We go on to 2 Cor 11:16-21
The word ‘fellowship’ can mean to spend time with other believers but it can also be rightly understood as a partnership within a local assembly or congregation. Each of us has a part, something to do or a call within a local congregation. Paul’s call was to be an apostle – and he heeded this call with the utmost seriousness. Do we take the call of G-d on our lives seriously? Are we committed to His call? Are we serious about being obedient to G-d? We know that as we begin to obey the call of G-d in our lives there is much opposition from the enemy. He will want to discourage us, try to discredit us, etc so that we give up. Paul was constantly defending his call as an apostle and how he carried it out. He was often criticized, slandered and called false. In the second half of this chapter we see how Paul conducted himself – how he spoke and what he said. This tells us a lot about his life and how he lived in subjection or submissiveness to the call of G-d on his life.
v16: In this verse Paul begins to respond to and answer his critics in Corinth. Paul’s critics were fellow believers who had listened to others who had said derogatory things in regard to Paul. By criticizing Paul, these others had sought to exalt themselves or make themselves look better than him.
- I say again: Paul wanted the Corinthian congregation to realise that it was uncharacteristic for him to speak so frequently about himself, but he wants to reveal to them how faith in Messiah had impacted his life.
- Let no one think me a fool: Paul did not want anyone to think that he was foolish. A fool is someone who does not think correctly, he is not thoughtful.
- Receive me as a fool: If anyone among them thought that Paul was foolish he is imploring them to still receive him so that he can have his say – his boast.
- Boast: This word repeats and repeats itself in this section. It is a word, within this context, that means something that is pleasing or causing joy in your life. It can also be rejoicing or boasting or praising someone else because of the faithfulness or G-dly change that can be seen in their lives. Paul has used this word in regard to the believers in Corinth. Now, however, he is going to use this word in regard to what he rejoices over in his own life as he defends his call as an apostle and he reveals how committed he is to the things of G-d. As a general rule it’s not good to speak and rejoice or boast about ourselves. Paul is saying that he doesn’t want them to think that he has not thought through this, because he has. However, if they think that what he is doing is foolish he is ok with that because it will still allow him to share a little bit about himself with them.
v17: Not according to the L-rd: Normally when Paul wrote something in the Scripture, he did so according to what G-d had inspired him to say. When he phrases it like this, though, it means that this is not new revelation. Because this is written in the Scripture (and ALL Scripture is G-d breathed – 2 Tim 3:16-17) we know that what Paul is saying is inspired – even though this is not in the character of how Messiah lived, Paul was still inspired by the Holy Spirit to write it down so that we could learn from it.
- Foolishly: Others may have thought that what Paul thought or spoke was foolishness.
- Confidence: Assurance. This is a word that speaks about a natural or a known outcome/result. Paul is going to be boasting or speaking about himself. He wants them to know that he is not doing this idly, but he has given this serious thought and careful consideration and has come to the conclusion that he needs to share this with them.
v18: Many boast according to the flesh: Paul’s critics are working against him. These same critics have likened themselves or elevated themselves (in a wrongfully boastful or fleshly way) to the great apostles (eg: James, Peter, etc). We are going to see, however, that Paul does not boast about being someone great or someone strong. Paul, instead, is going to boast about his weaknesses and about what he has suffered for Messiah. He does NOT boast about the great things that he has done. He’s going to boast about his suffering and the fact that G-d has counted him worthy to suffer for the purpose of the gospel.
v19: Gladly: Joyfully.
- You yourselves are wise: Paul knows that these people are thinking people. He knows that they can put up with or excuse a little bit of foolishness on the part of Paul. From a worldly standpoint people would not understand what Paul was getting at, but he knew that this Corinthian congregation would think through and would understand the implications of what Paul was revealing to them.
v20: You put up with it if one brings you into bondage (enslaves you): Paul is speaking here about the Roman Empire.
- Devours you or takes from you: I.e. They had to bear with those who took their things or robbed them of what they had.
- Exalts: Praises. They had to put up with people who thought themselves better than others.
- Strikes you on the face: They also had to put up with others beating them or physically hurting them. Paul is saying that in this world there are many things that people tolerate because they have no other option, or because they want to move past it. This is important, as it is laying the foundation for what Paul’s going to say. Most of what Paul is referring to here is that people tolerate suffering, they endure it because they know they have to overcome it in order to achieve their goals. Shortly, Paul is going to share with us what he has had to endure so that he could overcome. His goal, however, is not for something in this world, but is connected to the Kingdom. He was committed to the will of G-d and because of that he had a strong expectation of a Kingdom reality. In this verse we see how Paul is beginning to form his defence of his call as an apostle.
v21: To our shame: Our dishonour. Perhaps Paul says this because as he is penning these words he is not praising G-d – his focus is not on the L-rd, but temporarily on himself and on his own life.
- Weak: Paul did not minister to others in a self-exalting way. He ministered to them humbly and in simplicity. He came to them in weakness, not demanding anything from them but like a servant.
- Anyone is bold: Some dared to call attention to themselves.
- I speak foolishly: Paul did not speak in the way that they did. He did not call attention to himself as a general rule
- I am bold also: But here he asks them to almost humour him or to tolerate him as he also dares to come to them in this same way of boldness.