But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. — 2 Corinthians 11:3
Hoping to save his stranded wife and children, James Kim made a tragic decision: he left his car and ventured into the cold and unforgiving Oregon wilderness. It had been more than a week since Kim and his wife had begun their drive home after a vacation in Oregon. Attempting to take a shortcut, they had found themselves stranded in snow and lost with their young daughters on a treacherous back road in southern Oregon.
The family spent days stuck in the rugged, steep, snowy terrain, nestled between sheer cliffs and surrounded by slick rocks, downed trees, and poison oak. They ran the car engine and used the heater for warmth until they ran out of gas, and then burned the tires. When their food and options were running out, Kim left to try to find help. His wife and two young daughters were later rescued, but Kim did not survive. His body was recovered two days later.
As sad as this account is, it became even more tragic with some information that came to light a week after the event: a gate had been left unlocked which should have blocked access to the logging road that the Kim family got lost on. That gate was meant to prevent people from turning into the maze of logging spurs off the main road to the Oregon Coast.
In today’s text, Paul was attempting to “close the gate” and protect the Corinthian believers from going down a wrong path that would lead to eternal death. He knew that they would be at terrible risk if they deviated from their pure and simple devotion to Christ and accepted the false teachings that were being presented to them. Some of the Corinthian congregation had fallen for preaching that sounded good and seemed to make sense, and Paul’s deepest concern was that they were being seduced from their faithfulness to Christ.
Today, too, there are many false teachings in the Christian realm that sound authoritative and offer an “easier way.” We have to guard against taking a wrong turn spiritually. We must be careful not to get sidetracked by erroneous teachings that do not align with the Word of God.
There are no shortcuts to Heaven. The warnings given by godly men and women of faith who have traveled the road ahead of us are for our benefit. May God help each of us to take heed, and stay on the right path!
Chapter 11 begins what some Bible scholars consider the sharpest polemic, or controversial argument, in all of Paul’s writings. This section is characterized by strong irony, as the Apostle stepped into the role of his opponents and offered a type of defense for which he had no real appetite.
The “boasting” which Paul engaged in could appear to be a contradiction to his statement in the previous chapter that his intention was “not to boast in another man’s line of things” (2 Corinthians 10:16). For that reason, he began this chapter by presenting the basis for his boast. He asked the Corinthians to endure his boasting (verses 1-6) and to understand that it was necessitated by his affectionate concern for them; he was afraid they would be seduced from their faithfulness to Christ by false teachings.
The word “folly” in verse 1 was Paul’s warning that he would be arguing as if he had the same selfish motives and worldly outlook as his opponents. Paul’s efforts were prompted by his “jealousy” (deep concern) for this troubled congregation. In verse 2, he used the metaphor of marriage to further explain his single-hearted devotion to them.
The “serpent” mentioned in verse 3 prefigures the false apostles described in verses 13-15, who were subtle and satanic in their methods. They were striving to lead the believers away from the simplicity (single-minded sincerity) that is in Christ.
The acknowledgement that Paul was “rude” in his speech (verse 6) did not mean that he was impolite or unskilled, but rather that he was untrained in Greek rhetoric, just as Peter and John were untrained in rabbinic methodology (see Acts 4:13).
In verses 7-15, Paul proved his sincerity by refusing to be financially dependent upon the Corinthians. His opponents had accepted pay for their services, while attempting to degrade Paul in the minds of his Corinthian converts. Paul knew that those who proclaimed the Gospel should be supported by the Church (see 1 Corinthians 9:14), but in order to give his detractors no opening to criticize him, he had refused aid from the believers in Corinth. Again, irony fairly drips from his pen.
Paul’s statement that he “robbed” other churches for the benefit of the Corinthians (verse 8) meant that he had allowed others to contribute to his support while he labored to bring the Gospel message to the believers in Corinth.
In verse 13, Paul abandoned the tactic of implication, and plainly stated what he really thought of those who were attempting to deceive the Corinthian believers. He declared that they were pseudo-apostles, claiming to be something that they were not. Therefore their message, their spirit, and the Gospel they offered did not ring true. He pointed out that since Satan himself masquerades as an angel of Light, it is not surprising that those who are agents of Satan’s realm would attempt to present themselves as “ministers of righteousness” (verse 15).
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The authority of the Apostle
B. The boast of the Apostle
1. The boast of his burden (11:1-15)
a. The reason (11:1-6)
b. The method (11:7-12)
c. The false apostles (11:13-15)
Just as in Paul’s day, our world is full of cults, heresies, and deceitful ideologies. We must be on guard in order to preserve the truth of God’s Word and to reject all false teachings.