2 CORINTHIANS 11 – COMMENTARY
v.2 “According to Jewish betrothal customs in the New Testament era, a father pledged his daughter to her future husband and was then responsible for her purity until the marriage took place (cf. Deut. 22:13-24). In the same way, Paul is fighting for the faithfulness of the Corinthians because of their current temptation to commit spiritual adultery.”
vv.7-11 “Given the precarious situation of itinerant craftsmen in Paul’s day, 11:8-9 reports that Paul’s ministry of self-support in Corinth was made possible in that the Macedonian churches supplemented Paul’s income when needed. Thus, the Macedonians’ generosity as an expression of God’s grace (cf. 8:1), combined with Paul’s self-support as an extension of the gospel of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 8:13; 9:19-22; 10:24, 33; 2 Cor. 2:17), made it possible for him not to ‘burden’ the Corinthians. There is therefore no basis for his opponents’ accusation that Paul is somehow using the ministry or the collection to serve his own ends (cf. 12:16-18). His ‘robbing’ other churches for the sake of his ministry in Corinth was not a scam but an expression of Christ-like love, both on Paul’s part and on the part of those who gave. This is why Paul pledges to continue his practice of not relying on the Corinthians financially—he will not put any stumbling block in the way of the gospel.”
vv.13-15 “Paul must set himself up as the criterion for true apostleship because of the deceptive nature of his opponents, who are ‘masquerading as apostles of Christ’ (11:13). This is no innocent misunderstanding on their part. The verb translated ‘masquerading’ signifies the idea ‘to change the form of,’ here to signify ‘disguising oneself.’ The opponents are ‘deceitful workmen’ in that, though false or pseudo-apostles, they are pretending to be genuine apostles.”
vv.16-21 “Paul knows where his argument is leading, that is, that he is about to boast in his human distinctives. Again, desperate situations demand desperate measures. But before he goes down this path, Paul hesitates yet again in 11:16-21a in order to make it clear just how inappropriate such boasting actually is. Understood in this way, Paul’s statement in 11:16 refers back to 11:1. Despite the fact that he is about to boast in himself, no one should take him to be a real ‘fool’ for doing so. […] Nevertheless, Paul feels compelled to conform to such boasting for the sake of winning back the Corinthians, since they are gladly bearing with Paul’s opponents, the real fools (11:18-19a).”
vv.22-29 “His evidence for being a better minister of Christ begins with his labors (‘with regard to labors, far more’) and immediately merges into a hardship list of great proportions (11:23-28). Once again, Paul’s ministry is ironically best measured by the difficulties, adversities, afflictions, and setbacks he has encountered and surmounted in his representation of the gospel (see also 1:3-11; 4:7-10; 6:4-10). Once again, hardships endured in the service of the gospel are Paul’s best evidence and confirmation of his faithfulness and dependability with regard to the gospel and to the call to service. Nothing deters Paul. The longer and more detailed the list—and this is the longest in all of Paul’s letters—the more attestation that Paul has placed the gospel first and has pursued its propagation with a singleness of purpose that cannot be thwarted and that should not be underestimated.”
vv.22-23 “In verses 22-23b Paul matches his opponents’ foolish boast element for element. Paul too can boast in his ethnic identity as a Jew (he is a member of the Hebrew nation; cf. Phil.3:5), in his religious identity as a member of God’s chosen people (he is an Israelite; cf. Rom. 1:4; 11:1), and in his identity as part of the remnant who have received the Spirit as the true descendants of Abraham (cf. Rom. 9:6-9; 11:1-6; Gal. 3:8, 16, 29). If heritage makes one an apostle, then Paul can claim the heritage of the most esteemed Jewish apostles.[…] But this way of arguing is madness. It denies the very basis of apostolic authority itself: the call of the risen Christ to take on the character of the crucified Christ.”
vv.28-29 “Paul’s final point about his service to Christ relates to the inward wear and tear on his mind and soul, something even more difficult to bear than his physical sufferings. There were sleepless nights arising from his anxiety about one or another of his churches. There is evidence of this pressure in our letter. Worry about Corinth led him to leave off evangelization in Troas (2:12-13). After sending the intermediate or painful letter, he was for a while torn by regret (7:8). The language he uses about his opponents (11:12-15) indicates how much he must have been worried by what was happening in Corinth.”
 Hafemann, Scott J. 2 Corinthians, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000) 426
 Hafemann, Scott J. 2 Corinthians, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000) 432-3
 Hafemann, Scott J. 2 Corinthians, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000) 434
 Hafemann, Scott J. 2 Corinthians, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000) 436
 Sampley, Paul. The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol.X!. (Washville, TN: Abingdon Press, ©2000) 157
 Hafemann, Scott J. 2 Corinthians, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000) 438-9
 Best, Ernest. ‘2 Corinthians’, Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, ©1987), 113
2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (ESV)
1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
Reflection & Application
2 Corinthians 11:1-2
- Think about Apostle Paul’s role as a matchmaker between the Corinthian church and Jesus, and his anguish as he sees the waywardness and instability of the Corinthians. What lessons does this give about ministry and the role of spiritual leadership?
- Are there people in my life toward whom I have this kind of a “divine jealousy”?
2 Corinthians 11:3-4
- What are the different gospels of the world that lead people “astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ”?
- Why would it be the case that people so easily put up with a “different spirit” or a “different gospel”?
- How does the warning of v. 3 apply to me today?