Paul and the False Apostles
All through this section Paul has to adopt methods which are completely distasteful to him. He has to stress his own authority, to boast about himself and to keep comparing himself with those who are seeking to seduce the Corinthian Church; and he does not like it. He apologizes every time he has to speak in such a way, for he was not a man to stand on his dignity. It was said of a great man, “He never remembered his dignity until others forgot it.” But Paul knew that it was not really his dignity and honour that were at stake, but the dignity and the honour of Jesus Christ.
I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness. Please bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. 3 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. 4 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.
I believe that the best way to keep to the true Jesus and true Spirit is to keep our hearts and minds in the Word of God, especially in the Gospels. Once I heard a pastor say that he read a chapter of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John every day, in order to keep Jesus in front of him. Whatever it takes to keep me from “happily putting up with” falsehoods on matters of eternal significance!
5 But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things. 6 I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way.
7 Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? 8 I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. 9 And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. 10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, no one in all of Greece will ever stop me from boasting about this. 11 Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows that I do.
12 But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours. 13 These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
Satan is commonly pictured today as a horned, evil-looking red creature with a tail. But such, of course, is far removed from the manner in which he presents himself to us.
Others think of Satan in connection with a poor drunkard, wallowing in the gutter on Skid Row. But this, too, is a false impression of what Satan is really like.
This verse tells us that he masquerades as an angel of light. Perhaps by way of illustration we might say he poses as a minister of the gospel, wearing the pulpit of a fashionable church. He uses religious words such as God, Jesus, and the Bible. But he deludes his hearers, teaching that salvation is by good works or by human merit. He does not preach redemption through the blood of Christ.
15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.
Paul accused them of masquerading as apostles of Christ. The Jewish legend was that Satan had once masqueraded as one of the angels who sang praises to God and that it was then that Eve had seen him and been seduced.
It is still true that many masquerade as Christians, some consciously but still more unconsciously. Their Christianity is a superficial dress in which there is no reality. The Synod of the Church in Uganda drew up the following four tests by which a man may examine himself and test the reality of his Christianity.
(1) Do you know salvation through the Cross of Christ?
(2) Are you growing in the power of the Holy Spirit, in prayer, meditation and the knowledge of God?
(3) Is there a great desire to spread the Kingdom of God by example, and by preaching and teaching?
(4) Are you bringing others to Christ by individual searching, by visiting, and by public witness?
With the conscience of others we have nothing to do, but we can test our own Christianity lest our faith also should be not a reality but a masquerade.
Paul’s Many Trials
16 Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little. 17 Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool. 18 And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. 19 After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! 20 You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. 21 I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that!
The following part of this letter, 11:22-12:10, is known as the “Fool’s Speech.”
In it Paul describes his ministry in terms that could not possibly be equaled by the false apostles. Yet he does not boast about his own knowledge or speaking skills or other abilities, but about how much he has suffered for the sake of Christ. Here Paul’s boasting is ironic—he “boasts” of things normally considered shameful, signs of weakness and defeats. Thus, his boasts are an imitation or parody of the boasting of his opponents, who praised themselves to the Corinthians in extravagant speeches. Paul, in recounting the marks of a true servant of Christ, points to suffering and humiliation, emphasizing again (as he did in 1 Corinthians 1-4) Christ crucified. (The Reformation Bible)
But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
(Note to self: No reason to complain about my life. Ever.)
28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?
30 If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. 31 God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. 32 When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. 33 I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.
Read the story HERE in Acts 9:19-25. Paul recounts for the Corinthians his first, and rather humiliating, experience of being persecuted (rather than persecuting others) for the sake of the gospel. It illustrates with power the contrast between Saul of Tarsus and Paul the Apostle. Saul of Tarsus traveled to Damascus full of man’s power and authority, directed against God’s people. Paul the Apostle fled Damascus humbly in a basket for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.
A song for Paul with all his trials — and perhaps for all of us. And a reminder to “Be kind; everyone is fighting a hard battle.” HERE is the incomparable Paul Robeson and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.