Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians and Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

January 25, 2015

Tom Lowe


The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians


            IV.    Authority of Paul’s Ministry. (10:1–13:10).                         

                       C.    The Credentials of the Apostle. (12:11–18).                                                     

Lesson IV.C.1:His Position among the Other Apostles. (12:11)



Introduction (12:11)

This passage, in which Paul is coming near to the end of his defense, reads like the words of a man who has put out some tremendous effort and is now weary.  It almost seems that Paul is limp with the effort that he has made.



11 I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.NKJV


“I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you.”  Once again, the apostle shows his distaste of this whole wretched business of self-justification; but the thing has got to be discussed.  In a moment of reflection, looking back over all that he has said, the apostle realizes that this is not the right way for a Christian to act, and he declares that he has been and he is a fool“I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness . . .I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting”(11:1, 16).  But he has been driven to it by the Corinthians, who, instead of commending him and defending him against vicious attacks on his work and character, have listened to his enemies.  After all, it was they who constituted his apostolic credentials.  They were his letter of commendation—“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody” (3:2). “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1). They have been indebted to him and had the opportunity to know the effectiveness and faithfulness of his work (he had been with them for 18 months); hence, they owed him friendship and support against all critics.  They should have been boasting about him instead of compelling him to boast.  Instead, the Corinthians were boasting about the “eminent apostles,” the Judaizers who had won their affection and were now running their church. 


Should Paul be discredited it might be a small thing, but for his gospel to be rendered ineffective is something that cannot be allowed.  The Corinthians should have defended their founder when malicious rumors about him had begun to circulate in their congregation.  After all, Paul was their spiritual father—“Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). (Also see 9:1; 11:2-4.)  The very existence of the gathering of believers, whose lives had been changed by the Holy Spirit, was evidence of Paul’s faithfulness to the truth (3:1-5).


“For in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.” In an earlier letter, Paul had called himself “the least of the apostle’s” because he had at one time persecuted the church—“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).  Apparently, Paul’s critics in Corinth had seized upon this admission and had tried to impugn his apostolic authority.  Here Paul made it clear that he definitely wasn’t behind the least of those who call themselves “eminent apostles.” The “eminent apostles” weren’t the true apostles of Christ, as were Peter, James, and John; instead, they were those traveling preachers who had come to Corinth and claimed to be apostles superior to Paul—“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God” (2:17) (also see 11:5).  Thus, he sarcastically calls them “eminent apostles.” Actually, these people weren’t even apostles at all but were false apostles sent by Satan—For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (11:13-14). They claimed to be servants of Christ, but they refused to face suffering, indignities, and hardship for Christ’s sake.  (See how Paul compared himself to them in 11:23-27.) They were more concerned about their money and their reputation than about Christ (2:17; 3:1).


Paul never thought he would have to defend himself against these conniving preachers, but the Corinthians had forced him to do so.  In order to address these critics, he had to answer their criticisms in their own language: foolish boasts. “For in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles,” he said, “though I am nothing.” Paul considered himself the least of the apostles, but he had found the only effective way to overcome the sense of inferiority was to accept the fact that we are nothing, whatever our gifts or lack of them; but that through our nothingness God’s power may be made manifest.  Yet he cannot help feeling a certain distress because the church in Corinth had not taken his side against those who despised him.


Paul knew that he was more than equal when compared with even the greatest of the Twelve (11:5), as shown by the catalog of credentials he had just given (11:22-12:10).  But it was a foolish endeavor because these credentials were ultimately not his but God’s.  He was nothing.  As he had written the Corinthians before, “I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).


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