. They would overthrow
Paul's credit as a preliminary step towards overthrowing the Gospel
that he preached, and that accomplished, Christ would lose His
pre-eminent place in their hearts.

The thought of this stirred the Apostle very deeply. Elijah had been
very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts in his day, and here we find
Paul jealous with a jealousy which was of God on behalf of Christ. When
the Gospel he preached is truly received, it fairly wins the heart of
the convert for Christ, so really so that he could say, "I have
espoused you . . . that I may present you as a chaste virgin to
Christ." This is figurative language but it is quite transparent as to
its meaning. Paul so preached, and we all ought so to preach, that the
hearts of those who believe are wholly captivated by Christ. But that
is only the beginning.

We should also make it our aim, as Paul did, that each convert might
retain this single-eyed devotedness to Christ all through life until
the moment arrives for presentation to Christ in glory. Each believing
heart should wear the "chaste virgin" character, untouched and
unsullied by any other master-passion or absorbing love. Alas! how few
of us bear that character in any measure. How many there are who are
easily diverted from Him, and spend much of their energy in pursuit of
other loves! It is possible to turn from Him to pursue things which are
really quite opposed to Him; but to turn from Him to pursue things
subsidiary to Him, and therefore quite good in their way, is an even
greater snare. May God help us to beware of it.

Verse 3 is very important as exposing before us the way in which the
great adversary lays the snare for our feet. In 2 Cor. 4 we were
instructed as to the way in which he blinds the minds of those who
believe not. Here we find that when some have believed, and so as to
them his blinding tactics have failed, he is still pertinaciously
active and aims at beguiling them, as once he beguiled Eve. When he
acts with subtilty as the serpent he is more dangerous than when he
opposes as a roaring lion.

The devil in the guise of a serpent deceived Eve in a very subtil
and crafty way. Step by step he corrupted her mind as to God, and led
her to act apart from and independently of her husband. In similar
fashion he works today. He aims at diverting us from simplicity and
from true subjection to Christ. The rendering of the New Translation
is, "your thoughts should be corrupted from simplicity as to the

The words, "corrupted from simplicity," are very suggestive, and
worth pondering deeply. In man's world things proceed from the simple
to the complex. The earliest printing machines, for instance, were very
simple affairs. In the course of several centuries they have become
marvellous machines of great complexity. So in the ordinary way,
confining ourselves to the affairs of men, we should speak of things
being developed and improved from their original simplicity. But here
we are dealing with what is extraordinary and outside the affairs of
men. God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. It
is well to get this firmly settled in our souls.

The works and ways of God are marked by simplicity. His simplicity
is perfect. We cannot improve upon it. We may attempt to alter it, but
then we only corrupt it. The Gospel is the essence of simplicity. It
sets Christ before us as the One who is the expression of all that God
has to say to us, as also He is the One who has wrought the necessary
work of redemption, and in whom we now stand before God. It brings us
into complete subjection to Him. But Satan is a master of craft and
subtilty. Using these men who were the opponents of Paul, he did not
totally deny the Christ whom Paul preached. Verse 4 is clear evidence
of this. If they could have come with another gospel, announcing
another Jesus, and conferring another spirit, there might have been
something to say on their behalf, especially if it could have been an
improvement on what they had already received.

Instead of denying Christ they came under the pretence of adding
something to Christ. A fuller idea of their position may be gleaned
from the epistle to the Galatians, where we find them adding the law to
Christ: teaching that, though we may be justified by Him, we are put
under the law in order that holiness may be promoted. That Christ
should be made righteousness to us they were prepared to admit, but
that He should also be made sanctification seemed to them much too

It is not otherwise today. The tendency to hanker after the
elaborate, the abstruse, the complicated, the far-fetched is always
with us. The intellectual men of the world find the Gospel far too
simple, and they stumble at it. The trouble is however that believers,
whose strong point is their intellect, always have a tendency in the
same direction, unless they walk in the spirit of self-judgment as
regards intellectualism. If they do not maintain self-judgment, all
their elaborations, their deep and abstruse thoughts, only eventuate in
something that corrupts from simplicity as to the Christ.

The mind is a very important part of a man, and Satan's acutest
beguilements are aimed at it. It is far from being the whole of a man:
his affections and his conscience have a very large place. The trouble
is that the intellectual person is very apt to give a much larger place
to his mind than Scripture gives to it, and to forget that God reveals
His truth to us, not for our intellectual enjoyment, but that it may
command our hearts, appeal to our consciences and govern our lives. Let
that be properly realized, and we at once find plenty to occupy our
spiritual energies in the profound simplicities of the truth, and any
itching desire we ever had for mere complexities and novelties and
obscurities forsakes us.

"Simplicity as to the Christ!" That is what we need. To know Him: to
love Him, as united in heart to Him: to adore Him: to serve Him: that
is it! If our minds are thus stayed upon Him in uncorrupted simplicity,
all else will be added unto us, and we shall be maintained in the
fervour of "first love." It was just at this point that decline set in,
as witnessed in Revelation 2: 4. So here: Paul knew well that if Satan
succeeded in his beguilings at this point, he would succeed all along
the line.

So, once more, in defending his Gospel from the subtle attack of
Satan through men who were, however unwittingly, serving him, he had to
make plain the reality and power of his apostleship in contrast to
features that marked them. He was indeed an apostle, and not in the
least inferior to those who were most prominent among the twelve.

From verses 6 to 9 we gather that the Apostle had been belittled not
only because his speech was not highly polished but because he had
taken no monetary help from the Corinthians whilst amongst them. In
alluding to this his language was tinged with irony. He had abased
himself in order to exalt them. Was this an offence, a sin? He had
accepted help from other churches, notably the Macedonian, and he
speaks of this as robbing, or spoiling, them-still the language of
irony, of course. He had done the Corinthians the greatest possible
service without the least cost to themselves. And he boasted thus, not
in the spirit of emulation as though he did not love them, but just
because he did love them, and he desired to deliver them from the
fascination which the opposers exercised over them by reason of the
foolish boasting in which they indulged so freely.

This leads the Apostle to speak with great plainness about the
opposers. They were false apostles, for they never had been sent of the
Lord as the true apostles were. They were workers right enough, but
deceitful ones, since they transformed themselves into what they were
not. In this they partook of the character of him whom they served, and
according to their deceitful works will be their end.

It is very important that we should remember that Satan so commonly
transforms himself into an angel of light, and his servants into
servants of righteousness. That being so, we must expect sin and error
to frequently present themselves in a pleasing and delightful guise.
Again and again we find the advocates of error to be quite nice men. It
is unsafe to receive the message because the man who brings it appears
so good, so charming, so eloquent, so like an angel of light. The only
safe test is, Does he bring the doctrine of Christ, the true Gospel? If
he does, receive it by all means, even if he is a bit uncouth, a poor
speaker, or of ugly appearance. "Prince Charming" is all too often a
servant of Satan in plain clothes.

Such was the character of some-if not all-of those who were opposing
Paul. Hitherto he had not said much as to them, but now the time had
come to stand up to them and expose them, and this he does very
effectually here. They were always boasting concerning themselves, and
they did it with a view to self-exaltation. They were marked by a
spirit which was the exact opposite of Paul's. He abased himself in
order to exalt those whose blessing he sought (verse 7): they exalted
themselves and did not scruple to exploit those whom they professed to
serve. They brought them into bondage, they devoured them by getting
their money, they even smote them on the face. Very possibly smiting on
the face was not literal but in the sense of being rude to them in
haughty fashion, or, as we should say, browbeating them. The
Corinthians being carnally-minded had evidently been impressed with
their domineering manner. Had they been more spiritual they would have
seen through it.

Still as these men acted in this way Paul felt that he should take
up their challenge. If they wished to institute a kind of competition
as to who had the highest credentials, he would speak somewhat further
as to his. This boasting was all foolishness, but since they had
started it he would speak, and again in verse 19 he uses irony. The
Corinthians were enriched in all knowledge and so took the place of
being wise, and seemed to suffer gladly the fools who boasted so much;
for, he says, you do indeed suffer when these boasting men domineer
over you and brow-beat you as they have been doing.

The boastings of these men apparently centred around two points:
first, their natural origin as true-blooded Hebrews and Israelites, the
seed of Abraham according to the flesh; second, their dignity as
servants of Christ, which they claimed to be. As to the former matter,
for what it is worth, Paul was not one whit behind them. He could say,
"So am I" without the least hesitation.

But when it comes to the second matter he does not say, "So am I,"
but rather, "I am more," for he completely outshone them. The phrase he
uses has been translated "I above measure so," for there was really no
comparison between them: and he proceeds to speak, not of the triumphs
he had won, but of the sufferings he had endured.

Let us take time to really digest the significance of this. Had we
been in Paul's shoes, should we not almost for a certainty have
proceeded to talk of the mighty power of God that had been manifested
in our service? We should have had much to say about the mighty signs
and wonders that had been manifested, the striking conversions, the
wonderful transformations of life and character that had been recorded.
Would it have occurred to us to recount the buffetings, the troubles,
the sufferings, we had endured? We think not. To tell the truth there
would have been hardly anything of that sort to tell.

We are not saying that the servant of Christ should never speak of
that which the Lord may have done through him in the way of blessing.
There are times when he may profitably do so, as we see by reading Acts
14: 27, and Acts 15: 12. We do say however that when it is a question
of one's credentials, of producing facts which prove beyond all
question that one is a genuine servant of Christ, then the record of
one's sufferings is far more convincing. Signs and wonders may be
produced by a power other than that of the Spirit of God: nothing but
absolute devotion to the Lord will enable one to serve with patient
persistence through years of toil and suffering.

There are modern religious movements whose main stock-in-trade is
the recounting of the wonders they can produce, either in healings, or
in tongues, or in the realm of habits and character-"life-changing" as
it is called. Of fidelity to Christ, and of suffering for His Name,
they have little if anything to say, for it seems non-existent in their
scheme of things. They often know quite a lot about high-pressure
meetings, and even first-class hotels, but nothing about the labours
and perils and infirmities that marked Paul. And as for the rest of us,
who do not wish to recount our own doings, successful or otherwise, how
little are we like to him.

He was more than a servant of Christ, as he tells us in verse 23. He
was an apostle of Christ and actively engaged in filling up "that which
is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh" (Col. 1: 24). As
far as the record given to us in Scripture is concerned, he stands
alone amongst the people of God in his sufferings. An Abraham, a Moses,
a David, a Daniel, each had their own special and distinctive
characteristics which marked them out as pleasing God, but not one of
them approached Paul in this. Labours, stripes, prisons, deaths,
journeyings, perils of all descriptions, weariness, painfulness,
watchings, hunger, thirst, fastings, cold, nakedness, care- what a
list! It covers pretty well the whole range of human suffering, whether
of body or mind.

From the Acts of the Apostles we can identify a few of the
experiences of which he speaks. For instance, "once was I stoned," that
was as recorded in chapter 14. He speaks of being "in deaths oft," and
one occasion was in the riot in the Ephesian theatre, recorded in
chapter 19, for he speaks of this as "so great a death," in the first
chapter of our epistle. But on the other hand we must remember that
when he penned this list his experiences were not over. He had been
shipwrecked thrice, one of the occasions involving a night and a day in
the deep; being washed about in the waters of the Mediterranean, we
suppose that means; but as yet the shipwreck recorded in Acts 27 had
not taken place. That must consequently have been number four, at least.

The most wearing sufferings of all were, we venture to think, those
that he speaks of last-the care of all the churches. To bear with the
feebleness of the weak, to listen again and again to the complaints of
the offended, to correct the foolishness of saints, and contend for the
truth against false brethren, all this must have been the most testing
thing of all. Yet he did it.

The incident with which he closes the chapter seems symbolic of the
whole drift of his life of service. He was "let down," and that in a
very undignified way. If secular history is to be trusted the
lettings-down never ceased until he knelt by the headsman's block
outside the imperial city Rome. But it was just these lettings-down and
the sufferings they involved which put upon him the brands of the Lord
Jesus, and marked him out as a servant of Christ in surpassing measure.