Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.2. Answering His Adversaries. His Boastings.
Inasmuch as he did not want to boast, he tells the Corinthians to bear with him a little while he acts foolishly in speaking of himself. It had become necessary to do so in order to answer his adversaries, who were making havoc among the Corinthians, but he looks upon his vindication and boasting as nothing less than folly. He is about to do what he had exposed in others in the previous chapter (2Corinthians 11:12). He therefore asks their indulgence. What he did he asked them to look upon as being folly, but to remember that it was for their sakes. He was jealous over them, not with a jealousy which originated in the spirit of a natural emulation, but with godly jealousy. He had espoused them to one husband, so that he might present them a chaste virgin to Christ.
The church is the bride of Christ. He as God’s messenger by the preaching of the Gospel of Grace, and the acceptance of it by the Corinthians, had betrothed them as an assembly to the Lord. His jealous desire was to present the Corinthian church to the bridegroom in the coming day. He had his grave fears that as the serpent had beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so their minds might also be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. Eve was for Adam, and so the church is for Christ and for Him alone. Eve was deceived by listening to another voice. Even so the Corinthians were listening to other voices and their simple faith was being corrupted by false teachings. Behind it stood the same enemy who had deceived Eve. Was there another Christ, which these teachers preached, than the Christ he had preached? Or were they receiving another and a better Comforter, another Holy Spirit, than the One they had received in believing the Gospel Paul had preached unto them? Or, have these men brought you a better gospel? If such were the case, they could bear with it. But how could there be another Jesus, or a better Comforter or a better gospel? He was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles; though he had, for the gospel’s sake, abstained from excellency of speech, yet in all things had he been manifest among them.
Evidently the great apostle searched his heart and life to discover the cause of the alienation of the Corinthians. Was the offence perhaps in taking nothing from them and preaching the gospel freely, without money? It was his boast that he took nothing from them, as the brethren in Macedonia had ministered to his needs. But his boast was that he had preached the gospel in Achaia gratuitously. But why? Because he loved them not? God was his witness that such was not the case. It was to take away from these false teachers the boasting of preaching for nothing, so that they could not say, we labor gratuitously while the apostle receives money for his services.
And who were these teachers? The Holy Spirit now exposes the true character of these men. They were not apostles at all, but deceitful workers, who transformed themselves into the apostles of Christ. They were the instruments of that sinister being who was once an angel of light and whose most powerful tactic is to assume this character, to which he had lost all claim by his fall. These false teachers posed as ministers of righteousness. They made high pretensions, yet denied the true righteousness of God. We see much of this in our own days, especially in systems like Christian Science and others.
From dealing with the deceivers, he turns now to those who had become ensnared by them (2Corinthians 11:16). Reluctantly he speaks of himself again. To boast of anything except the Lord was a foolish thing to Paul. “That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.” Inasmuch as they compelled him to glory (2Corinthians 12:11), he is therefore ready to show what reasons he had for boasting. These Judaizing teachers boasted much of being Hebrews, of the seed of Abraham. But so was Paul. They boasted of being ministers of Christ. And here the apostle marshals his wonderful proofs of how much he excels in his ministries and labor. What other one could say what he rightfully said of himself? “In labors exceedingly abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.” Then follows the remarkable record. If it had not been for these evil teachers who had invaded the Corinthian church, we would never have known of these experiences of the great man of God, for the historical record, the Book of Acts, does not give us a full account of his devotedness and trials. And most likely even this list is not complete.
“Troubles and dangers without, incessant anxieties within, a courage that quailed before no peril, a love for poor sinners and for the assembly that nothing chilled--these few lines sketch the picture of a life of such absolute devotedness that it touches the coldest heart; it makes us feel all our selfishness, and bend the knee before Him who was the living source of the blessed apostle’s devotedness, before Him whose glory inspired it” (Synopsis).
And if he must needs glory, he would glory in his infirmities, in his helplessness. Why should he mention the otherwise unrecorded incident of his escape from Damascus? It was an inglorious experience. There was nothing to glory in, for no miracle took place to preserve him, nor angelic interference. Anyone who gloried in himself would never have mentioned so humiliating an experience.