You can read part one here!
The last chapter left out some details so it was hard to see what was going on in the church of Corinth, if there was conflict, or what Paul was trying to accomplish in boasting. This chapter will give us some more insight; we just need to find it in this mess.
Again, I tried to pick out key verses but your best bet is to read it all before reading this 😛
Problem: Paul’s authority has been challenged. This is a crucial part of the letter, and we’ll see why in a bit. We’re given verses here and there to piece together what’s happening, and we realize that Paul is actually being replaced by false Apostles, who boast of this and that, puffing themselves up to be something they aren’t.
Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. (V11:5)
And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. (V11:12-13)
For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. (V12:11-12)
Keeping that in mind, let’s start the passage! Paul says:
I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! (V11:1)
He’s joking right? Would Paul knowingly dabble in foolishness? He explains himself in the next few verses, giving a pretext for the rest of the chapter. Earlier, I said that Paul’s authority has been challenged. Here, he says this is a direct result of the super-apostles. By accepting a ‘different gospel’ from them, the church of Corinth actually moves further away from God and is equipped with a gospel that does not save. This is what causes Paul ‘divine jealousy’.
As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! (V11:10-11)
In verses 7-9, he wants them to think back to the love he showed in his serving, and the effort he went to to not burden any of them. Instead he burdens some of the other disciples because he cares for Corinth so much. Paul knows the greatest gift is love, and he makes it clear that everything he had done in the past was, also, out of love.
How does one boast lovingly?
Paul is still preparing to show us how that is even possible.
I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! (V11:16-19)
Is Paul exaggerating? Does he really mean what he’s saying?
Surprisingly, he does.
Paul has taken a look at the bigger picture. We’ve already talked about the problem; the church in Corinth has lost respect for him and instead follow false apostles, and we have mentioned the effect; they have abandoned the true gospel. Paul’s solution is this: gain their trust back and bring them back to good teachings.
At this point, Paul has decided that the only way to fix the situation is to out-boast any contenders. What Paul writes next pains him so, so much …
This next part may seem like a humorous passage, but what it does well is it allows us to look into Paul’s heart and see the desperation of man who is so emotionally broken by the Corinthians that his composure crumbles apart. This is the abuse that Paul invests in, not just another letter to some random church in need.
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. (V11:21-23)
This goes on for a total of ten verses, a truthful testimony of all his suffering. If we remember what Paul told us in the last chapter, it’s obvious that Paul is boasting as a fool would. He boasts outwardly about numbers, about status, and he does exactly what he said not to do, he commends himself.
Paul boasts like a fool for the sake of these people, It has nothing to do with himself. In this act of outward boasting, Paul has restored his status to the church of Corinth, but deep within him he knows this was his last resort. Just as Jesus came down to earth as a human, Paul humbles himself down to the unworthy, sinful, hypocrite.
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (V11:30)
In Chapter 10, Paul said that the one who boasts should boast in the Lord. There’s no doubt in my mind that there is a relation between that statement and this statement, and that they are both good. Paul gives us something to think about by boasting about the time he was rescued in Damascus (Acts 9:24-25). Yes, after all that has been said, he tells us that this is what our boasting should really look like.
At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. V(11:32-33)
God rescued Paul, ever since he met him on the road to Damascus, so he chooses to emphasize God over any of his abilities. Damascus was his first place of conversation and persecution, so I wouldn’t doubt that it was an important place for him.
In the end, I think Paul wanted to throw out any presumptions the Corinthians had on boasting, and start building something that would glorify God. In this boasting, he sacrificed a part of himself for furtherance of the Kingdom, showing us a whole other side of it that we usually never see.
No, this is not a call to start boasting lovingly. This is a call to stop boasting of ourselves, and to redefine how we boast. We commend ourselves so often we become accustomed to it, we commend ourselves while we serve in our fellowships and churches, hell, we even commend ourselves for lent, every time we get an opportunity to tell one another just how much we’ve “sacrificed”.
It stings, but I know it’s something I have to work on. Next post will wrap up Paul’s boasting in 2 Corinthians, so hopefully it’ll be an easier read than this Chapter. Almost there!
Part three here.
Michael “Are they blogging at work? So am I” Ru