2 Corinthians 11
In this chapter the apostle goes on with his discourse, in opposition
to the false apostles, who were very industrious to lessen his interest
and reputation among the Corinthians, and had prevailed too much by
their insinuations. I. He apologizes for going about to commend
himself, and gives the reason for what he did,
2 Corinthians 11:1-4.
II. He mentions, in his own necessary vindication, his equality with
the other apostles, and with the false apostles in this particular of
preaching the gospel to the Corinthians freely, without wages,
2 Corinthians 11:5-15.
III. He makes another preface to what he was about further to say in
his own justification,
2 Corinthians 11:16-21.
IV. He gives a large account of his qualifications, labours, and
sufferings, in which he exceeded the false apostles,
2 Corinthians 11:22-33.
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1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly:
and indeed bear with me.
2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have
espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste
virgin to Christ.
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve
through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the
simplicity that is in Christ.
4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have
not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have
not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye
might well bear with him.
Here we may observe,
1. The apology the apostle makes for going about to commend himself. He
is loth to enter upon this subject of self-commendation: Would to
God you could bear with me a little in my folly,
2 Corinthians 11:1.
He calls this folly, because too often it is really no better. In his
case it was necessary; yet, seeing others might apprehend it to be
folly in him, he desires them to bear with it. Note, As much against
the grain as it is with a proud man to acknowledge his infirmities, so
much is it against the grain with a humble man to speak in his own
praise. It is no pleasure to a good man to speak well of himself, yet
in some cases it is lawful, namely, when it is for the advantage of
others, or for our own necessary vindication; as thus it was here. For,
2. We have the reasons for what the apostle did.
(1.) To preserve the Corinthians from being corrupted by the
insinuations of the false apostles,
2 Corinthians 11:2,3.
He tells them he was jealous over them with godly jealousy; he
was afraid lest their faith should be weakened by hearkening to such
suggestions as tended to lessen their regard to his ministry, by which
they were brought to the Christian faith. He had espoused them to
one husband, that is, converted them to Christianity (and the
conversion of a soul is its marriage to the Lord Jesus); and he was
desirous to present them as a chaste virgin--pure, and spotless,
and faithful, not having their minds corrupted with false
doctrines by false teachers, as Eve was beguiled by the subtlety of
the serpent. This godly jealousy in the apostle was a mixture of
love and fear; and faithful ministers cannot but be afraid and
concerned for their people, lest they should lose that which they have
received, and turn from what they have embraced, especially when
deceivers have gone abroad, or have crept in among them.
(2.) To vindicate himself against the false apostles, forasmuch as they
could not pretend they had another Jesus, or another Spirit, or another
gospel, to preach to them,
2 Corinthians 11:4.
If this had been the case, there would have been some colour of reason
to bear with them, or to hearken to them. But seeing there is but one
Jesus, one Spirit, and one gospel, that is, or at least that ought to
be, preached to them and received by them, what reason could there be
why the Corinthians should be prejudiced against him, who first
converted them to the faith, by the artifices of any adversary? It was
a just occasion of jealousy that such persons designed to preach
another Jesus, another Spirit, and another gospel.
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5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest
6 But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but
we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things.
7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might
be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God
8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you
9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable
to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which
came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept
myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep
10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of
this boasting in the regions of Achaia.
11 Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.
12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion
from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they
may be found even as we.
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers,
transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an
angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be
transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be
according to their works.
After the foregoing preface to what he was about to say, the apostle in
these verses mentions,
I. His equality with the other apostles--that he was not a whit
behind the very chief of the apostles,
2 Corinthians 11:5.
This he expresses very modestly: I suppose so. He might have
spoken very positively. The apostleship, as an office, was equal in
all the apostles; but the apostles, like other Christians, differed one
from another. These stars differed one from another in glory,
and Paul was indeed of the first magnitude; yet he speaks modestly of
himself, and humbly owns his personal infirmity, that he was rude in
speech, had not such a graceful delivery as some others might have.
Some think that he was a man of very low stature, and that his voice
was proportionably small; others think that he may have had some
impediment in his speech, perhaps a stammering tongue. However, he was
not rude in knowledge; he was not unacquainted with the best
rules of oratory and the art of persuasion, much less was he ignorant
of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, as had been thoroughly
manifested among them.
II. His equality with the false apostles in this particular--the
preaching of the gospel unto them freely, without wages. This the
apostle largely insists on, and shows that, as they could not but own
him to be a minister of Christ, so they ought to acknowledge he had
been a good friend to them. For,
1. He had preached the gospel to them freely,
2 Corinthians 11:7-10.
He had proved at large, in his former epistle to them, the lawfulness
of ministers' receiving maintenance from the people, and the duty of
the people to give them an honourable maintenance; and here he says he
himself had taken wages of other churches
(2 Corinthians 11:8),
so that he had a right to have asked and received from them: yet he
waived his right, and chose rather to abase himself, by working with
his hands in the trade of tent-making to maintain himself, than be
burdensome to them, that they might be exalted, or encouraged to
receive the gospel, which they had so cheaply; yea, he chose rather to
be supplied from Macedonia than to be chargeable unto them.
2. He informs them of the reason of this his conduct among them. It was
not because he did not love them
(2 Corinthians 11:11),
or was unwilling to receive tokens of their love (for love and
friendship are manifested by mutual giving and receiving), but it was
to avoid offence, that he might cut off occasion from those that
desired occasion. He would not give occasion for any to accuse him
of worldly designs in preaching the gospel, or that he intended to make
a trade of it, to enrich himself; and that others who opposed him at
Corinth might not in this respect gain an advantage against him: that
wherein they gloried, as to this matter, they might be found
even as he,
2 Corinthians 11:12.
It is not improbable to suppose that the chief of the false teachers at
Corinth, or some among them, were rich, and taught (or deceived) the
people freely, and might accuse the apostle or his fellow-labourers as
mercenary men, who received hire or wages, and therefore the apostle
kept to his resolution not to be chargeable to any of the
III. The false apostles are charged as deceitful workers
(2 Corinthians 11:13),
and that upon this account, because they would transform
themselves into the likeness of the apostles of Christ, and, though
they were the ministers of Satan, would seem to be the ministers of
righteousness. They would be as industrious and as generous in
promoting error as the apostles were in preaching truth; they would
endeavour as much to undermine the kingdom of Christ as the apostles
did to establish it. There were counterfeit prophets under the Old
Testament, who wore the garb and learned the language of the prophets
of the Lord. So there were counterfeit apostles under the New
Testament, who seemed in many respects like the true apostles of
Christ. And no marvel (says the apostle); hypocrisy is a thing not to
be much wondered at in this world, especially when we consider the
great influence Satan has upon the minds of many, who rules in the
hearts of the children of disobedience. As he can turn himself into
any shape, and put on almost any form, and look sometimes like an
angel of light, in order to promote his kingdom of darkness, so he
will teach his ministers and instruments to do the same. But it
follows, Their end is according to their works
(2 Corinthians 11:15);
the end will discover them to be deceitful workers, and their work will
end in ruin and destruction.
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16 I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet
as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
17 That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as
it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
18 Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man
devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if
a man smite you on the face.
21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak.
Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold
Here we have a further excuse that the apostle makes for what he was
about to say in his own vindication.
1. He would not have them think he was guilty of folly, in saying what
he said to vindicate himself: Let no man think me a fool,
2 Corinthians 11:16.
Ordinarily, indeed, it is unbecoming a wise man to be much and often
speaking in his own praise. Boasting of ourselves is usually not only
a sign of a proud mind, but a mark of folly also. However, says the
apostle, yet as a fool receive me; that is, if you count it
folly in me to boast a little, yet give due regard to what I
2. He mentions a caution, to prevent the abuse of what he should say,
telling them that what he spoke, he did not speak after the
2 Corinthians 11:17.
He would not have them think that boasting of ourselves, or glorying in
what we have, is a thing commanded by the Lord in general unto
Christians, nor yet that this is always necessary in our own
vindication; though it may be lawfully used, because not contrary to
the Lord, when, strictly speaking, it is not after the Lord. It is the
duty and practice of Christians, in obedience to the command and
example of the Lord, rather to humble and abase themselves; yet
prudence must direct in what circumstances it is needful to do that
which we may do lawfully, even speak of what God has wrought for us,
and in us, and by us too.
3. He gives a good reason why they should suffer him to boast a little;
namely, because they suffered others to do so who had less reason.
Seeing many glory after the flesh (of carnal privileges, or
outward advantages and attainments), I will glory also,
2 Corinthians 11:18.
But he would not glory in those things, though he had as much or more
reason than others to do so. But he gloried in his infirmities, as he
tells them afterwards. The Corinthians thought themselves wise, and
might think it an instance of wisdom to bear with the weakness of
others, and therefore suffered others to do what might seem folly;
therefore the apostle would have them bear with him. Or these words,
You suffer fools gladly, seeing you yourselves are wise
(2 Corinthians 11:19),
may be ironical, and then the meaning is this: "Notwithstanding all
your wisdom, you willingly suffer yourselves to be brought into
bondage under the Jewish yoke, or suffer others to tyrannize over
you; nay, to devour you, or make a prey of you, and take of
you hire for their own advantage, and to exalt themselves
above you, and lord it over you; nay, even to smite you on the
face, or impose upon you to your very faces
(2 Corinthians 11:20),
upbraiding you while they reproach me, as if you had been very weak in
showing regard to me,"
2 Corinthians 11:21.
Seeing this was the case, that the Corinthians, or some among them,
could so easily bear all this from the false apostles, it was
reasonable for the apostle to desire, and expect, they should bear with
what might seem to them an indiscretion in him, seeing the
circumstances of the case were such as made it needful that
whereinsoever any were bold he should be bold also,
2 Corinthians 11:21.
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22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I.
Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am
more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in
prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I
suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils
of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by
the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the
wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger
and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon
me daily, the care of all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which
concern mine infirmities.
31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is
blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city
of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall,
and escaped his hands.
Here the apostle gives a large account of his own qualifications,
labours, and sufferings (not out of pride or vain-glory, but to the
honour of God, who had enabled him to do and suffer so much for the
cause of Christ), and wherein he excelled the false apostles, who would
lessen his character and usefulness among the Corinthians.
I. He mentions the privileges of his birth
(2 Corinthians 11:22),
which were equal to any they could pretend to. He was a Hebrew of the
Hebrews; of a family among the Jews that never intermarried with the
Gentiles. He was also an Israelite, and could boast of his being
descended from the beloved Jacob as well as they, and was also of the
seed of Abraham, and not of the proselytes. It should seem from this
that the false apostles were of the Jewish race, who gave disturbance
to the Gentile converts.
II. He makes mention also of his apostleship, that he was more than an
ordinary minister of Christ,
2 Corinthians 11:23.
God had counted him faithful, and had put him into the ministry. He had
been a useful minister of Christ unto them; they had found full proofs
of his ministry: Are they ministers of Christ? I am more so.
III. He chiefly insists upon this, that he had been an extraordinary
sufferer for Christ; and this was what he gloried in, or rather he
gloried in the grace of God that had enabled him to be more abundant
in labours, and to endure very great sufferings, such as stripes
above measure, frequent imprisonments, and often the dangers
2 Corinthians 11:23.
Note, When the apostle would prove himself an extraordinary minister,
he proves that he had been an extraordinary sufferer. Paul was the
apostle of the Gentiles, and for that reason was hated of the Jews.
They did all they could against him; and among the Gentiles also he met
with hard usage. Bonds and imprisonments were familiar to him; never
was the most notorious malefactor more frequently in the hands of
public justice than Paul was for righteousness' sake. The jail and the
whipping-post, and all other hard usages of those who are accounted the
worst of men, were what he was accustomed to. As to the Jews, whenever
he fell into their hands, they never spared him. Five times he
fell under their lash, and received forty stripes save one,
2 Corinthians 11:24.
Forty stripes was the utmost their law allowed
but it was usual with them, that they might not exceed, to abate one at
least of that number. And to have the abatement of one only was all the
favour that ever Paul received from them. The Gentiles were not tied up
to that moderation, and among them he was thrice beaten with
rods, of which we may suppose once was at Philippi,
Once he was stoned in a popular tumult, and was taken up for
He says that thrice he suffered shipwreck; and we may believe
him, though the sacred history gives a relation but of one. A night
and a day he had been in the deep
(2 Corinthians 11:25),
in some deep dungeon or other, shut up as a prisoner. Thus he was all
his days a constant confessor; perhaps scarcely a year of his life,
after his conversion, passed without suffering some hardship or other
for his religion; yet this was not all, for, wherever he went, he went
in perils; he was exposed to perils of all sorts. If he journeyed by
land, or voyaged by sea, he was in perils of robbers, or enemies of
some sort; the Jews, his own countrymen, sought to kill him, or do him
a mischief; the heathen, to whom he was sent, were not more kind to
him, for among them he was in peril. If he was in the city, or in the
wilderness, still he was in peril. He was in peril not only among
avowed enemies, but among those also who called themselves brethren,
but were false brethren,
2 Corinthians 11:26.
Besides all this, he had great weariness and painfulness in his
ministerial labours, and these are things that will come into account
shortly, and people will be reckoned with for all the care and pains of
their ministers concerning them. Paul was a stranger to wealth and
plenty, power and pleasure, preferment and ease; he was in watchings
often, and exposed to hunger and thirst; in fastings
often, it may be out of necessity; and endured cold and
2 Corinthians 11:27.
Thus was he, who was one of the greatest blessings of the age, used as
if he had been the burden of the earth, and the plague of his
generation. And yet this is not all; for, as an apostle, the care of
all the churches lay on him,
2 Corinthians 11:28.
He mentions this last, as if this lay the heaviest upon him, and as if
he could better bear all the persecutions of his enemies than the
scandals that were to be found in the churches he had the oversight of.
Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?
2 Corinthians 11:29.
There was not a weak Christian with whom he did not sympathize, nor any
one scandalized, but he was affected therewith. See what little reason
we have to be in love with the pomp and plenty of this world, when this
blessed apostle, one of the best of men that ever lived, excepting
Jesus Christ, felt so much hardship in it. Nor was he ashamed of all
this, but, on the contrary, it was what he accounted his honour; and
therefore, much against the grain as it was with him to glory, yet,
says he, if I must needs glory, if my adversaries will oblige me
to it in my own necessary vindication, I will glory in these my
2 Corinthians 11:30.
Note, Sufferings for righteousness' sake will, the most of any thing,
redound to our honour.
2 Corinthians 11:32-33,
he mentions one particular part of his sufferings out of its place, as
if he had forgotten it before, or because the deliverance God wrought
for him was most remarkable; namely, the danger he was in at Damascus,
soon after he was converted, and not settled in Christianity, at least
in the ministry and apostleship. This is recorded,
This was his first great danger and difficulty, and the rest of his
life was a piece with this. And it is observable that, lest it should
be thought he spoke more than was true, the apostle confirms this
narrative with a solemn oath, or appeal to the omniscience of God,
2 Corinthians 11:31.
It is a great comfort to a good man that the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who is an omniscient God, knows the truth of all
he says, and knows all he does and all he suffers for his sake.