Summary: This question haunts many of us, especially as Christians. We think that things should go well if we are blessed of the Lord. When bad things happen, even seemingly disconnected things like losing a job or getting into an accident, we wonder why? Paul won
Finally here in the latter half of Chapter 11, Paul defends himself to the super-apostles by listing his accomplishments. He does it very reluctantly as he should. Taking credit for what you’ve done was normative for the false teachers in Corinth but is “this age” thinking. God is the only one capable of receiving the glory for what we’ve done—and if done right He did it anyway, you were just a participant.
But Paul’s list is very different from what you might expect, and I think is very eye opening when it comes to deciding whether or not God is at work in your life.
16 – 18
Paul is no fool, but since the Corinthians are acting so foolishly in putting up with the false apostles and their reliance on worldly impressiveness, Paul asks that they let him do a little boasting about his own brand of impressiveness. He makes it clear that this is not supposed to be how a pastor or apostle acts; he is doing it to counter the accusations leveled against him.
19 – 21a
I’m sure the Corinthians probably took this as the insult Paul intended. They thought they were so cool taking on these teachers. But the motivation of these men was to use the Corinthians and take everything from them, and then slap them in the face with it. The Greek wording here suggests a hunter trapping his prey and an animal devouring its prey. The false teachers were conning the Corinthians into giving them money, and in return they gave out false doctrine—and the church loved it! It isn’t a good thing, but something to be ashamed of, Paul says. And it still happens today. People are conned into giving up their life savings and in return they get false teaching, false promises, and nothing but more pleas for money.
So as we move into Paul’s boasts, let’s read all the way through the end of the chapter.
21b – 33
The false teachers apparently said they were of Jewish origin. Paul can also boast of that, but they also say they are “servants of Christ.” We know from the beginning of the chapter that he actually considered them to be servants of Satan. But he says he is a better servant of Christ than they. It isn’t generally a good idea to compare ourselves amongst one another (see 2 Cor 10:12 ), and here Paul does it, but he twists it around beautifully:
Now if I were Paul I would probably have boasted about my double doctorate, my position as a Pharisee, then my having seen Jesus personally and having been taught and commissioned by Him. I would have talked about the miracles and the thousands of people who came to faith in Christ through me and the churches I founded. But look at what makes a “boast” for Paul:
The false apostles could “boast” of a great looking resume and a great sound speech, but when it came to actually serving Christ, they had nothing. Because in reality, serving Christ means being used by Christ, and that means more often than not, facing hard times.
Jesus told His men (and women): These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 )
In fact, when Paul met Jesus, a man named Ananias was sent to heal him from the blindness he suffered on the road to Damascus. Ananias complained that Saul (as he was known then) was a persecutor of the church. But the Lord replied:
Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to him, "Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before Gentiles, kings, and the sons of Israel. 16 I will certainly show him how much he must suffer for My name!"
So for Paul, the sign of being used was suffering both directly, and indirectly. Notice verse 29. When others are weak and stumbling, Paul hurts. This kind of attitude is the Lord’s attitude.
“I will boast about my weaknesses” Paul says in verse 30. Who does this? We boast about our accomplishments and our prosperity. When things go wrong we hide it. Paul didn’t. Jesus didn’t.
You are simply a more powerful instrument in the Lord’s hands when you are weak so He can be strong (as we’ll see in a moment more clearly).
Paul doesn’t want to boast but in order to silence his critics, he must. But as we’ve already seen, Paul turns the tables on what a boast really is. Visions and revelations were a big deal, but Paul is going to use his in a most unique way.
2 – 6